For a peninsula that has drawn poets and writers like Izumi Shikibu, Amanohashidate is surprisingly quiet. While the sand spit lined with an avenue of pine trees is the star attraction, there is another side to Amanohashidate, one that you can more readily sense on a bicycle, and take in the charms that you would not otherwise notice. Who would have thought, you can take a picnic hamper full of cheese and wine from the nearby winery and watch the sunrise or the sunset over pristine squeaky white sand beaches in Kyoto Prefecture. It is a great way to eat, drink, and feel the bygone elegance of Amanohashidate.
Amanohashidate is a great day trip excursion from either Kyoto or Maizuru, home for Kyoto’s international cruise ship terminal. It is 2 hours by train from Kyoto and around 40 minutes from Nishi-Maizuru. Most visitors then make their way here on foot from Amanohashidate Station. On the way to the sand spit, there are dried seafood stores, restaurants and a number of bicycle rental stores. While these push-bikes here won’t win you the Tour de France, you can hire one starting from 400 yen for two hours, and make your way towards Ichinomiya. If you have a full day, keep going around the coast to Ine Bay.
Near the ferry terminal is Chionji, a temple for students and candidates to gather intelligence and insight. As one of three monju temples in Japan, it is associated with Manjusri, a bodhisattva associated with transcendent wisdom. However there is now an easier way. Drop by at one of the four Japanese cafes, and try some local delicacies called chie no mochi, or wisdom dumplings. In a land where you can acquire wisdom with temple charms, you can now eat it for breakfast.
There is a legend from ancient times about a floating bridge from heaven, as Amanohashidate is called in Japanese. The god Izanagi would visit his goddess on this bridge. These days a swinging red bridge takes you to the sand spit, one that honeymooners and students alike cross towards Motoise Kono Shrine.
Another wise man once said that “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.’ I make my way from the bridge across the sand spit to Ichinomiya in twenty minutes, though it is tempting to linger at some of the shrines along the way and look back at the glimpses of sunlight reflecting from the water to the trees above. From Ichinomiya you can take the ascent towards Naraiji, a journey best taken by cable car and on foot, rather than by bicycle.
If you are tempted to linger a little longer, check in at the Genmyoan Ryokan, with a spectacular outdoor bath to soothe your body from 80,000 yen. Those on a tighter budget can relive the glory of centuries past at Seikiro, a ryokan frequented by writers and poets of old.