Amanohashidate (天橋立), Northern Kyoto
Amanohashidate (天橋立) , the meaning of which is roughly bridge to heaven, is a 3.6km long, pine tree covered sand bar. It spans Miyazu Bay on the Tango Peninsula in northern Kyoto prefecture. It is ranked as one of Japan’s three best scenic views. It is best viewed from the hills on either the south or north side. Both sides have a chair lift and an electric trolley that takes visitors up to a viewing area.
Several other attractions can be explored on foot or by rental bicycle at either end of the sandbar. They include a couple of temples, such as Nariai-ji Temple, a small amusement park and observation decks from which to enjoy the view. Visitors can take sightseeing cruises around the bay or enjoy the sandy beaches along the sandbar.
Access : Direct Hashidate limited expresses run four times a day and connect JR Kyoto Station to Amanohashidate in 106 minutes (¥4,310).
Bus : Tankai bus from JR Kyoto station bus terminal, platform C2. It takes about 2 hours (¥2700), runs twice a day.
Miyajima (宮島), Hiroshima
Miyajima is a small island less than an hour outside the city of Hiroshima. It is most famous for its giant torii gate, which at high tide seems to float on the water.
The island’s sole town retains a classically Japanese Edo-era look. There are wild deer on the island. They are fearless and inquisitive, wandering freely around the same sites as the tourists.
Access : Hiroshima to Miyajima-guchi station by JR Sanyo Line. 5 mins on foot from JR Miyajima-guchi station to Miyajima guchi pier and 10 mins to Miyajima by ferry.
Matsushima (松島), Miyagi
Located half an hour outside of Sendai, Matsushima is famous for its bay with some 260 tiny islands covered in pines. In 1689, famous Haiku poet Matsuo Basho visited Matsushima on a trip recorded in his collection Narrow Road to the Deep North.
The small town is also known for Zuiganji, one of the Tohoku Region’s most important Zen temples.
Access : 40 minutes from JR Sendai station to Matsushima Kaigan station on the JR Senseki Line.