Kyoto, a beautiful city known as the ancient capital of Japan, attracts over 50 millions visitors from around the world as one of the most popular tourist attractions in Japan. But not so many tourists know about their hidden gems; Northern Kyoto. Tranquil villages with scenic views near the ocean represent deep and rich culture which is different from the city of Kyoto. Let’s discover other breathtaking attractions of Kyoto, usually hidden under the shadow of the main tourist spots!
Amanohashidate is a popular spot for its beautiful scenery located in Miyazu Bay. Along with Miyajima in Hiroshima and Matsushima in Miyagi prefecture, it is officially chosen as one of Japan’s three most scenic views. The 3.4km sandbar across the bay is completely covered with 5,000 pine trees, which creates a unique and stunning scenery. Amanohashidate View Land is a great place to enjoy the view, a small amusement park and observation deck on the top of the 130m hill. It is said that when you look over the view from there the sandbar looks like a giant dragon flying up in the sky! Take time to explore Amanohashidate either on foot or rental bicycle, if you walk across the sandbar it will roughly take 50 minutes on foot and 20 minutes by bicycle (one-way). Swimming on the beach or boat ride will be other fun options during summer time!
From Amanohashidate, Yosano Town is a 10min train ride. It is widely known as a large producer of high-quality silk goods including Kimono and Chirimen. Walk on Chirimen-Kaido, a main street in the town full of traditional buildings back in the Meiji and Showa period, where their Chirimen industry prospered. Tango Chirimen History Museum is the old weaving factory founded in 1903, where you can learn the history of the chirimen industry in town with an exhibition of loom machines. Several workshops are also available and over 400 kinds of silk products are on sale at an affordable price.
Nestled in Tango peninsula, 15km north of Amanohashidate, Ine welcomes visitors with a scenic townscape and peaceful atmosphere. The beautiful townscape is created by more than 230 boat houses which is called Funaya. They were originally used to store boats on the first floor, and the second floor was a residence for fishermen. They are officially designated as Important Preservation of Historic Buildings which clearly reflect the traditional life-style of locals living close to the ocean and forests for over centuries.
You can take a sea taxi or ferry for a bigger capacity for enjoying the view of Ine and Funaya from the sea. Since it’s not the tourist spots and people actually live in the floating houses, we highly recommend you to take guided tours to make it easier to explore properly if you want to explore the town. There are also other activities that you can enjoy in the untouched nature such as sea kayaking, cycling guided tours and fishing boat tours.
Kumihama is a small, lovely town in the northwestern part of Kyoto. It is adjacent to Hyogo prefecture and shares a border with Toyooka City. Although it is relatively not well-known compared to other famous tourist destinations in Kyoto, it boasts plenty of nature as well as historic spots such as shrines and temples which can be easily found as you walk around the peaceful town.
Gosyo Inaba Honke is a historic house originally built and owned by the Inaba family which is known as a wealthy merchant over 100 years ago. Try traditional Japanese cuisine or sweets as you admire the beautiful Japanese-style garden! A 15min walk from JR Kumihama station will take you to Nyoiji, a Buddhist temple which belongs to the Shingon sect. With a history of over 1,300 years, it fascinates visitors with valuable historic buildings as well as beautiful seasonal flowers. Spring is the best time to enjoy Mitsuba-tsutsuji, a kind of azalea with purple petals blooming around the temple!
Gosyo Inaba Honke
Opening hours 9am – 4pm
Opening hours 8am – 5pm
Facing the Sea of Japan, Kyo-tango City offers a number of breathtaking sceneries that can never be seen in urban areas. It boasts 15 beautiful beaches which attracts a number of visitors during the summer season. Yuhigaura Beach is a symbolic spot offering a stunning sunset view over the sea. Climb up to the Kabutoyama Observatory Deck to catch a glimpse of the panoramic view of Kumihama bay and head to Kotohira Shrine which has a history of over 200 years. Natural hot spring resorts and traditional Japanese inns can be spotted throughout the city, especially nearby Yuhigaura Beach. Don’t forget to try local specialties such as fresh seafood as well as tasty sake brands made from locally produced rice!
If you are interested in Japanese history, visit Fukuchiyama which boasts historic spots that have survived for over centuries in harmony with surrounding nature! Fukuchiyama Castle is a symbolic landmark which was originally built by Akechi Mitsuhide, a famous Samurai warrior back in the Sengoku period (1467-1590). Climbing up to the top of the main keep will offer you a panoramic view of the beautiful city along with Yura River which runs through the city from north to south.
Amano-iwato Shrine is a sacred spot nestled in a mountainous valley area which is known for the sacred atmosphere. After exploring the area, onsen experience at Fukuchiyama Onsen Yoro-no-yu will be rewarding at the end of the day.
Ayabe features a range of nature spots which perfectly match traditional buildings and historical sites that have been preserved for over centuries. Ayabe Rose Garden is a popular tourist attraction with a rose festival held every spring. Komyoji is one of the eight head temples of JHODO sect, which was founded in 1175. It’s also known for gorgeous autumn foliage. Another temple offering a peaceful stroll is Ankokuji, enjoy pleasant walk among sakura trees in spring and autumn colors in fall. Ayabe Fureai Farm is a family-friendly farm where goats, sheep and rabbits live and visitors can interact with animals. There are BBQ facilities and a restaurant serving delicious meals using local ingredients and soft serve ice cream!
Located in the northeastern part of Kyoto, Maizuru offers a wide range of experiences and exciting activities. JR Higashi-maizuru station is a main gateway to the best tourist attractions such as Maizuru Red Brick Park. It consists of 7 red brick warehouses which were renovated into a shopping hub packed with lovely shops selling local specialties as well as cozy cafes and restaurants. Get tickets at the building No.2 for a boat cruise tour which will take you close to giant navy ships and a shipyard closely around Maizuru Bay! You can also book the tickets beforehand online.
Other things to do in Higashi-maizuru is Kongo-in which is accessible by bus from JR Higashi-maizuru station. It boasts a three-story pagoda which is believed to be over 1,300 years old. Designated as Important Cultural Property, it fascinates visitors with different scenery with surrounding nature for each season. Feel the arrival of spring with lush greenery, or get unwind under a shade of hundreds-year-old trees away from summer heat. Autumn colors also make the historic pagoda even more attractive with red, yellow and orange leaves!
Opening hours 10am – 5pm
Admission ¥1,300 (adults) ¥700 (children)
Hotels to stay in Northern Kyoto
Only a 5-minute walk to Amanohashidate Land Bridge, Japanese traditional inn offering perfect Japanese staying experience including onsen, kaiseki meals and comfortable Japanese style bedding (futon) on tatami mats.
Located along the Kuruhama Bay, it offers a scenic ocean view from the room. Great hospitality and food are highly rated at this hotel.
Super Hotel Higashi-Maizuru
Conveniently located within 15 minutes walk to Maizuru Brick Park. It opened in 2020, it guarantees you a clean and comfortable stay.
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Kyoto Food and Drink Tour @Nishiki Street & Gion
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If you are planning to stay in the Kyoto area for a week or longer, it is worth considering visiting both central Kyoto and northern Kyoto to get different experiences. You can spend the first few days exploring famous tourist spots in central Kyoto, and then head to the northern areas to let yourself surrounded by the refreshing nature. Even if you already have been to Kyoto City so many times, Northern Kyoto will show you different faces that you have never seen.
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