By Bonson Lam
Amanohashidate is renowned as one of the three most scenic sights in Japan, the others being Matsushima in Miyagi Prefecture and Miyajima in Hiroshima Prefecture. Standing on the hill overlooking the bay, the coast is dotted with thousands of beautiful pine trees, which stretch for over two miles. Tradition says that you should bend over and look at the view through your legs. Amanohashidate means bridge to heaven, and the narrow sand spit between the ocean and the bay does look like a bridge. I can only imagine how beautiful it is in the moon-viewing season in September when the full moon reflects over the water.
Alternatively, if you don’t wish to bend over, there is always the Amanohashidate View Land, where you can have the same experience but from the top of a mountain, where they even have upside-down binoculars to give you the same perspective. For 850 yen you can take the chairlift, cable car or monorail, depending on the weather and the level of adrenalin and fresh air you wish to have while enjoying the view. It is a great way to take in the panorama on a fine day, or if you have lots of young children to entertain. While there are more than enough activities to keep the kids happy, the children’s ride blends well into the landscape, so if you enjoy nature, this is a good place to go.
From wildflowers in summer to the calmness of the snowscape in winter, this place is beautiful in all four seasons. Even though the visibility is reduced in wet weather, you can still enjoy the seven-minute ride in the covered monorail, and wander freely with little or no queuing at most indoor attractions, like archery or the observation deck restaurant. It serves local specialities like clam rice bowl, or grated crab rice, starting from a family friendly price of 750 yen.
On a fine day, you can choose between a cliff hanger roller coaster, a gentle mini steam train lookalike ride, mini putt-putt golf, go-carts, electric track cars, a Ferris Wheel with views across the bay to Ine-cho, and my favourite, the cycle car, which is like a roller coaster that you control the speed on. It reminds me of Jamberoo Amusement Park where you get to control the action. Most rides cost between 300 and 500 yen per person, and while you need to be six years and up to go on the go-carts, and seven years to ride the roller coaster, there are plenty of attractions for infants. The park itself is reasonably small, which is good in two aspects. 1- Your kids are easier to find if they get lost. 2- If you want to see other sights in the area, you could probably fit them in the same day.
Entrance to the amusement park is next to Amanohashidate station. Coming from Kyoto via the JR Sanin Main line, it is about 2 hours by limited express. Likewise it takes about the same time coming from Osaka. By car you can get here from Kyoto in about one and a half hours.
And when you are done, keep the entrance ticket which gives you discounts at a variety of restaurants and other attractions. After a big day out, your mind may turn to the abundant seafood available here, including the snow crab, or Matsuba crab. If you are here in the evening you may see the fishing boats return with the Taiza Crab, with a rich taste and tender texture.
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I knew my future was destined to be with Japan the moment I flew from Sydney to experience the atmospheric lane ways of Kyoto last century. From the skies above Sapporo to the old charm of Naha's alleyways, I have been enchanted by the beauty and variety on every island. I am humbled to have met many distinguished people in my role as Regional Partner, especially the national living treasures of Japan, such as the doll maker to the Imperial Family. From sushi cooking classes to Ninja training grounds I welcome your ideas on what you like from JapanTravel.com. Please visit us in Kyoto or Osaka and have some green tea or sake with us.