Easy Access from Tokyo and Nagoya! A Trip to Hamamatsu in Shizuoka Prefecture: Sights, Food, Hot Springs, and More!
Shizuoka Prefecture might mainly be known for Mt. Fuji or Gotemba, but in its western part, you’ll also find the city of Hamamatsu, which we believe is well worth a visit. Hamamatsu highlights include Lake Hamana, which delights people all year round with its natural beauty; the Nakatajima Sand Dunes, one of the three most famous sand dunes in all of Japan; and the Hamamatsu Flower Park, which offers different but equally beautiful scenery with each season. Visitors to Hamamatsu can also relax their body and mind at Kanzanji Onsen (hot spring) or feast on the city’s famous unagi (freshwater eels), Hamamatsu-style gyoza (fried dumplings), or the uniquely-named snack “Unagi Pie.” In this article, we’ll discuss the best tourist spots to visit and dishes to sample during a trip to this enchanted part of Shizuoka.
Feb 02 2021 (Feb 17 2023)
*This article was written in collaboration with Hamamatsu City.
Hamamatsu connects western and eastern Japan. To the west of it lies Nagoya, with Tokyo not being too far to its east. Because of its proximity to these large cities, Hamamatsu prospered as a castle town and a Tokaido highway post town during the Edo Period (1603 – 1868).
Today, Hamamatsu’s claim to fame is the fact that famous Japanese corporations like Suzuki, HONDA, and Yamaha were founded and grown in the city. But industry isn’t everything that Hamamatsu is about. Because of its mild climate, it’s also a popular tourist destination, offering such attractions as Lake Hamana, the Kanzanji Ropeway, the Nakatajima Sand Dunes, or the Yamaha INNOVATION ROAD Corporate Museum. With all these and more, it’s easy to see why Hamamatsu keeps attracting visitors from all over the world.
Access to Hamamatsu
Because Hamamatsu is located almost exactly at the border between eastern and western Japan, it can be reached from both Nagoya Station (30 minutes by shinkansen) or Tokyo Station (90 minutes by shinkansen). To get around the city, we recommend you get the one-day Entetsu bus and railway pass, called the "Enshu Railway Burari Rail Pass." You can also rent a bicycle and bike around Lake Hamana.
・From Tokyo Station to Hamamatsu Station on the Tokaido Shinkansen line: 90 minutes, 8,640 yen/person
・From Nagoya Station to Hamamatsu Station on the Tokaido Shinkansen line: 30 minutes, 5,240 yen/person
・From Chubu Centrair International Airport to Hamamatsu Station: 135 minutes, 3,200 yen/person
*For more information, check the Entetsu Express Airport Bus e-wing website: https://bus.entetsu.co.jp/e-wing/ (Japanese), https://www.inhamamatsu.com/recommend/ewing.php (English)
How to Reach Hamamatsu’s Tourist Spots for the Best Price
Bus and Train
・1-Day Enshu Railway Burari Rail Pass
Tourist Spots That Show Off Hamamatsu’s Seasonal Beauty
Nakatajima Sand Dunes: Where Nature Draws Wind Patterns in the Sand
Together with the ones in Tottori and Kagoshima’s Fukiagehama, the Nakatajima Sand Dunes are one of Japan’s most famous natural sand formations. Stretching 4 km from east to west, they create an unobstructed world of emptiness that blends beautifully with the seemingly endless Pacific Ocean.
When the sea breeze sweeps across the banks of Hamamatsu, it draws ripples in the sand, creating stunning pieces of natural art.
The dunes are also a popular spot for enjoying Hamamatsu’s sunrises and sunsets.
Additionally, every year between May 3 and 5, the city throws the Hamamatsu Festival, the highlight of which are the kite battles held over the Nakatajima Sand Dunes. The impressive large kites are all decorated in their own unique way and create quite a sight against the clear May skies. The hot fervor of the battling kites really raises the spirits of the locals and is something to look forward to every year.
Ride the Kanzanji Ropeway Across Lake Hamana and Feast Your Eyes and Ears at the Hamanako Orgel Museum
A symbol of Hamamatsu, Lake Hamana is a Pacific Ocean-fed brackish lake that covers an area of 65 million square meters. In 2016, it was chosen as the sister lake of the Sun Moon Lake in Nantou County, Taiwan. Lake Hamana offers something different depending on the season. In spring, you can admire the cherry trees growing around it. In summer, it becomes an oasis of green, and in autumn, you can enjoy its maple trees. You can view this scenery from a sightseeing boat or the Kanzanji Ropeway, the only cable car in Japan that crosses over a lake. It takes you up slowly, giving you wider and wider views of the area (including the dazzling spray of the lake, the Kanzanji Onsen hot spring town, and the Pacific Ocean in the distance) until it reaches the Mt. Okusa observation platform four minutes later.
The Hamanako Orgel Museum is located at the summit of Mt. Okusa, accessible via the Kanzanji Ropeway. It boasts an extensive, priceless collection of 19th to early 20th century antique orgels, organs, and mechanical instruments. You can listen to them in the museum hall or enjoy the observation deck’s carillon, which rings every day at the same time, its knell spreading across Lake Hamana, adding its beauty to the surrounding scenery.
Bentenjima Seaside Park: Where the Red Torii Gate Floats Above a Sunset-Lit Lake
The red torii gate standing calmly 18 meters above the waters of Lake Hamana has become a symbol of Benten Island’s Bentenjima Seaside Park, located at the southern part of the lake. Benten Island enjoys shallow waters and gentle waves, so in early spring during low tide, people go clam digging there. During hot summers, the island also offers a cool spot to take a refreshing dip in the water. And, of course, we have to mention how beautiful Benten Island gets during the fall. Then, during winter from November to mid-January, you can enjoy the sight of the setting sun passing straight through the torii gate on clear days. You will never forget the memory of strolling along the lake and getting to witness the vermilion gate getting lit up by the fiery colors of the evening.
HAMANAKO ENGINE: Where the Past Meets the Future
Located up on Kanzanji Monzen Street, HAMANAKO ENGINE is the area’s new tourist destination, housed in a renovated souvenir store built in the 1960s. The new shopping and leisure center, which preserves the building’s past while breathing new life into it, houses cafes and shops as well as the Re-renta rental bicycle store. At Re-renta, you’ll find regular bikes as well as electric and road bicycles. Rent one and enjoy the sights of Lake Hamana and Kanzanji at your leisure!
Just a 1 minute walk from HAMANAKO ENGINE, towards the coast, you’ll find the vermilion-lacquered Shibuki Bridge. Renovated in 2011 by local businesses, it has since become a symbol of Kanzanji Onsen. A lot of people come from all around just to witness the beautiful contrast of the bridge against the blue skies above Lake Hamana in the background.
Nukumori no Mori Recreates a Fairy Tale World of Wonder!
Within a small forest in Hamamatsu, there’s a magical place with restaurants, cafes, general stores, and an owl cafe. It’s called Nukumori no Mori, a secret spot hidden in the middle of a residential area of Lake Hamana. Simply walk the gentle hidden path between the trees for 5 minutes and soon, you’ll think you’ve been transported to a village in Europe.
Nukumori no Mori was originally an architectural design office and furniture studio created in 1983 by Japanese architect Shigeyoshi Sasaki, who spent years designing it and was personally involved in the construction of this fairy tale world straight out of a Ghibli movie. Within it, you’ll now find many different small shops surrounded by tall trees and singing birds. They sell everything from original leather products to cute plates and aromatherapy goods like pleasant-smelling oils that will help you relax after a long day. You’ll definitely find something here for yourself or for your friends and family.
Experience the High Standard of Yamaha at YAMAHA INNOVATION ROAD
The Yamaha Corporation, which is headquartered in Hamamatsu, is the largest manufacturer and seller of musical instruments in the world. In 2018, they opened the YAMAHA INNOVATION ROAD museum, which details the history of the company since its founding and charts the path towards its future through various exhibits.
The museum is divided into 12 areas. Some show cross-sections of instruments down to the smallest detail while others, like the CRAFTSMANSHIP WALK, showcase an amazing lineup of instruments created through the fusion of traditional technology and industrial mechanization. In the Musical Instruments Exhibit Area, you’ll find many different examples of instruments throughout history, all of them ready to be played. And at the Virtual Stage area, you can enjoy live mechanical instrument concerts mixed with virtual projections. If you love music and want to learn more about Yamaha’s products, their manufacturing process, and their services, then you can’t miss YAMAHA INNOVATION ROAD.
Seasonal Sightseeing Spots
Flower Viewing: Hamamatsu Flower Park
Located on the banks of Lake Hamana, Hamamatsu Flower Park is a colorful and vibrant flower paradise that covers an area of 300,000 m2 and houses 3,000 species of plants. It includes greenhouses, fountains, and smaller individual gardens, which allow visitors to experience different flowery offerings of Japan’s four seasons depending on when they visit the park. In February, you can visit their plum orchard. From late March to mid-April, there are cherry trees and tulips to admire, while the time between April and Golden Week (early May) is when you can enjoy the park’s Chinese wisteria. Spring in particular is a great time to visit here, as that’s when the park’s 1,300 cherry trees, including the Yoshino and double cherry varieties, start to bloom, making the park a popular spot for flower viewing.
The park is very large, and it will take more than an hour to walk it all, so you may want to hop on the Flower Train, which will take you all around the park in just 15 minutes while the guide tells you more about the plants you see along the way. It’s a great way to enjoy the flower park. If you get there in the afternoon, you’ll be able to enjoy beautiful flowers during the day, and the Flower Illumination after the sun goes down.
Colorful Autumn Leaves at the 1,000-Year-Old Ryotanji Temple
According to Ryotanji, the temple was first opened in 733 and has since then been preserving the history, culture, and faith of the Lake Hamana region. But that’s not all. It’s also survived Japan’s Sengoku (Warring States) Period, was led by a line of female head nuns, and is the final resting place of Ii Naotora, a famous female feudal lord who was portrayed in the 2017 NHK show “Naotora: The Lady Warlord.”
Ryotanji houses countless treasures and historical artifacts, including the Kensan Tenmoku, a tea cup said to have belonged to the famous warlord Oda Nobunaga, as well as the Ii family armor “Akazonae,” and a nightingale corridor (floors that make a chirping sound when walked upon) and spectacular wooden dragon carvings reportedly created by the legendary artist Hidari Jingoro.
A national scenic spot, the temple’s garden is an Edo Period (1603 – 1868) work of famed architect and master of tea ceremonies Kobori Enshu, who also designed the Ninomaru Garden at Kyoto’s Nijo Castle. Every year from mid-November to early December, the entire area becomes a popular fall foliage site that blends the autumn leaves with the green of the traditional Japanese garden’s moss and the crimson of its fuchsia plants to create a mesmerizing autumn concerto of color. If you ever get the chance, find a moment to sit back and relax while gazing at these displays of nature from the garden veranda.
Pick Fresh Fruit at Kashima Harvest
Besides visiting tourist spots or enjoying flowers and beautiful landscapes, you can also get closer to nature by visiting a fruit orchard during your trip to Hamamatsu. There is nothing better than enjoying sweet, fresh fruit that you’ve just picked yourself. You can experience that firsthand by visiting Kashima Harvest, located just a 15-minute walk from Hamamatsu Flower Park, which offers strawberry and melon picking.
Every year from early January to early May, Kashima Harvest hosts an event where guests get to pick and eat as many strawberries as they want. The farm primarily offers Shizuoka’s famous Akihime variety of strawberries, known for their long shape and sweetness. To participate in the event, first make a reservation either by phone or online. Once you do, you’ll be able to enjoy as many strawberries as you want during a 1-hour period, with the staff explaining to you how to find the ripest ones. If you ever visit Hamamatsu between winter and spring, you’ll be able to enjoy the freshest strawberries you’ve ever had.
From mid-July until late August, the farm switches to melon picking, during which you can choose one whole melon for yourself and take it back home with you. Kashima Harvest also has tasting sessions where you can eat half of a whole melon! For a summer fruit-picking activity, consider visiting Hamamatsu for their sweet and fresh melons.
Mouthwatering Local Dishes
Unagi Kohan Shokubo Kanzanji-en: Located by Lake Hamana, Where Eels Have Been Raised for Ages
Surrounded by mountains, the ocean, and lakes, Hamamatsu has been blessed with clean waters and a warm climate, which has allowed it to become famous for its meaty eels. Eels have been raised in the area for more than 100 years, with many of the restaurants around Lake Hamana going almost as far back. Among them is Unagi Kohan Shokubo Kanzanji-en, one of the few restaurants in the city that primarily cooks wild eels caught in Lake Hamana. The restaurant building itself overlooks the lake, so you can admire the amazing views of Lake Hamana while enjoying your fragrant grilled eel whether you’re dining indoors or outdoors.
The two unagi styles seen above are “kabayaki” and “shirayaki.” Kabayaki-style eel is first seasoned with salt and a flavorful sauce and then grilled over fire. The shirayaki-style eel doesn’t use any kind of seasoning or sauce. The eel is grilled as is to bring out all of its natural flavors. Each style has its fans, so choose whichever one sounds better to you. Don’t worry if you don’t speak Japanese as the restaurant also offers menus in Chinese and English.
When enjoying the soft eel over white rice, first drizzle it with sauce and enjoy it as it is. Then, add tororo (grated yam), nori seaweed, and spices to create a whole new unagi meal. Finally, add soup to your remaining rice. These three ways of eating eel are known as “santori” in Japanese.
We also recommend the set meal which comes with fresh eel liver, a local delicacy.
Hamataro Gyoza Center: Serves One of the Three Most Popular Styles of Gyoza
When visiting Hamamatsu, you have to try their famous Hamamatsu-style gyoza, said to be one of three most popular styles of Japanese dumplings alongside Utsunomiya gyoza and gyoza from Yahata. The Hamamatsu variety features a lot of cabbage, onions, and pork, and is characterized by the natural, sweet taste of the vegetables and the fragrant meat. It’s also eaten with a rich, flavorful sauce. Hamamatsu gyoza are fried in a circle until they are crispy on the outside. Then, once they’re done, you spread boiled bean sprouts on top of them to absorb the excess oil. That’s how you can instantly recognize Hamamatsu-style gyoza.
Hamataro Gyoza Center makes their own gyoza dough from scratch using a special flour blend. They also use the famous Hamanako Sodachi breed of pigs for the meat, leeks from Ibaraki Prefecture, garlic from Aomori Prefecture, and other domestic vegetables from all over Japan. The result is a dumpling with a crispy, flavorful skin that opens up to a juicy filling of meat and vegetables. Hamataro doesn’t use any sort of artificial seasoning, instead bringing out the natural flavors of their ingredients.
The restaurant’s signature fried gyoza comes in two varieties: Red Gyoza (with garlic) or White Gyoza (no garlic). First, eat the gyoza without anything, then dip them in Hamataro’s special soy vinegar dipping sauce, sesame sauce, or chili oil. Experiment with different condiments and experience whole new worlds of flavor.
Chaika Cafe: Home to Traditional Firm Pudding
Even after a big meal, you may still be in the mood for something a little sweet. In that case, walk 10 minutes from Hamamatsu Station towards the middle of a residential area and you’ll find a hidden retro cafe beloved by fans of sweets and coffee. Established more than 40 years ago, Chaika Cafe is very popular with the locals and boasts a stylish retro design featuring wooden tables and leather-covered chairs.
The cafe’s signature drinks and dishes include siphon-brewed coffee, classic Napolitan pasta, and homemade desserts. Of particular interest is the slightly hard Chaika Pudding served in a goblet glass, which kind of brings to mind Japan’s Showa Period (1926 – 1989). It certainly looks amazing, but it tastes even better. The slightly bitter caramel, the firmness of the pudding, and the eggy fragrance that fills your mouth when you taste it work together to make this dessert something truly special. It’s easy to see why this elegant, retro pudding is the cafe’s bestseller.
Recommended Lodgings in the Kanzanji Onsen Area
The hot springs of Lake Hamana’s Kanzanji area first opened 60 years ago. The name “Kanzanji” comes from Kanzanji Temple, located on Mt. Tate to the north of this hot spring area. Kanzanji Onsen is a sodium-calcium saline spring that revitalizes the body and helps with chronic muscle and joint pain, sleep disorders, and stomach problems. It’s the perfect place to rest up after a day of sightseeing. So, we’d like to recommend two inns in the Kanzanji Onsen area.
Hotel Wellseason Hamanako: An Onsen Paradise Boasting Many Different Kinds of Hot Springs
Located on the banks of Lake Hamana, Hotel Wellseason Hamanako is a spacious hot spring resort with a grand garden. Besides the open-air Hitotoki-no-Yu bath, available only to hotel guests, it’s also home to Hanasaki-no-Yu, the largest hot spring in all of Shizuoka Prefecture (day trip plans also available). You can relax in the gold or silver natural hot spring baths (depending on the day), or the spacious open-air baths, rock baths, or indoor baths. Altogether, there are 26 bath varieties to choose from, making this resort the perfect place to relax while traveling through Hamamatsu.
Hotel Wellseason Hamanako offers everything from modern Western-style rooms to traditional Japanese-style rooms. It also has a combination Western-Japanese lobby decorated with tatami mats where you can buy souvenirs like Lake Hamana’s famous Mikkabi (mandarin orange) juice or Shizuoka snacks and local alcohol. The hotel is also situated near such attractions as Hamanako Pal Pal, an amusement park popular with the locals; the Kanzanji Ropeway; and the town of Kanzanji Onsen.
Hoshino Resorts KAI Enshu: A Perfect Blend of Tradition and Modernity
This is a facility developed by the popular Hoshino Resorts under their KAI brand of hot spring inns. KAI Enshu is located on the banks of Lake Hamana, which you can see through the large windows of every guestroom in the inn. Inside the rooms, you’ll find many interesting items like sliding doors and bedding made from Enshu cotton which has been produced in Hamamatsu since the Edo Period.
You will find the same kind of amenities here as you would at any other hot spring facility, from the masterfully and carefully designed open-air baths to indoor Hinoki cypress baths. Next to the Hana-no-Yu open-air bath, you’ll also find bamboo baskets for drying organic tea leaves, filling the air with pleasant smells that will relax your body and mind.
After a long soak, continue relaxing by sipping on local Shizuoka green tea, which offers a different flavor depending on the season. Besides first-class service that you won’t find anywhere else, KAI Enshu brings the old traditions of Japanese hot springs to the modern age, adapting them to the lifestyles of modern people.
Don’t Miss Out on These Souvenirs That Are Only Available in Hamamatsu!
The Classic Hamamatsu Treat: Shunkando’s Unagi Pie and Unagi Sabure
Shunkando’s signature snack, the Unagi Pie, was created back in 1961 and is now one of the most popular Hamamatsu souvenirs of all time. It’s made from a delicate pie pastry with about 9,000 layers that sandwich select ingredients like butter, granulated sugar, and unagi powder. And on the outside of it all, you have their secret sauce that brings the entire crunchy, fragrant snack together. The Unagi Pie V.S.O.P. is the crowning achievement of this Hamamatsu staple, featuring such ingredients as brandy and macadamia nuts.
The Unagi Sabure is a shortbread featuring the likeness of an eel and that also includes unagi powder. The version sprinkled with Suruga Bay salt, with chocolate covering the lower half of the snack to bring out the shortbread’s natural, delicious flavor, is only available during the winter. Needless to say, it, too, is very popular.
Genji Pie Piano Black: Only Available in Shizuoka Prefecture!
The Genji Pie was created in 1965. It was inspired by the French pastry “palmier,” and today is well recognized by everyone in Japan. The chocolate variety of this heart-shaped snack is this classic staple’s flanker brand, sold in packages featuring black and white piano keys. They are only available in Shizuoka Prefecture, which makes them great souvenirs.
Get Lucky! Buy Patisserie Marutaya’s Ageshio Cookies
In Japanese, “ageshio” means “high tide,” and when you buy Marutaya’s Ageshio cookies, you’re hoping that good luck will come your way like a rising tide. The cookies themselves are delicious, made from dough with walnuts and raisins mixed in. They also have a pleasant orange fragrance. Then, to bring it all together, they’re topped with crumbled cornflakes. The picture above shows mini Ageshio cookies, which are beloved by all sorts of people.
Hamamatsu Bunmeido: Try Their Delicious Chattera, a Castella with a Rich Tea Leaf Aroma
Since Shizuoka is famous for tea, you cannot miss out on buying a dessert made with Shizuoka tea leaves. Hamamatsu Bunmeido’s Chattera is a castella that includes tea leaves from Shizuoka. Featuring layers of regular sponge cake and tea leaf sponge cake wrapped in a soft pancake dough, the Chattera is the coming together of soft and fluffy cake and pleasant tea aromas. Not too sweet, it goes great with a cup of tea and is a delicious, can’t-miss souvenir.
Hamamatsu in Shizuoka Prefecture: The Ultimate Destination for Beautiful Sights and Great Food
From Lake Hamana with its seasonal beauty to the Kanzanji Ropeway, the Nakatajima Sand Dunes, Ryotanji Temple, and the Bentenjima Seaside Park, Hamamatsu in Shizuoka Prefecture offers some of the most beautiful sights in all of Japan. But it also has hot spring inns—each one with a different kind of hot spring bath—and local delicacies such as exquisite unagi, Hamamatsu-style gyoza, and Unagi Pie. There seems to be no limit to how amazing Hamamatsu is, so if you’re looking for a new one-of-a-kind tourist destination, please keep this wonderful city in mind.
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The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.