With family visiting from Australia and the kids on summer holidays, we were keen to get out of the usual tourist areas that foreigners visit, head to a different part of Japan and go somewhere the kids might find fun. Having visited Kinosaki a couple of years ago during winter, I was interested to head back up to the north coast during summer to explore this beautiful area.
Amanohashidate (the Bridge to heaven) at the base of the Tango Peninsula, in Kyoto prefecture, rated as one of Japan’s top three views, is a pine tree lined sand bar that spans across a bay. It’s a popular holiday destination for the Japanese, particularly during summer due to the clean and less crowded beaches.
The bridge from the mainland to the sand bar.
By public transport, the best way to get there is via Kyoto; it’s an enjoyable and picturesque two hour train trip through the middle of the prefecture. Tickets cost around 4,500 yen one way. Once arriving at Amanohashidate station, take your time at the station. They have a very helpful tourist desk that will provide you with maps and information in English. The day we went there, one of the guides spoke excellent English and was able to provide a lot of tips and information about the area.
As we don’t have a car (and didn’t arrange to hire one) we had to rely on public transport to get around. We bought a 2 day pass that gave us unlimited travel on the bus network and ferry across the bay, cable car tickets and a boat tour in Ine for 3,000 yen (half -price for children.) It was great value and let us see all the sights in the limited time we had. You can also hire bikes at various places at either end of the spit to help you get around.
My little ferry captain!
Once arriving in Amanohashidate, the first stop was the beach as we were extremely hot. There are patrolled swimming areas at either end of the sand bar as well as toilets and showers dotted along it. If you don’t want to swim (or it’s not summer) there is a bike track the length of the spit. The pine tree covered foreshore provides a great deal of shade (and was very strange to us Aussies!) and the water warm and clean. After a quick swim, we made our way to the ferry as our accommodation was on the other side of the bay.
The ferry ride across was very scenic and gave a great view of the sand bar and the surrounding mountains. Once on the other side, we were ready for lunch. There are a number of restaurants near the terminal, however they were a bit pricey. Eventually we herded into a restaurant above a gift shop by this little old lady “We have rice! Yummy!” she said as she pushed us upstairs. Well, we found a little gem. The owner spoke a bit of English so between the two of us, we worked out the menu and had a delicious meal with kakig0ri (shaved ice) for the kids afterwards. As the restaurant was at the base of the cable car stop, we asked if we could leave our bags there – “No problem!” In fact they were so kind, we went back for breakfast the next day and we were greeted with “kino no boy!” (Yesterday’s boys!). To find them, head towards the cable car station on the north side of Amanohashidate; they’re the last shop on the right as you head up the hill.
My boys and the lovely owners of the restaurant.
The most famous thing to do in Amanohashidate is to take a cable car to the mountains at either end of the sand bar and view the spit upside down; by doing this, the sand bar is meant to look like it is floating – mention Amanohashidate to any Japanese and immediately they will bend over and look between their legs. We took the cable car on the north side and the view from the top was beautiful. It was also a total Japanese tourist spectacular complete with dancing mascots and surprisingly, very hot so after we had our obligatory photo, we headed down on the chairlift.
Is it floating?
Time to check into our minshuku. As I left it a little late and it was obon (holiday season) accommodation options were limited and expensive so it really shouldn’t have been a surprise that our room was less than ideal. I won’t say much more than it was dirty and noisy and that to find better accommodation, check out Tripadvisor and other related sites.
Due to the room being what it was, we took the kids down the beach and at 4:30, it was absolutely perfect. Most people cleared off by 5pm – the kids and I were able to jump off the pontoons as many times as we wanted (and without everyone thinking, what is that crazy foreign woman doing?) It was only the jellyfish stings that drove us out.
The beach in the afternoon – bliss!
Another downside – most of the restaurants shut early as it is custom to have dinner in your ryokan. My kids are still a bit fussy when it comes to unknown food so I wasn’t prepared to pay an extra 1000yen each and potentially buy more food. So we went to the local supermarket and had a picnic by the bay.
The fishing village of Ine.
After a decent sleep and breakfast, we jumped on the bus to Ine, a traditional fishing village about 20 minutes from Amanohashidate. Ine is famous for Funaya, traditional houses that are built over water; boats are stored on the first floor and living quarters are on the second floor. Get off at Hide to take a 25 minute boat ride around Ine Bay. This was truly one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen in Japan. The water was perfectly crystal clear, the houses so beautiful and you could feel yourself stepping back in time. My boys also loved it. After the boat ride we walked through the village, it felt like a ghost town however the futons hanging off the balconies told us otherwise.
A boat in the garage.
After Ine, we were all so tired and ready to come home. It was a great holiday destination for the kids – water, boat rides, cable cars, trains, all things little boys love and it is nice for the kids to get out and explore the natural beauty of Japan. I would love to take more time to explore this beautiful area. Next time, I’d hire a car and take a few days to drive and stop wherever looked interesting.
To find out more about Amanohashidate, Ine and the Tango Peninsula, check out these websites:
Mum to three very loud boys and wife to a patient Japanese man, I'm Australian and moved to the Kansai area in 2012. Aside from navigating all the craziness of being a mum in another country, I work semi-full time and try to keep my sanity! Of course I clean but I don't cook!