Traditionally (back from the 17th century), these three most famous views in Japan, called "Nihon sankei"; are the most beautiful to contemplate:
- the famous Miyajima and Itsukushima Shrine, very close to Hiroshima
- Matsushima islands near Sendai, which has lost a lot of tourism activity since March 11, 2011...
- Amanohashidate is less known from Westerners, but no less stunning
To get to Amanohashidate, you can ride the train from Kyoto. The one-way trip takes just over two hours. Beware: even Japan Rail Pass holders will have to pay a supplement fee. The place is famous for its sandbar which cuts Miyazu Bay from the Sea of Japan, north of Kobe and Osaka.
Crossing Amanohashidate is done in two parts. After a relaxing stroll around Chion-ji temple, you'll cross a small bridge called Kaisenkyo which pivots to let boats pass through. Then, there's the famous strip of land which is about 2.2 miles long. It takes about an hour to cross it, taking your time to shoot pictures and soak your feet.
Indeed, Amanohashidate is also beautiful for its beautiful white sand beaches and their very clear water. It's extremely pleasant to spent a few hours there, like a lot of Japanese families and groups of young people choose to do. These beaches are more or less crowded throughout the sandbar. But for a Saturday in July, I thought it was a very quiet place.
The walk between 8,000 pine trees is extremely nice, it reminded me of the landscapes of south-western France. Arriving at the other side of Amanohashidate, you can skip Kono shrine, which seems quite "fake" (too synthetic) in my opinion. Then you have to climb the mountain either by cable car or in individual eggs. We took the first option.
From above, in Kasamatsu park, you can take beautiful pictures. For hundreds of years, the tradition has been to turn your back on the strip of land and then lean forward to watch it between your legs, and feel like that the bridge is floatting on the bay. Everyone does it and it's pretty fun to try!
To get back to the station, we chose for the motorboat to return in time for the train.
Here's our video of the day in Amanohashidate:
How to get to Amanohashidate
By train from Kyoto station with JR Limited Express (direct route): 2h04 and ¥3,880 / ~US$ 35.50 (non-reserved seat), ¥4,300 / ~US$ 39.30 (reserved seat) or ¥6,630 / ~US$ 60.60 ("green car")
No direct train routes from Osaka; change in Kyoto or in Fukuchiyama
Warning: more than one third of the ticket fare is not supported by the Japan Rail Pass
Location unreachable with the JR Pass
Get there with a rental car
Amanohashidate pass (¥1,600 / ~US$ 14.60 for one day), to buy on the train or on site, offering free: boat in the bay, bike rental, local buses, and cable car to Kasamatsu
Cable car only: ¥640 / ~US$ 5.90 roundtrip
Motorboat: ¥600 / ~US$ 5.50 to go, ¥1,000 / ~US$ 9.10 return
How long / when to visit
Ideal output from Kansai megacities on a full day
Avoid in cold or bad weather because everything is done outside