A former shogun town during Tokugawa Ieyasu’s reign at the end of the 16th century, Hamamatsu still shows the stigma of this historical past, which can be seen with a quick visit to the dungeon. Yet, its real tourist attraction mostly concerns aquatic hobbies. With Lake Hamana on the west and the Pacific Ocean on the south, the city proudly displays a resort atmosphere.
Hamana-ko’s banks guarantee entertainment. A tiny world was created, where classical shrines and temples live alongside a theme park, zoo, botanical garden, music museum, and also resort hotels with onsen (hot springs), ideal for relaxation. The Kanzanji District does particularly well, as it contains many of these attractions. Moreover, it is possible to cross parts of the lake by boat or cable car. On its southern side, we discover Bentenjima that ends on the ocean. The sea coast with its palm trees and concrete sidewalks looks like the USA’s eastern coast.
Sand dunes connoisseurs will enjoy those of Nakatajima Sakyu, which are counted among the most important in Japan. Blown by the wind, the dunes form a sea of sand and offer a pleasant view of the blue shades in the ocean and sky. Tourists can also take the time to observe sea turtles (Caretta caretta), as the turtles find a protected place to lay down their eggs here.
Okura Act City Hotel Observation Gallery
When we walk back to the central JR Train Station site of Hamamatsu, we recommend travelers go to the Okura Act City Hotel, if only for a short time. Located near Shinkansen, the Act City tower is easily recognizable by its height, and inside it hides an observatory gallery covering 360° views of the city. When the sky is clear, we can see faraway Mount Fuji on the northeast side. Be careful, as this platform is not well indicated. Visitors should go through the lobby to take the elevator to the 44th floor (45F).
Hamamatsu looks like Shizuoka, in terms of urban architecture and has some high buildings but mostly small and low blocks. Downtown is oriented towards the city and has no mountainous landscapes; however, the wind blows strong all year round. From the main train station, numerous buses are available to begin discovering each district. However, the network is very centered and requires returning to the main station to take another bus for further exploration.
Well served by public transportation, Hamamatsu is reachable by trains and planes from the surrounding cities of Nagoya, Osaka, and Tokyo. It can be seen as an interesting stopover on the Tokaido Road or for those looking for a more peaceful way of living in a middle-sized city with numerous activities that are more recreational than traditional. Despite its size and geographical location, Hamamatsu hosts several motorcycle headquarters that participate to diversify the inhabitants and are used to welcoming expatriate communities.
How to get to Hamamatsu
By train -- ~1h30 from Tokyo Station by Shinkansen (¥8,500 / ~US$ 79.70 or fully covered by the Japan Rail Pass)
Location unreachable with the JR Pass
Get there with a rental car
Okura Act City Hotel Observation Gallery:
- Adult: ¥500 / ~US$ 4.70
- Children (up to 12 years): ¥300 / ~US$ 2.80
Get your Japanese Yens free of charge
Okura Act City Hotel Observation Gallery: open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., exceptional closing for events
How long / when to visit
Allow a day in stopover
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