It can be disconcerting to travel from Kyoto City to the northern part of the prefecture and, for most of the journey, see nothing but rice fields, more rice fields, and 138-year-old farmers riding their bikes. However, once you reach the bay of Miyazu, you can find Amanohashidate – one of the top three scenic sights in Japan – which has never even had a rice field on it, being instead a 3 kilometer long sandbar covered in luscious pine trees. Naturally there are still some time-withered cyclists riding along, but you can find them everywhere.
Apart from the well-regarded sandbar, the area is also famous for its many ryokans and onsens (hot springs). Some of these ryokans and onsens will require you to take out a second mortgage in order to be able to afford to visit them. But, nestled in front of Amanohashidate station, is the Amanohashidate onsen, which will let you soak all of your troubles away for a paltry 700 yen (or 350 yen for children).
Otherwise known as Chie-no-yu’ (water of wisdom), the onsen has indoor, outdoor and hand and foot baths. The water is apparently famed for its heaviness, and it is indeed brown, almost tea-like, in color. And, should you be an idiot and actually mistake it for tea, there are also plenty of signs around warning you not to drink it.
The Amanohashidate onsen’s English leaflet notes that the water is “good for neuralgia, aching muscles, aching joints, and so forth”. Not suffering from neuralgia I can’t verify for the accuracy of that claim, but I had recently been skiing and my aching muscles were a lot less achy following a trip to the Amanohashidate onsen. I also felt infinitely more relaxed, peaceful, at one with the world yada yada, which I guess is what they mean by “and so forth”.
And when you’ve finished soaking your troubles away, there are also spaces within the Amanohashidate onsen where you can kick back, relax, and look at pretty flowers and other examples of traditional Japanese artwork while soothing music plays overhead.
Though you can bring your own towel (BYOT), there is towel rental available. There is also discounted bathing available for guests who present a special ticket which can be bought at the ticket gate in Amanohashidate station when alighting from the train.
And then, once your skin is all soft and pink from the water of wisdom and your mind is filled with thoughts of peace, love and goodwill to all men, you can go check out that famous sandbar people are always banging on about, or you can wander to any of the delicious restaurants that line the nearby streets, or to one of the many local shops and stock up on sake, crab, sardines, sake flasks made from dried squid, and many other delights. And what could be more perfect than that?