Ama-no-hashidate is a pine-covered sandbar famous for having one of Japan's three scenic views, along with Matsushima in Miyagi Prefecture and Miyajima in Hiroshima Prefecture. This natural bridge links both sides of Miyazu Bay in northern Kyoto Prefecture, and is part of a national park.
The sandbar is three kilometers long and has 8,000 pine trees
There is a theme park at one end, frequented by locals
Kono Shrine is on the northern side and Chion-ji Temple on the opposite
The sandbar is accessible by train followed by a short walk.
From Kyoto Station, take the Hashidate 7 Limited Express to Amanohashidate Station. The ride takes about two and a half hours. The JR Pass is not usable on this train. The sandbar is a 20-minute walk from the station.
Ama-no-hashidate translates to “bridge to heaven” because it appears to be a pathway connecting heaven and earth when viewed from the mountains that rise above it on either side. The sandbar is quite thin—just 20 meters wide at its narrowest point. Most of it is occupied by pine trees.
You'll get wonderful views on either side of the bay, or you can walk along the scenic road that threads through the trees on the isthmus. This takes about 45 minutes on foot or 15 minutes by bike, which can be rented from shops and hotels by Amanohashidate Station.
There're not just views on offer at Amanohashidate. On the east side are beautiful white sand beaches, which locals flock to in the summer. Surrounded by the lush pines, the beaches are a lovely sight.
If it's history you're after, you can visit Kono Shrine on the northern side and Chion-ji Temple on the southern end.
Various sightseeing cruises offer tours of the bay around the sandbar. Tickets can be reserved at the dock where the cruises depart next to Chion-ji Temple on the southern end of the island.
A pair of parks provide the best views on either side of the bay. On the south side behind Amanohashidate Station you can find a cute theme park, Amanohashidate View Land. You can take a chairlift or cablecar to the park, which has a roller coaster, Ferris wheel, and even mini golf and go-karts.
On the other side of the bay is Kasamatsu Park, also accessible by chairlift or cable car. From here locals say that the sandbar looks like the kanji, or Chinese character, for "one."
For over one thousand years, locals have been striking the same pose to view the bay best: bending over with their head between their legs. This stance has a name: “matanozoki.” You'll be sure to see many people in this position, following the local tradition.