What Makes Hamamatsu Great – From Famous Souvenirs to an Airplane Wonderland
Shizuoka Prefecture is more than just Mt. Fuji and "matcha" green tea! Situated in the western part of the prefecture is Hamamatsu City, a treasure trove of attractions to explore, from its cuisine to musical instruments and beautiful scenery. For this article, we’ve selected some of the best places to visit in Hamamatsu where you can learn more about the city in a short amount of time while creating memories that will last a lifetime!
Jan 19 2023 (Feb 07 2023)
*This article was written in collaboration with Hamamatsu City in Shizuoka Prefecture.
Hamamatsu: A Post Town That Evolved Into a Major Transportation Hub
During the Edo Period (1603 – 1867), Hamamatsu was one of several post towns along the Tokaido road connecting the eastern and western regions of Japan, where it flourished as an important transportation hub. The development of its musical instrument manufacturing industry and the establishment of its munitions factories laid the foundation for Hamamatsu’s postwar industrial development and helped the city become an important center for automobile and motorbike production. Today, this city of business and tech is also home to the headquarters of major international manufacturers such as Yamaha and Suzuki.
With the opening of the Tokaido Shinkansen line and expressways, access to Hamamatsu from both the east and west of Japan has become faster and more convenient than ever. It only takes 1.5 hours by shinkansen and 2.5 hours by car to reach the city from Tokyo. From Nagoya, it takes just 1 hour by car. Experience the glorious achievements of Hamamatsu’s forefathers at the city’s exhibition halls and admire the various local products and crafts that exude pride in this corner of Shizuoka.
Try Hamamatsu’s Famous Flavorful Snack at the Unagi Pie Factory
Hamamatsu is famous for Lake Hamana, which itself is known for its delicious unagi (freshwater eels). The Unagi Pie, created by the famous Shunkado confectionery store, is an iconic Hamamatsu treat inspired by unagi. The crunchy, sweet, and fragrant snack is shaped like grilled unagi and keeps delighting all those who try it.
Production of the snack moved to a new location in 2005, and in April that same year, Shunkado began offering tours of their new Unagi Pie Factory, hoping that the transparency behind the production process would help customers enjoy the treat even more.
Through the factory’s viewing windows, visitors can see long pieces of dough being beautifully arranged, coated with a secret sauce, and then transferred to an oven via conveyor belt. You will no doubt start craving an Unagi Pie as you watch the treats brown and puff up in the oven, releasing their mouth-watering aroma. The factory workers check each individual treat before this delicious, meticulously-made confection can be sold to customers. The factory visits are all free of charge, so if you want to learn more about the story of the Unagi Pie, book a tour in advance!
Once the tour is over, you can take a break at the factory’s cafe which serves creative desserts constructed from Unagi Pie as well as delicious meals made from local ingredients. There’s also a souvenir store on the premises where you can purchase a variety of Unagi Pie for yourself or as a gift, including the Unagi Pie V.S.O.P. with brandy and nuts, or the Unagi Pie Mini with honey and nuts.
Enjoy Delicious Sake and Over 100 Years of Tradition at Hananomai Brewing
When you do get a chance to visit Hamamatsu, why not make some time to savor delicious, local sake at Hananomai, a sake brewery with over 100 years of history?
The main branch of Hananomai is housed within an old Japanese residence with a giant cedar ball hanging by the entrance. Here, visitors can not only purchase the brewery’s products, but also go on a guided tour of the facility. It’s a great opportunity to get a glimpse of how this brewery has been making local sake for well over a century.
Their daiginjo (sake made from rice whose outer layers have been polished down by at least 50%) is particularly amazing, as it is still made by hand in a way that allows no room for imperfections. Such attention to detail, coupled with the top-quality Yamada Nishiki sake rice grown by contracted local farmers, the pure underground water taken from the Akaishi Mountains (also known as the Southern Alps), and the knowledge and experience passed down through the generations is what allows Hananomai to create truly exquisite sake.
At the end of the guided tour, visitors can try several varieties of sake, shochu, and other brews sold at the store. Savor a glass of fine sake and take in the culmination of the brewery’s efforts while admiring a display of all the illustrious awards they received over the years.
Admire the Glorious History of Japan's Famous Car Brand at Suzuki Plaza
If you’re even a little bit interested in cars or motorbikes, then you probably know about Suzuki. After all, their "S" logo is incredibly recognizable and can be seen nearly everywhere. But did you know that Suzuki started out as a loom manufacturer? Learn about that and more at Suzuki Plaza!
Opened in 2009, Suzuki Plaza is located southeast of Suzuki’s headquarters in Hamamatsu. Spanning three floors, it cannot be entered without a reservation. On the third floor, visitors will find a Suzuki loom, the start of the brand’s illustrious history. By applying the knowledge and experience used to make these looms to researching engines, the company was able to create their first motorized bicycle, the Power Free. Next to the loom is a Suzuki Suzulight, the result of the founder’s dream of manufacturing cars. Its production was the start of a new era for the company.
The second floor features a recreation of a factory environment and showcases the development process of Suzuki cars, including the planning, designing, testing, and manufacturing. On top of being able to see firsthand how an assembly line works, visitors can also watch 3D video recordings of the process. The second floor additionally houses a theater that focuses on Suzuki’s global brand expansion, as well as a corner that introduces Suzuki’s links to the local culture, industries, and history of Hamamatsu. Photos of Hamamatsu’s air base can also be viewed here.
On the first floor, a wide variety of cars and motorbikes currently sold by Suzuki are on display. You’ll also find a giant motorcycle that you can pose with for a commemorative photo, as well as exclusive original merchandise for sale! An interesting design feature of the museum are the checkered fabric threads that go up from the bottom to the top of the first-floor staircase. Woven using the improved third-floor loom, they look as if they're connecting the company’s past, present, and future, leading the way forward for this Hamamatsu conglomerate.
Fly Towards the Sky at the Air Park JASDF Hamamatsu Air Base Museum
In 1960, the aerobatic demonstration team Blue Impulse had their first flight from the Hamamatsu Air Base. The F-86F aircrafts that they used still soar high in the sky and greet tourists to this day. Next to the air base is the JASDF (Japan Air Self-Defense Force) Hamamatsu Air Base Museum known simply as "Air Park," which is home to a giant hangar where Mitsubishi F1, F-4 Phantom II, Mitsubishi A6M Zero, and other aircrafts are on display. In total, Air Park exhibits 104 jet fighters and their various accessories and equipment, which make the occasional appearance in Japanese movies.
Apart from experiencing the thrill of jetting through the sky with their F-1 flight simulator, the Air Park also rents out flight suits and helmets for souvenir photos. Furthermore, some planes have open cockpits that guests can freely enter and get a feel of what it’s like to pilot one of these aircrafts. A corner of the exhibition hangar is dedicated to the Blue Impulse team where visitors can admire the gallant figures of former team members and experience what it’s like to be a pilot (known as a “dolphin rider”) of a Blue Impulse F-4 with the use of VR. At the park’s giant dome theater, you can also learn about the duties of the JASDF, with the visual impact of the dome screen helping visitors better understand the hard work of the Japan Air Self-Defense Force.
The Air Park also has an actual museum building that spans three floors and exhibits various equipment that altogether paints a thorough overview of the JASDF. There’s a lot to discover here, from radar systems, flight uniforms, and firearms, to 20-millimeter double-barrel cannons and an assortment of missiles. Among the many exhibits, the visual display of how an engine of a T-4 training plane works is especially interesting.
In the exhibition area on the first floor, there’s a F-2 jet nicknamed the “Heisei Zero Fighter” that represents the trust and technical knowledge exchange between the USA and Japan that has continued since the year 2000. Visitors can learn more about this relationship and the aircraft as they make their way through the floor. On the third floor, seats used for press conferences on government aircrafts are exhibited. The museum also has a cafe where you can take a breather and watch the airplanes around Hamamatsu Air Base taking off and landing.
Fans of airplanes and the big blue sky are sure to be pleased as punch when they visit the Air Park JASDF Hamamatsu Air Base Museum!
A Treasure Trove of Musical Wonders in the City of Music at the Hamamatsu Museum of Musical Instruments
Behind all beautiful music lies the perfect harmony of diligent musicians and their carefully crafted instruments. Hamamatsu is known as a "city of music" as it is home to the headquarters of famous instrument brands such as Yamaha, Kawai, and Roland. In 1995, the city embraced that legacy by establishing Japan’s first municipal museum of instruments that today displays a dazzling array of unique musical implements from around the world.
The first floor focuses primarily on the music of Asia, exhibiting the bronze instruments used to play Indonesian gamelan music, the beautifully carved instruments used for Korean court music, small gongs, the Ryukyu sanshin, and more. Why not take this opportunity to compare the differences between the lute, the oud, the Chinese pipa, and the Japanese biwa?
European musical instruments have a very long history, and at this museum, they’re classified depending on how they produce their sounds. The wind section is particularly enthralling, featuring uniquely-shaped instruments treasured by private collectors that were made during the 18th and 19th centuries. Similarly one-of-a-kind delights can be found in the third exhibition room housing ancient keyboard instruments from the times of Chopin and Beethoven, as well as a gorgeous harpsichord made by the French Blanchet family in the 18th century.
As a city of music, Hamamatsu is particularly dedicated to the manufacturing of pianos. It’s no wonder then that the fourth exhibition room proudly displays pianos made by local companies, on top of several other types of instruments. Furthermore, due to the advent of electronic instruments, the museum has joined forces with local manufacturers to create a separate display corner just for this new category of musical implements.
Each exhibition area also displays videos of the instruments being used, and visitors can hear for themselves what they sound like through earphones conveniently located next to the exhibits. There’s also a hands-on room where visitors can try playing some of the museum’s instruments, fulfilling the facility’s mission goal of educating through “seeing, hearing, and touching.”
Admire the Power of Science in the City of Industry at the Hamamatsu Science Museum
Hamamatsu is a proud city of industry with a rich history and legacy that it wants to share with the world through such facilities as the Hamamatsu Science Museum. Visit it to learn all about the city’s industrial achievements or how cars, motorbikes, and pianos work.
The Hamamatsu Science Museum is split up into five zones: Force, Sound, Light, Nature, and Space. It also features a planetarium. Visitors are treated to more than just simple exhibits and displays, also getting access to a variety of interactive games where you can truly immerse yourself in the world of science.
For example, there’s the Active Sound Live installation in the Sound Zone, which is an interactive music stage where moving your hands and legs in front of a special machine is automatically translated into music. Since Hamamatsu has a thriving musical instrument manufacturing industry, local brands happily show off their technologies here in different ways, like with another installation where you can step on keys on the floor to strike piano strings displayed on the wall and understand the inner workings of a Kawai piano!
In a corner of the Light Zone, there’s a blue LED light, which was actually co-created by Hamamatsu’s native son, physicist Hiroshi Amano. This groundbreaking invention brought about the second digital revolution, illuminating the modern world with bright, dazzling colors. The Force Zone, on the other hand, is where you will find a bright green Suzuki Jimny vehicle on display with a partially exposed engine compartment, allowing visitors to get an in-depth look at how automobiles work. You can actually get into the car to test out its four-wheel drive and safety systems, too.
And then there’s the planetarium where you can admire a huge dome screen covered with bright stars. As you listen to the staff’s narration, you’ll undoubtedly start to understand the grandness of humanity’s ultimate frontier: outer space.
Move Into the Future at the INNOVATION ROAD (Yamaha Corporation)
Yamaha’s history began in 1887 with the repair of a reed organ.
Today, most of that history is on display at INNOVATION ROAD, the corporate museum at Yamaha’s headquarters in Hamamatsu City. As you go across the crosswalk designed to look like the black and white keys of a piano and head towards the entrance of the museum building, you’ll spot two lifelike statues of a sleeping polar bear and its cub.
If you look at the left wall, you’ll find the Craftsmanship Walk where the structural components of various instruments such as pianos and guitars as well as detailed instrument-making processes are on display, showing at a glance the fruits of Yamaha’s century-long hard work and technological development.
There’s also a Musical Instrument Display Area where visitors get to play most of the exhibited pieces. Pay particular attention to the grand piano with the portrait of a woman painted on the inside of the piano lid. This is the Böesendorfer Woman in Gold, a homage to the famous artist Gustav Kilmt. Only 25 of these grand pianos were ever made. Today, they are known for their mellow, warm sounds.
In another corner of the museum, there’s the History Walk where you’ll find a wide variety of items that have shaped Yamaha’s history, such as pianos and other musical instruments, propellers, motorcycles, and audio equipment.
Also worth mentioning is Real Sound Viewing, a revolutionary innovation created by this pioneering conglomerate. Developed under the concept of a "vacuum-packed live performance," Real Sound Viewing reproduces the true, powerful experience of a real live performance through a combination of sound digitalization, vibrational reproduction of instruments, and translucent screen technology. Visit the museum and experience an exciting performance of Real Sound Viewing that transcends time and space!
Hamamatsu: Where Technology Meets Art
Hamamatsu is a fascinating city with a creative atmosphere born from its many art museums and dedication to the musical arts. If you’re looking for a trip that will expand your horizons and let you eat plenty of delicious food, then you can’t miss out on Hamamatsu! From fine sake to yummy souvenir snacks and an up-close look at various aircrafts, it truly does seem like Hamamatsu has got it all. We hope that this article will help you plan a trip to this stunning city.
★Hamamatsu’s sightseeing info is regularly posted on the city’s official website and social media, so be sure to check them out!
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The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.