Summer is just around the corner (and with it the Kansai heat), so why not head to one of Japan’s “three most beautiful sights” (Nihon Sankei) which just so happens to be right next to the sea. Amanohashidate, meaning “bridge to the heavens”, is about 2-hour journey from the center of Kyoto and is one of the region’s best outdoor areas for a summertime getaway.
Amanohashidate is a natural land bridge that stretches across the Miyazu Bay and is said to be the pathway between heaven and earth—and it’s not hard to see how it got that reputation, what with Amanohashidate being lined by white sand beaches and a clear sea to dip your toes in. Among the white beaches and thousands of lush green pine trees, the land bridge is dotted with various small shrines, shops and rest areas. One of the shrines is the Amanohashidate Shrine where the king of the Eight Dragons is enshrined (dragons are often present in folklore featuring Amanohashidate). And right near the shrine is Isokiyoshisui (“pure water of the beach”), which, as its name suggests, is considered to be one of Japan’s purest water springs.
While you can of course spend the entire day enjoying the beach, Amanohashidate has much more to offer. Amanohashidate View Land for example is located on the southern side of the land bridge. The amusement park is host to a Ferris wheel, roller coaster, and mini golf course. The entrance fee, which includes round-trip use of the chairlift, is 850 yen per adult and 450 yen per child entrance fee. Fees for some of the attractions are extra (300 yen for the Ferris wheel, for example)—but it makes for a great low-key, low-price alternative for those who don’t want to shell out the big bucks at Universal Studios Japan while in Kansai. From the park, you can also take in a truly spectacular view over Amanohashidate, as the name of the theme park suggests.
On the opposite side of the land bridge lies Kasamatsu Park. It is said that if you turn your back to Amanohashidate while bending over and looking between your legs, it looks like a bridge to heaven.
A bit further in the mountains lies Nariaiji Temple, thought to be a place where wishes come true. The deity Aryavalokitesvara Bodhisattva, represented as a beautiful woman, grants a beautiful body and spirit to those who come to worship her. Whether this is true or not, the temple’s gardens are spectacular in spring with its blooming rhododendron flowers and its red maple trees in autumn.
Getting to Amanohashidate
From Kyoto there are several ways to get to Amanohashidate. The first option is by train using the direct Hashidate limited express which runs four times a day for 4,500 yen .
A cheaper option by train is using the Kinosaki limited express to Fukuchiyama. Here you can transfer to the Tango Relay limited express to Amanohashidate (about 2,260 yen).
If you plan to travel around a bit along the coastline, check out the KYOTO Sea Area Pass for 1,600 yen a day. For those who have a JR Pass that might be the best option as this last part of the trip is not covered by the JR Pass. You can purchase the pass at Fukuchiyama, Nishi-Maizuru, Miyazu, Amanohashidate and Toyooka stations.
Another option is the taking the Tankai Bus for 2,800 yen leaving from Kyoto, Umeda or Shin-Osaka stations. Whether you choose to take the train or bus, a trip to Amanohashidate will take approximately 2 to 3 hours.