Ama-no-hashidate is famous for being one of Japan’s three scenic views (along with Matsushima in Miyagi Prefecture and Miyajima in Hiroshima Prefecture). Connecting both sides of Miyazu Bay in northern Kyoto Prefecture, it is also part of a scenic national park.
The sandbar is 3 km long and has 8000 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
It is accessible by train then on foot.
From Kyoto Station, take the Hashidate 7 Limited Express to Amanohashidate Station. The ride takes about 2.5 hours. JR pass is not usable on the service. From the station, the sandbar is a 20-minute walk away.
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 3 km long and quite thin, a mere 20 meters wide at its narrowest point. It is covered with about 8000 lush pine trees.
There are viewpoints 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’s not just views on offer at Amanohashidate. On the east side, you can find 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 mark the best view points 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.
Several viewpoints dot the landscape, which most say is the better side to view the sandbar from. From here, the sandbar is said to look like a dragon flying to heaven.
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.