As the cultural heart of Japan, Kyoto is one of the most popular destinations worldwide. With its beautiful temples, beautiful gardens, and exquisite cuisine, it is no surprise that tourists from around the world flock to this charming ancient city all year-round. But if you’re overwhelmed with navigating through the touristy crowds at popular attractions, venture off common trails and explore one of the most authentic sides of Kyoto by the sea instead, away from the fast-paced city life.
Tucked in the northern part of Kyoto Prefecture, the Tango region (located just 2h away from downtown Kyoto) is a hidden gem overlooked by many travellers. The region is commonly known as the source of traditional Japanese cuisine due to its rich natural resources including fertile land, clean water, and fresh seafood.
Referred to as “Kyoto by the sea”, this coastal area also boasts some of the most stunning views in Japan, making it perfect for those wanting to escape to nature, as well as those looking for a unique day trip outside Kyoto city. Here are some of the top places to visit in Amanohashidate and Ine for some off-the-beaten-track adventures.
Conquer the legendary trail at Amanohashidate
Amanohashidate reigns as one of Japan's top three scenic wonders, alongside Matsushima (scenic bay located 30 minutes from Sendai city) and Miyajima (island less than 1 hour from Hiroshima). Nestled in the heart of natural beauty, there lies a tapestry of myths and legends that has woven its way into this captivating destination, so be prepared to step into a realm of ancient tales and immerse yourself in the fascinating narratives as you enter the area.
This enchanting sandbar, directly translated to the "bridge to heaven," weaves a mythical connection between the divine and the earthly realms. Legends has it that the sandbar is a ladder brought down by the gods themselves to travel seamlessly.
Embark on a memorable cycling and sightseeing adventure along Amanohashidate in Northern Kyoto, traversing this iconic masterpiece of nature from end to end. The breathtaking sandbar is adorned with nearly 8,000 majestic pine trees and vibrant seasonal flora, offering a different sight from blooming flowers in the spring to lush greens during the summer and captivating hues in the autumn.
Pro-tip: A one-way journey on foot takes around 50 minutes while getting on a bike will shorten your journey to 20 minutes. Bicycles can be rented conveniently at rental shops located at both Monju and Fuchu bays and affordably at JP¥400 for 2 hours. Do note that the rental shops only operate from 9:00am to 5:00pm daily so plan your adventure in advance.
On your return journey, sail along Miyazu Bay on a 12-minute Amanohashidate Sightseeing Boat and witness the awe-inspiring spectacle of the Kaisenkyo Bridge rotating 90 degrees each time a boat passes through. Don’t miss the three daily departures, 9:27am from Amanohashidate, 9:50am from Miyazu, and 4:15pm from Ichinomiya (Kasamatsu Park side). It is advisable to check the timetable and secure your tickets at the tourist information centre at the Amanohashidate table ahead of time for greater flexibility. If not, you can also grab your tickets at the bay before boarding.
Catch a glimpse of this incredible panorama from the observatories on either end of the bays, each promises a unique perspective which allows you to savour the scenic views in all its glory.
Address: Monju, Miyazu, Kyoto 626-0001, Japan
Operating hours: Open 24h
Experience a mythical ascent from the southern bay at Amanohashidate View Land
Perched atop the majestic Mount Monju lies an amusement park that overlooks the sandbar from the southern bay (Monju area). The Amanohashidate View Land is best known to experience the “upside-down-pine-tree” phenomenon. It is said that you can see a dragon ascending to heaven (called Hiryukan) here so don’t be surprised to see visitors standing on benches and bending down to glimpse the sandbar between their legs.
This is known as the Matanozoki effect where the sea looks like the sky when viewed inversely, resembling a dragon ascending to the skies. It is said to bring good luck to the viewer and an unforgettable experience not to be missed!
Try your hand at “Kawarake Nage” (pottery throwing) while you are at the vista point too. Kawarake Nage refers to making a wish while throwing an earthen object from a high place. Purchase a set of three kawarake (earthenware plate) for JP¥300 at the unmanned station (only cash is accepted) and throw it through the Chienowa (ring of wisdom). It is said that if your Kawarake passes through the ring, your wish will be granted!
Accessible by a six-minute chair lift or a seven-minute monorail ride, the Amanohashidate View Land is a park that offers more than just scenic views.
Unleash your inner child in the world of timeless fun at this amusement park in Northern Kyoto where merry-go-rounds, Ferris wheels, and a breathtaking sky walk await you. With ticketed attractions priced at an affordable price of up to JP¥500 (S$4.70) per ride, families and travellers alike can revel in an experience that combines nostalgia and excitement.
Unlike the bustling theme parks packed with people, this theme park is perfect for individuals who want to take things slow. Expect yourself to spend approximately 2 hours relishing the classic rides, capturing the picturesque views, and creating unforgettable memories with your loved ones. More information on the attractions and ticketing cost can be found here.
For an exhilarating experience, take the monorail up and chairlift down to enjoy the sea view. Alternatively, you can choose a round trip on the monorail for a seamless journey. Tickets can be conveniently purchased at the ticketing office located at the base of the boarding area. |
Amanohashidate View Land
Address: Monju, Miyazu, Kyoto 626-0001, Japan
21 February to 20 July: 9:00am to 5:00pm daily
21 July to 20 August: 8:30am to 6:00pm daily
21 August to 20 October: 9:00am to 5:00pm daily
21 October to 20 February: 9:00am to 4:30pm daily
Visit the Chionji Temple for wisdom and success
Be transported to a realm of enchantment where time-honoured temples and sacred shrines stand as guardians of the area’s rich history and legendary stories. Among them, the Chionji Temple in Northern Kyoto is one of the most iconic as it is one of the three temples in Japan that houses the Bodhisattva (the Buddhist god of wisdom and intellect) today.
It is also said that Bodhisattva was enshrined at this temple after its successful defeat of a destructive dragon. As such, this Temple of Wisdom is a must-visit for individuals in Northern Kyoto seeking wisdom, or academic and personal successes. While you are here, purchase the Omikuji which is a unique fortune shaped like a folding fan, make wishes, and hang them on the pine trees around the temples for prosperity.
Address: 103 Tanaka Monzencho, Sakyo Ward, Kyoto, 606-8225, Japan
Operating hours: 9:00am to 5:00pm daily
Adventures await at the northern bay, where nature’s serenade meets ancient legends
The sky deck in the northern Kasamatsu Park offers the view of Amanohashidate with its white sandy beach and green pine trees that take the shape of the Chinese character “一”. Others believe that you can witness the mythical descent of the dragon from this perspective, a striking contrast to the ascending dragon seen from the southern side which adds an element of mystique to this scenic panorama.
Kasamatsu Park is only accessible by either the chairlift or the cable car. Tickets can be purchased at the ticketing counter located at the base of the mountain.
Pro-tip: The last chairlift departs at 4:00pm so be sure to plan your visit accordingly if you would like to take the chairlift down.
Address: 75 Ogaki, Miyazu, Kyoto, Japan
Operating hours: 9:00am to 5:00pm, daily
Just within a 7-minute mountain bus ride away from Kasamatsu Park lies the remarkable Nariaji Temple in Northern Kyoto. The Nariaji Temple blooms into a floral wonderland especially during the enchanting autumn where maple leaves paint the landscape in hues of red and golden yellow. With 11 spots to explore including the main temple, a panoramic observatory, a statue known for making one’s wishes come true, and a magnificent five-storey pagoda, the precinct offers a captivating feast for the senses.
Pro-tip: The mountain bus operates from 9:30am to 4:00pm, running every 30-minute interval at a round trip cost of JP¥720 for adults (S$6.80) and JP¥360 for children (S$3.40). Admission to the temple is JP¥400 (S$3.80) which is to be purchased with your bus tickets from Kasamatsu Park. If you are up for the challenge, consider hiking up the steep mountain on foot and enjoy a leisure descent back down, which takes approximately 25 minutes, offering a more budget-friendly option.
Address: 339 Nariaiji, Miyazu, Kyoto 629-2241, Japan
Operating hours: 8:00am to 4:30pm, daily
Conclude your adventure in the north at the Motoise Kono Shrine located before the entrance to Kasamatsu Park. The historically significant shrine which once enshrined revered deities, continues to captivate visitors with its dedication to fostering harmonious relationships and granting heartfelt wishes today.
Don’t forget to pick up a backpack full of souvenirs including snacks that are unique to the Northern Kyoto region like black bean-flavoured products. Bring back some Amanohashidate Oil Sardines too, they are meticulously prepared seafood that is carefully cleaned, hand-packed in oil, and sealed in cans, ensuring a taste of the region's culinary heritage.
Motoise Kono Shrine
Address: 430 Ohgaki, Miyazushi, Kyoto, Japan
Operating Hours: 7:00am to 5:00pm, daily
Step into the quaint fishing village of Ine where timeless beauty and rich maritime heritage converge
Unlike any other sea town, this fishing village is uniquely nestled between the majestic mountains and the serene Ine Bay. With approximately 230 meticulously preserved Funaya spanning over 5km along the captivating coastline of Ine, it is no surprise why this fishing village with a distinctive blend of nostalgia and tranquillity is identified as one of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation’s (UNESCO) World’s Most Beautiful Bays.
Funaya are unique double-storey boat houses where the ground level is used as a boat garage and a working space for fishermen while the upper deck serves as living quarters. Once a vital trade artery connecting China and Kyoto, these historic Funaya offer a glimpse into the lives of fishermen from ancient times, providing visitors with an authentic and immersive journey into the region's maritime heritage. Step foot into this vibrant residential town, home to over 2,000 inhabitants so be sure to approach with respect as you unravel the hidden gems.
Embark on a breathtaking 25min Ine Bay Boat Tour to best witness the picturesque views of boat houses from the tranquil waters. As you glide along, enhance your adventure by purchasing some delectable prawn crackers to feed the seagulls. With tours operating at every 30min interval, this is a scenic cruising experience that promises to leave you in awe, capturing the essence of Ine’s coastal allure in a truly memorable and unforgettable way.
Ine Bay Cruising Ferry
Address: 11 Hide, Ine, Yoza District, Kyoto 626-0425, Japan
Operating hours: 9:00am to 4:30pm, daily (last departure is at 4:00pm)
Don’t miss out on all the fun things to do in Northern Kyoto
Before you start your adventure at Amanohashidate in Northern Kyoto, don’t forget to drop by the Amanohashidate Sightseeing Information Centre to grab an area map to aid you in planning the best route. From the awe-inspiring Amanohashidate Sandbar to the captivating Funaya boat houses of Ine, these hidden gems offer a wealth of unforgettable experiences, picturesque landscapes, and a glimpse into Japan’s rich cultural heritage that will leave you with a deep appreciation for the beauty of Northern Kyoto.
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