2 Days in Shizuoka's Premier City, Hamamatsu: Nakatajima Sand Dunes, the Hamamatsu Festival, and More!
Shizuoka Prefecture might be most famous for matcha green tea, but there's more to the region than that. Specifically, the Hamamatsu area, located near Aichi Prefecture and the sea, is one of Japan's most renowned regions... for eel! Famous companies such as Suzuki and Yamaha also arose from Hamamatsu City. While the city has unfortunately not been a popular choice with international tourists in previous years, its incredible sightseeing spots and delicious seafood delights have made it an increasingly appealing destination among local tourists. In this article, let us introduce you to some of Hamamatsu's most famous spots!
May 02 2023
*This article was written in collaboration with Hamamatsu City in Shizuoka Prefecture.
When Is the Best Time to Visit Hamamatsu?
The ideal time to visit Hamamatsu City in Shizuoka Prefecture is between May 3rd and May 5th. During these three days, the Hamamatsu area hosts a grand and unique annual festival, the Hamamatsu Festival. May is also a more suitable time to enjoy the view of the sea at Hamamatsu's sand dunes, compared to the rainy season of June and July and the scorching hot month of August. Additionally, May coincides with the Lake Hamana Flower Festa, making it even more appealing. If you're planning to tour around Shizuoka, Aichi, and Yamanashi Prefectures during this period, be sure to stop by Hamamatsu in Shizuoka!
Recommended Things to Do in Hamamatsu
Nakatajima Sand Dunes: One of Japan's Top Three Sand Dunes
Did you know that there are about 14 sand dune areas in Japan? One is the Nakatajima Sand Dunes in Hamamatsu City, Shizuoka. This spot is not well known among tourists, making it much more peaceful than the famous Tottori Sand Dunes.
Nakatajima is known as one of Japan's top three sand dune areas, with unique ripples formed by strong winds and bamboo barricades erected to prevent excess drifting of the sand. Although the dunes may appear low in elevation, they can be more challenging to climb than expected.
Once you cross the dunes, you'll reach Hamamatsu's beach area, so wearing sandals is recommended. While passing the dunes, regular shoes can trap sand inside, but sandals eliminate that worry. They are great for playing on the beach, too!
Some dunes that seem small and gentle from a distance may have a steep angle of up to 60 degrees, so those not accustomed to exercise may find the climb challenging. However, upon reaching the top, the breathtaking view of the blue sea will undoubtedly ease your fatigue.
After climbing to the top of the Nakatajima Sand Dunes, admire the ocean view while walking along it. Once you've fully taken it in, head down to the beach to listen to the sound of the waves up close and cool off playing in the sea.
Taste Hamamatsu's Finest Eel Dishes!
Hamamatsu is a region famous for "unagi" freshwater eel, praised even by the Japanese for having the best unagi in the country! The city mainly catches its unagi from Lake Hamana, where seawater and freshwater mix.
Among Hamamatsu's many eel restaurants, Unagi Yaotoku's main restaurant comes particularly recommended by the locals. Their signature menu item is the Ohitsu Unagi Chazuke, which lets you appreciate high-quality eel in three forms. First, enjoy the unagi rice on its own, then taste it again after adding the accompanied spices, and finally, pour tea over it to make "unagi chazuke." Each way lets you savor the deliciousness of Hamamatsu's unagi, unleashing its full potential. Another signature dish is the Deluxe Una-ju, just as delicious as their Ohitsu Unagi Chazuke. Most customers order either one of these dishes, but if your budget allows, why not try both? It's not often you get to taste unagi like this in Japan!
The Historic Hamamatsu Festival: Where the Celebration Continues Into the Night
The annual Hamamatsu Festival, held from May 3rd to 5th, is a traditional festival in Hamamatsu. The festival consists of two parts: "Tako-age" (Kite Flying) during the day and "Yatai Hikimawashi" (Parade of Floats) at night.
The history of kite flying in the Hamamatsu Festival can be traced back 450 years to the Muromachi Period's Eiroku era (1558-1569). At that time, the birth of the eldest son of the lord of Hikuma Castle was celebrated by flying kites high on the castle grounds. The Enshu region of Hamamatsu was considered suitable for kite flying due to its strong winds, so the tradition of celebrating a birth with a "Hatsu Tako" (first kite) has been passed down generation to generation.
Today, over 170 neighborhoods participate in the kite-flying event at Enshunada Seashore Park in Hamamatsu. Each district uses its own kites, attracting tourists who gather to watch this colorful event.
Starting at 6:30 pm, the evening's highlight, the Yatai Hikimawashi, commences as more than 80 gorgeous floats make their way through the city's streets. Each float is extraordinarily ornate, with neighborhoods competing with one another through their distinctive designs and performances. Affluent areas are renowned for their astonishingly costly floats. These stunningly adorned floats are a feast for the eyes.
The Yatai Hikimawashi takes place in the heart of Hamamatsu, making it visible along streets and alleys. Crowds of tourists and locals fill the roads, following the floats as they pass by. The intricate beauty of the floats can be appreciated up close, adding to the lively and enjoyable atmosphere.
Accompanying the beautiful floats, children garbed in traditional clothing skillfully play traditional musical instruments on the floats, further enhancing the festival's thrill with their spirited performances. This one-of-a-kind Hamamatsu Festival can only be witnessed during these three days!
Hamanako Garden Park: A New Sightseeing Spot for Admiring Flowers
Hamanako Garden Park hosts a magnificent flower festival every year. In 2019, the spring flower show was held from March 21st to June 30th, but the event dates vary slightly each year.
Wondering what kind of place Hamanako Garden Park is? Imagine a large lake surrounded by a vast meadow. On sunny days, many Japanese families enjoy picnics in this beautiful area, basking in the fresh air and having a delightful lunchtime.
Upon entering the park, you'll be amazed by just how big it truly is. Although entry is free, some paid facilities include the observation deck, flower train, sightseeing boat, and workshops. The park has various flower fields, and it takes more than half a day to explore the entire park thoroughly, so if you're short on time, focus on specific points to visit.
A mere 20-minute stroll from the entrance of the observation deck leads you to the enchanting and picturesque Flower Museum. Originally established for the 2004 Lake Hamana Flower Festa, this European-style museum features a garden modeled after the one in France painted by the renowned Impressionist painter Claude Monet. The garden is divided into the "Flower Garden" and the "Water Garden," each hosting a variety of floral species. You can find many rare and unique flowers, including blue, purple, and black blossoms that you might never have seen before. The stunning and refined garden, reminiscent of Monet's, is genuinely extraordinary.
The Water Garden showcases water lilies sourced from Kitagawa Village in Kochi Prefecture to emulate Monet's garden. These flowers typically bloom in the morning, so it is advisable to visit during this time to see the water lilies in full bloom. If you're going to take photos, the best spot is the dream-like flower bridge situated at the center of the Water Garden's pond. Just be mindful of the bees during peak bloom season!
Hamanako Garden Park's Flower Museum also features a whimsical pink and green Western-style building, perfect for capturing photos reminiscent of European movies. Describing the Flower Museum's beauty in words alone is a daunting task, so make sure to immortalize its allure in photographs!
Maisaka Port: Savor Incredibly Fresh Seafood
Once you have thoroughly appreciated the floral splendor at Hamanako Garden Park, make your way to the nearby Maisaka Port to indulge in delectable local seafood. Lake Hamana, which has a unique mix of seawater and freshwater, is renowned not only for its unagi, but also for its premium seafood. Situated at the meeting point of the Enshu-nada Sea and Lake Hamana, Maisaka Port serves mouthwatering shrimp tempura and sashimi dishes. One taste of Hamamatsu's unagi or seafood set meals and you'll undoubtedly become enamored with this seafood-rich town, just like us! While sashimi and shrimp tempura are available throughout Japan, the flavor and freshness found here are truly unmatched.
Situated in Maisaka Port, Uoara is a century-old seafood establishment serving fresh fish dishes and local delicacies. The restaurant is always lively during meal times, primarily offering fresh fish and shrimp sourced straight from the port. Don't miss their signature dish, the Iki Tendon, made with super fresh shrimp and a definite must-try. The crunchy and plump shrimp tempura is simply mouthwatering! Besides shrimp tempura, Uoara also provides fresh sashimi and delectable unagi dishes.
Bentenjima Onsen: Perfect for a Day Trip Soak
There are numerous hot spring inns around Bentenjima Island that offer relaxation and relief from a day's travel. Established as a hot spring area in 1960, the inns in this region their hot spring water from Bentenjima Onsen, a chloride spring situated at Lake Hamana's southern tip. This spring is ideal for alleviating cold hands and feet, dry skin, joint pain, muscle pain, and neuralgia. While staying at hotels in the Bentenjima Onsen area, you can enjoy the hot springs and take in the stunning view of Lake Hamana's torii shrine gate.
The most popular hot spring in the area for day trips is "THE OCEAN." From its large public bath, you can view Lake Hamana's torii gate and enjoy the spectacular sunset.
Bentenjima Kaihin Park: Enjoy the Stunning Sunset View
Lake Hamana's renowned torii gate can be seen from a distance at the embankment next to Maisaka Port or Bentenjima Onsen. For a closer look, visit Bentenjima Kaihin Park. This iconic gate is famous for the "Benten Sunset," when the bright red torii gate gradually shows orange tones during sunset, creating a stunning scene with the vivid orange sky and Lake Hamana.
The ideal time to photograph this scene is from mid-November to mid-January in winter, when the sunset sinks in the center of the torii gate, providing a captivating and awe-inspiring view. But no matter the season, the sunset here is a spectacular sight that will leave you mesmerized all year round.
Unagi Pie: A Must-Buy Hamamatsu Souvenir
In the realm of delightful souvenirs from Hamamatsu, "Unagi Pie" is a highly sought-after local specialty. You can find it in most souvenir shops, including those at Hamamatsu Station, produced by the reputable local confectioner "Shunkado."
Introduced in 1961, Unagi Pie is a tasty, flaky Western-style treat that has become a go-to souvenir for Japanese visitors to Hamamatsu. It's a perfect light snack to share, so grab a few packs for everyone to enjoy. Also, the factory making Unagi Pie offers free tours, providing a fascinating behind-the-scenes look. If you're curious about how Unagi Pie is made, don't hesitate to see it yourself!
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The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.