Did you ever heard of Amanohashidate? If you you’re not sure let me put it in a different context. Amanohashidate is one of the three most scenic spots of Japan, among Miyajima and Matsushima. And even if the most visited between the three is Miyajima island for its splendid Itsukushima shrine and the big tori gate, I totally guarantee that a visit to Amanohashidate won’t dissapoint either.
Amanohashidate is a naturally formed geographical sandbank, pretty narrow, with a total lenght of 3.6km between Miyazu Bay to the Aso Sea. It is home to approximatelly 8000 Japanese pine trees which are creating a mystical and spectacular land. According to the legend, when God created Japan, he used a ladded as a means of travelling back and forth between heaven and earth. But one day, his ladder fell and became Amanohashidate.
To fully appreciate Amanohashidate (also called “The Bridge to Heaven”), you have to allocate one full day for sightseeing. If you’re coming during the summer, you may want to extend the trip and spend some time on the beach – and then you can have a great weekend gateway! Meanwhile, let me tell you what you should expect during your trip and how to spend a great day around!
As a must, my recommandation is to visit Amanohashidate from up and down. This means you have to go to one of the two viewpoints of the city and then walk or cycle the bay for a full experience. Along the way there are a few temples and shrines you can visit if the time allows. So let’s take it step by step.
There are two viewpoints from where you can see Amanohashidate in its full splendor. However, each of them offers a different perspective and several activities you can opt-in for.
Amanohashidate View Land
This viewpoint is very close if you’re starting your journey from the train station. You’ll have to walk about 5 minutes and then take a chairlift or a monorail. The price for a return journey is 700¥ no mather your option, and the service hours are roughly between 9am and 5pm. Once up, there are many things you can do.
The only thing you shouldn’t forget during your visit to Amanohashidate, is taking your matanozoki picture. This means, you have to look to the sandback upside down through your legs. The landmark will appear like a dragon ascending to heaven. Once you can see it, you’ll understand what is called Hiryukan, the view of the skyward dragon.
The name itself means lucky potery throwing. You have to buy some earthenware plates and try to throw them through the Chienowa, the ring of wisdom. If your kawara flies through the ring, it means that your wish will be granted!
Well, there is a lot to do here especially with kids. There is a small amusement park offering several attractions including a ferris wheel, go-cart, archery, but also a cafe and a restaurant to enjoy the view.
Hiryukan View (viewing sky-path)
This is a great platform offering a 360 degree panoramic view. It has 250 meters, stands 8.5 meters above the ground, and because is not just a flat walk is really enjoyable. It feels like a journey, not as a destination if you know what I mean.
Look for the free coin operated binocular to check every tiny spot of the bay! And if you’re visiting during April-May, you will also find two amazing teraces of blue and white wisteria!
The second alternative for the viewpoint over Amanohashidate is Kasamatsu Park. Same as the View Land, it can be accessed by chairlift or a monorail for the price of 680¥ roundtrip. If from the View Land you could have a view of the bay including the sand beach, here you can better admire the other side of the bay, with the pine trees. Honestelly, I think the first alternative provides a nicer view, but it’s totally subjective.
Apart from having a cafeteria, restaurant and lucky potery as on the other side, this is the birthplace of Matanozaki. However, from here you won’t be able to see the dragon throught your legs. The good part is that it has some great viewpoints if you are willing to walk a bit more throught the forest and reach the Nariaji temple.
A visit to Amanohashidate is synonim with a walk along the bay. It takes about 50 minutes by foot, but can be done quicker while cycling. Of course, it can also take longer if you decide to stop for a picnic or for a bath. You will find vending machines, dedicated areas for resting and toilets, so there is nothing you should worry about. If you decide to stay overnight or have a walk afte 5pm, you will end of being alone and have this scenic beauty all for yourself!
Close to the train station, this temple can easily be accessible in about 5 minutes by foot. It is one of the three temples in Japan dedicated to Bodhisattva Monju, the Buddha of Wisdom. It is believed that people can gain wisdom by visiting the place, meaning the ability to make correct judgements and respond appropriately. Legend sais that Monju Bosatsu bestowed wisdom upon a dragon that was wreaking havoc in the region. The repetant dragon is said to protect this region on his day.
However, the temple itself is a massive wooden structure which is worth in a visit anyway. It has a beautiful Japanese garden too, where you can chill and relax for a few minutes as well.
Motoise Kono Shrine
It is true it is in your way if you’re walking the bay or heading towards the Kasamatsu Park, but this shrine didn’t impressed me much. It is said the God of the sun and the God of the food were enshrined here before their mobing to Ise Grand Shrine. If you’re not budhist you can easily skip this place as it’s not something impressive to see if you had already saw other shrines in Japan.
If you do have time – and I recommend you to make some – you really have to visit this temple in Amanohashidate. Built in 704 AD is believed to have the power to make every visitor’s wishes come true. The principle image of the temple is the Migawari Kannon (self sacrificing Kannon) who, according to the legend, saved people from starvation by carving off her own flesh. This Buddha is also known as the Bijin Kannon (Beautiful Kannon), who is said to bestow workshippers with beauty of the body and soul.
Buddhist, believer or not, I do consider this temple is very beautiful and should be visited for its outside beauty, location and viewpoints. There is a viewing platform near the five story pagoda which offers amazing views over Amonashidate bay – especially if it’s not a rainy day!
If you want to explore the bay from the sea, you can opt-in for one of cruises available near the Chionji Temple. They have two different routes, on both sides of the bay – so up to you! And if it’s not enough, you can rent a bike from the same area and further explore Amanohashidate!
Food & Drink
Matsuba crab is a must to try if you’re visiting during November and March. Caught off the western shores in the Sea of Japan, these crabs are large and have a sweet taste. Travellers from all over Japan are coming to try this special crab which can be cooked in many ways, from grilles, in ahot pot, tempura fried, fresh sashimi. Apart from crab. according to the season you can try tango cockle (May to July), rock oysters (June to August), fresh yellowtail hot spot (December to February) or asari don.
While the food really varies on the season, the good part is that you can enjoy the chie-no-mochi anytime. Mochi is a popular Japanese sweet, but here in Miyazu the local sweet rice cake is called chie-no-mochi. It is coupled with sweet bean paste and it is said to give wisdom. You will find shops selling it in front of the Chionji temple. If mochi is not really your thing, you can always enjoy an icecream – hard to fail!
A visit to Amanohashidate it can be short or time consuming, it really depends from where you come. If you’re starting point is Kyoto city, you need at least 2 hours, while coming from Tokyo requires a minimum of 5 hours. If you chose the fastest way, in general you are constraint to only a few trains per day and to specific hours. Because of that, I did prefered to change 4 different trains to get to the destination early in the morning, than losing time.
As an example, I took the San-in line from Kyoto station and I changed in Sanobe with San-in line to Ayabe. Then, I changed to Maizuru line to go to Nishi-Maizuru, from where I took the Tentetsu Miyamai-Miyatoyo line to Amanohashidate. The total trip cost 2340¥ and it took around 3 hours. For the ones using the Railway pass, you need to know that the last train is not covered by the pass and you’ll have to independently pay 500¥.
Regarding accommodation I have no suggestions to give, as I took a train in the evening and slept in Toyooka. But when I looked for places, the selection didn’t looked too vast. So you may want to check in advance if you’re planning an overnight trip.
Well, that’s it from my side. I trully hope you enjoyed the article and you will visit Amanohashidate one day in person. Meanwhile, get inspired from more articles across Japan and not only, here.
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