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Kyoto by the Sea

A Guide to Kyoto’s Serene Seaside: From Amanohashidate to Ine Fishing Village

2021.02.05

The northern coastal region of Kyoto is home to natural wonders, history, and unique cultures not found on the bustling city streets. This article covers Amanohashidate, Ine, Fukuchiyama Castle, and other scenic spots ideal for a day or weekend trip, and immersive activities to do when visiting!

Discovering Kyoto’s Coast – A Treasure Trove of Nature and Culture by the Japan Sea

Lower-right photo by Pixta

When most travelers imagine Kyoto, they may picture famous landmarks, like Fushimi Inari Shrine, or the historic district of Gion. However, a completely different Kyoto––one with a blue sea, fishing villages, castles, and thriving culture––exists just a train ride away from Kyoto Station. This area of Kyoto lies on the prefecture’s northern coast, facing the Sea of Japan, and is one of the ancient capital’s best-kept secrets.

Ideal for those looking for a new experience in Kyoto, this region hosts amazing natural attractions such as Amanohashidate, and historic appeal, like Ine’s funaya (boat houses), Nariaiji Temple, and Fukuchiyama Castle. There’s also a vibrant food and arts culture, from fresh seafood and sake to fine-quality kimono and silks.

Read on to learn what to do in this part of Kyoto, and how to make your experience one-of-a-kind!

1. Amanohashidate – Enjoy Famous Scenery Beloved for Centuries

Amanohashidate during the sakura season, taken from Viewland. Picture courtesy of Kyoto by the Sea DMO

Amanohashidate is a must-visit for anyone traveling to the coastal Kyoto area for its impressive and calming scenery. This naturally-occurring sandbar is considered one of the three most scenic spots in Japan. Its beauty has inspired throughout history, as suggested by its appearance in “Hyakunin Isshu,” a famous anthology of Japanese poems compiled in the early thirteenth century.

Enjoyable from both up-close via stroll or bike ride, and from afar at Kasamatsu Park or Amanohashidate Viewland, this is a very popular day trip spot for those coming from Kyoto City or Osaka. When walking or cycling along the sandbar, you can enjoy the refreshing sea breeze and be cooled by the shade of some 3,000 lush pine trees that grow along the 3.6-kilometer (2.2 mile)-long sandbar. Amanohashidate Shrine can be found on the strip of land, which is also home to white sand beaches where visitors are welcome to dip into the water.

To get to Amanohashidate, take the JR limited express Hashidate from Kyoto Station and ride until the last stop, around two hours. For those wanting to visit Viewland, follow signs from the train station that will lead you away from the coast.

For those planning on crossing the sandbar and visiting Kasamatsu Park, go the opposite way and walk towards the water. For the view from Kasamatsu Park, Fuchu Station runs a chairlift and cable cars that go up to the observatory.

Amanohashidate

Amanohashidate

Amanohashidate is one of the “Three Most Famous Views in Japan.” This natural land bridge is described in legend as having been created by the deity Izanagi-no-mikoto as a path from the heavens to visit the deity Izanami-no-mikoto. Amanohashidate is a natural work of art created by the Sea of Japan and the Noda River, flowing from its source on Mt. Oe. The mysterious beauty, the white sands and green pine trees present a truly superb view. Some 8,000 pine trees grow in the sand along the roughly 3.6-kilometer bridge.

The shrine Hashidate Myojin (Amanohashidate-jinja Shrine), a famous freshwater well called Isoshimizu, and a road bridge that swings 90 degrees to allow ferries and barges to pass are among its additional points of interest. Visitors can walk or cycle from one end of Amanohashidate to the other. There are benches and rest areas along the way.

Amanohashidate is included in many “Best 100” lists: 100 Famous Pine Trees of Japan, 100 White Sand and Green Pine Sites of Japan, 100 Roads of Japan, 100 Beaches of Japan, 100 Famous Waters, 100 Historic Parks of Japan, 100 Beautiful Historic Landscapes of Japan, and 100 Geological Features of Japan.

2. Ine’s Funaya Boathouses – Walk in the Footsteps of Edo-Period Fishermen

Ine is known for its picturesque funaya, or boat houses, that have been around since the Edo period. The town lies just past the Amanohashidate area and is home to around 230 of these charming funaya––some have been renovated into cafes, restaurants, or lodgings, but many are the living spaces of locals, who store their boats on the sea level and dwell on the second story.

Ine is recognized as one of the most picturesque villages in Japan. Upon visiting for yourself and strolling through the peaceful town, you’ll understand why.

While in Ine, get a guided tour on the water taxi around the bay, and be sure to snap photos! Then, take the time to walk through the town and see how the residents live. You will spot fishers out on the water or reeling in the catch from their boathouse decks. Before leaving, head to the roadside station nestled in the hills above the boathouses for an outstanding aerial view.

Those wanting to spend the night and wake up on the water can do so at one of the boathouse lodgings. See the official Ine Tourism Association website for details. Booking in advance is highly recommended, as these are popular accommodations.

Ine Boathouses (Funaya)

Ine Boathouses (Funaya)

Ine is a seaside village in the “Kyoto by the Sea” area, which is in the north of Kyoto Prefecture. Ine lies on the coast of the Sea of Japan and is famous for its wooden boathouses, or “funaya.”. Ine’s boathouses are famous for their unusual architecture: the bottom story stores a boat and fishing gear, while the second story comprises the living quaters. The floor of the bottom story nearly lines up with the waterline, making the houses look like they are floating on the bay and making a unique way to enter a home. The boathouses of Ine are a designated Group of Historic Buildings, a category under Japan’s Historic Preservation Act. The beautiful scenery at Ine makes it a popular place for filming TV shows and movies. There are a range of tours with which to enjoy Ine. For example, the Ine Bay Cruise is a popular way to see the boathouses from the water, or you can book tours to enter inside the boathouses, experience fishing, or learn about the history of Ine on a cycling tour.

3. Nii Terraced Rice Paddies – See Where Agriculture Meets the Sea

Photo by Pixta

Just past the boathouse district in Ine lies a patch of beautiful coastal scenery: the Nii terraced rice paddies. Rice is grown in several regions in Kyoto and throughout Japan, but the climate in this coastal area is particularly ideal for producing flavorful rice.

To get a glimpse of the fields when they are flooded (shown in the picture above), visit in May. During other times of the year, the fields will be covered in vibrant green or gold, depending on the crop cycle.

The rice terraces are easily accessed via car, but you can also walk or ride a bicycle to them.

Nii Rice Terraces

Nii Rice Terraces

The Nii Rice Terraces are an iconic feature of one of Japan’s most famous towns, Ine. Ine is renowned for its boat houses, which sit on one of UNESCO’s “world’s most beautiful bays.” The Nii Rice Terraces overlook the Sea of Japan, and are an incredible location for photo ops, especially in the spring when the rice fields are flooded. The rice is harvested in September/early fall, which is a great time to visit and watch locals continuing the ancient tradition of rice farming in this picturesque location.

4. Nariaiji Temple- A Historic Temple Overlooking the Bay

Overlooking Amanohashidate, Nariaiji Temple is a historic Buddhist temple located on a mountainside. The prominent temple is a stop along the Saikoku Pilgrimage route in Western Japan and used to be where monks would undergo ascetic training. When visiting, take in the historic main hall, the five-story pagoda, and the sweeping view of Amanohashidate from Mt. Benten observatory.

Nariaiji Temple is full of history and slightly mysterious stories. There is a Jizo statue (*1) that is said to grant the wishes of visitors, provided they convey their prayer in one breath. The main hall houses a historic dragon carving with eyes that seem to follow visitors as they walk.

To get to the temple, take the mountain bus that departs from Kasamatsu Park near the observation deck. Those with cars can simply take the road up to the top of the mountain.

*1… Jizo statues are often found at Buddhist temples in Japan; Jizo is thought to be the protector of children and travelers.

Nariai-ji Temple

Nariai-ji Temple

Nariai-ji Temple is located on a mountainside overlooking Amanohashidate” which is considered one of the three most scenic spots in Japan. There is an endless line of visitors to the temple, as it is the 28th temple of the Saigoku Kannon Pilgrimage.
Autumn leaves around the five-story pagoda turn a spectacular red in autumn, and the scenery here looks just like a picture scroll. A light-up event will be held on November 10th and 11th.

5. Fukuchiyama Castle – A Landmark Built By the Powerful Akechi Mitsuhide

The majestic Fukuchiyama Castle is a major historic landmark located in Fukuchiyama City, which is between Kyoto City and the Amanohashidate area. Constructed in 1579 by Akechi Mitsuhide, an influential military general active in Gifu, Shiga, and Kyoto, the castle acted as a western base for his domain.

The current tenshukaku (castle keep) is a recreation of the castle keep that was present during the Edo period.

For a small fee, visitors can enter the castle structure and climb up the keep. Historic scrolls, records, and artifacts that depict the history of Mitsuhide and the castle are on display inside. Be sure to closely examine the exterior, too. The castle was deconstructed under orders during the Meiji reign in the 19th century, but its stone walls have remained in-tact since they were originally placed; look closely to see that the wall has various types of stone.

Today, the castle is very popular due to its appearance in “Kirin ga Kuru,” a biographical Japanese drama series about Akechi Mitsuhide, broadcasted on NHK. You will likely see banners and posters around the grounds and in the castle reflecting this.

To get to Fukuchiyama Castle, take either the JR express train line or the San’in main line and get off at Fukuchiyama Station. It is around a 15-minute walk from the station to the castle.

Fukuchiyama Castle

Fukuchiyama Castle

Before Fukuchiyama Castle, there was Yokoyama Castle, a fortress of the Yokoyama, the local ruling family. Akechi Mitsuhide, the samurai who subjugated Tamba, rebuilt the fortress using state-of-the-art castle-building techniques of the time, and renamed it Fukuchiyama Castle. There used to be many structures here, including a three-layered four-storied castle tower and expansive Ninomaru Palace. However, these were taken down one after another, following the abolition of feudal domains in 1871. All that remained was a stone wall between the raised foundation and castle keep, a well called Toyoiwa-no-I, and a guard station. The castle currently standing was reconstructed over a period of three years, and construction was completed 1986. The interior is used as the Fukuchiyama City Folk Museum. The castle park also contains the Fukuchiyama Sato Taisei Memorial Art Museum. Exhibits there are centered on works by the late Sato Taisei, a master of Japanese-style painting.

6. Experiences to Try by the Kyoto Coast

From train rides along the picturesque coast to cooking regional dishes or learning silk and kimono history, there is something for everyone to enjoy in coastal Kyoto. English guidance is available for certain activities––be sure to inquire directly to confirm.

1. Let the Scenic Ride on Kyoto Tango Railways Take Your Breath Away

Picture courtesy of Kyoto by the Sea DMO

For anyone looking for a share-worthy picture, take a ride on the Kyoto Tango Railway, which is known for its top-notch sightseeing trains and the stunning coastal route between the Amanohashidate area and Maizuru City. Pictured above is the Tango Kuro-matsu train crossing the Yurakawa Bridge. You can take a picture from the inside of the train, or wait for the train to cross from across the riverbank (you will be in good company with others snapping photos).

Two sightseeing trains, theTango Kuro-matsu and Tango Aka-matsu, as well as the local Tango-Ao-matsu train operate along this scenic route. The Tango Kuro-matsu is a one-car dining room, providing delicacies made with local ingredients to riders as they take in the views from the train windows. Passengers on the Tango Aka-matsu will enjoy the scenery from sofas and other fun and comfortable seating arrangements. Please note that the Kuro-matsu and the Aka-matsu only operate on certain days, and advanced reservations are required to board.

View the official website for information and to make a reservation for the sightseeing trains.

2. Sip Tea and Stroll through the Tango Region’s Silk and Kimono Tradition

For a close-up look at one of Japan’s most important traditional arts, visit the Chirimen Kaido in Yosano, a town in northern Kyoto. This small district has been a vital part of Japan’s kimono and silk textile industry for around 300 years, known for producing high-quality silk crepe (Tango chirimen) used in kimono and other silk items––the Tango area is responsible for around 70% of the traditional silk material made domestically today.

You can walk through the streets lined with traditional homes, factories, and shops by yourself, but guided tours with locals are available and will allow you to learn more about the beautiful kimono and excellent silk woven here. Some activities include a kimono try-on, too.

For more information, see the official website. Inquire about English guidance availability here.

3. Sample Kyoto’s Rich Sake History at Kumano Brewery

Picture courtesy of Kyoto by the Sea DMO

With an ideal climate for rice production and supply of high-quality water, Kyoto prefecture produces the most sake in Japan. Much of the best-tasting sake in the region comes from the Kyotango area, near the Sea of Japan. Kumano Shuzo, or Kumano Brewery, is one place where you can try this delicious rice wine.

Sake at the Kumano Brewery is under the label of “Kumi no Ura,” inspired by the nature and sea surrounding it in the town of Kumihama, on the bay. Several varieties of hand-brewed sake and umeshu (plum wine) are available, and the shop offers in-store sampling. (*2)

*2… In-store sampling may or may not be available due to the effects of the coronavirus.

4. Go Fishing in Ine like a Local

Picture courtesy of Kyoto by the Sea DMO

Ine has a centuries-long tradition in Japan’s fishing industry. Residents in the traditional funaya live right on the bay, with access to the freshest seafood, including yellowtail, a local specialty. During a visit, you may spot some people doing just this––either on a boat in the bay, or fishing from a dock. Travelers can fish here, too––go with a local fisherman guide to learn how to hook and reel in the plentiful fish in Ine.

See this official website for more details, and use this contact form to inquire about English guidance.

5. Savor Local Flavors with Seko Crab Rice Bowl-Making

Picture courtesy of Kyoto by the Sea DMO

Crab is one of the delicacies of Kyoto’s northern coast. For those looking to hone their culinary skills, a cooking workshop for a seafood bowl using the tender seko crab is a fun and flavorful choice. Seko crab is the female version of the famous matsuba crab, and is prized for its delectable flavor.

The freshest seko crab is available between early November and January, making this activity ideal for a winter visit.

Click here to view more information on this cooking workshop and to reserve. For inquiries about the activity in English, use the contact form here.

6. Fry Up Fresh Seasonal Tempura

Photo by Pixta

Tempura––battered and deep-fried until golden––is one of the most delicious ways to enjoy vegetables. Those craving this classic Japanese dish can enjoy it with local, seasonal vegetables from Ayabe, a lush, mountainous region in Kyoto. This workshop uses in-season ingredients and wild vegetables picked by participants themselves!

After cooking, participants can enjoy their hard work with the other students and the instructor after the tempura is made. For more information and reservations, please see the official website. For inquiries about the activity in English, use the contact form here.

Take in the Sea Breeze and Culture of Kyoto by the Sea

The northern coastal region in Kyoto is best known for the impressive scenery of Amanohashidate, and the charming funaya of Ine, but a lot more awaits those who come and stay to explore. There is much to discover in this area easily accessible from Kyoto Station. Take in the best of this delightful region and experience another side of the ancient capital.