Touring Around the City of Hamamatsu, Japan

There are many cities and municipalities in Japan that house various tourist attractions. Each of this city or municipality has its own features that make it distinct from one another. Most people would probably automatically think of places such as Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto as these are the most popular areas in Japan. However, tourists should also take a look at some of the underrated cities in the Land of the Sun. 

Facts: Map, Weather, Hotels, Airport, Suzuki, Honda, and Yamaha Piano

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More commonly known as Hamamatsu-shi in Japanese, Hamamatsu is a beautiful city situated in the western part of Shizuoka Prefecture. The name “Hamamatsu” literally translates to “Coast Pine Tree.” With an estimated population of 789,407 as of the 1st of September in the year 2015, Hamamatsu is the biggest city in the prefecture. Having a total area of 1,558.06 square kilometers, which is equivalent to 601.57 square miles, the population density of Hamamatsu is 507 persons per square kilometer, which is equivalent to 1,310 persons per square mile.

Many entities were absorbed by Hamamatsu on the 1st of July in the year 2005. These include Tenryu City; Hamakita City; the towns of Hosoe, Mikkabi, and Inasa formerly hailing from Inasa District; the towns of Yuto and Maisaka formerly hailing from Hamana District; the town of Haruno formerly hailing from Shuchi District; and the village of Tatsuyama formerly hailing from Iwata District. Hamamatsu became a city as of the 1st of April in the year 2007 as designated by government ordinance.

With the coordinates of 34°42′39″ North and 137°43′39″ East, Hamamatsu is located in the region of Chubu (Tokai). It is under the governance of Yasutomo Suzuki. Its symbols include Pine Tree, Mikan Flower, and Japanese bush warbler bird. Its phone number is 53-457-2111. The address is 103-2 Motoshiro-chō, Naka-ku, Hamamatsu-shi, Shizuoka-ken 430-8652. The city is 260 kilometers, which is equivalent to 160 miles, on the southwest side of Tokyo.

The city has a mountainous region in the north and a plateau known as Mikatahara Plateau in the south. Hamamatsu also has a flat plain. Bodies of water surround the city, namely, the Pacific Ocean to the south, the Lake Hamana to the west, and the Tenryu River to the east. Neighboring municipalities include Iwata, Shimada, Kawanehon, Kosai, and Mori in Shizuoka Prefecture; Toyohashi, Toei, Shinshiro, and Toyone in Aichi Prefecture; and Iida and Tenryu in Nagano Prefecture. It consists of seven wards, namely, Hamakita-ku, Kita-ku, Naka-ku, Tenryu-ku, Higashi-ku, Minami-ku, and Nishi-ku.

With a mild climate in the southern part of the city, there is only a little snowfall during the winter season. However, it is also rather winder at this time due to the dry monsoon that is quite unique to this area known as Enshu no Karakaze. On the other hand, the northern part of Hamamatsu experiences a harsher climate due to the foehn winds. The highest temperature in the area is typically more than 35 degrees Celsius during the summer season. There is snowfall during the winter season.

The city is most known as an industrial city. It is especially famous for motorcycles as well as musical instruments. Prior to the 1990s, Hamamatsu was also famous in the fabric industry. Greater Hamamatsu, Hamamatsu Metropolitan Area generated a GDP of 54.3 billion U.S. dollars as of the year 2010. Economically, the city is doing quite well thanks to the companies that continue to produce their products in Hamamatsu. Some of the companies that are headquartered in the city include Hamamatsu Photonics K.K., Roland Corporation, Tokai Gakki or Tokai Guitars Company Ltd., Kawai Musical Instruments Mfg., Suzuki Motor Co., and Yamaha Corporation. Honda Motor Co. was also founded in this city.

Unfortunately, no civilian airports are built in the city of Hamamatsu. The nearest airport to Hamamatsu is the Shizuoka Airport, which is located between Shimada and Makinohara. With the coordinates of 34°47′46″ North and 138°11′22″ East, this airport is 43 kilometers, which is equivalent to 27 miles, away from Hamamatsu. The second nearest airport is the Chubu Centrair International located in Aichi Prefecture. Situated west of Hamamatsu, the airport is 87 kilometers, which is equivalent to 54 miles, away from the city.

Schools and Colleges: Learning the Language

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The colleges and universities located in Hamamatsu include Hamamatsu Gakuin University, Hamamatsu University School of Medicine, Shizuoka University (Faculty of Engineering and Faculty of Informatics), Hamamatsu University, Seirei Christopher University, and Shizuoka University of Art and Culture. The city government runs a senior high school known as Hamamatsu Municipal Senior High School. The city government also runs elementary and junior high schools. Hamamatsu houses 117 public elementary schools and 52 public junior high schools as of the year 2008.

Hamamatsu is also open to foreign nationals. It actually houses Brazilian international schools. These include Escola Brasil (previously called Escola Brasileira de Hamamatsu), Escola Alcance, and Escola Alegria de Saber. One school in Hamamatsu is a combination of Peruvian school and Brazilian primary school known as Mundo de Algria. Other Brazilian schools like Escola Cantinho Feliz and Colegio Pitagoras Brasil were also previously hosted by the city government.

A Portuguese-language private school with a Brazilian curriculum was included by the city to serve elementary schools until senior high school. Opened in the year 1996, the school is accredited in Brazil but not by authorities in Japan. The school had 100 students at a certain point in time.

Municipal elementary and junior high schools consist of 1,638 non-Japanese students as of the 1st of May in the year 2009. 932 Brazilians were recorded to be enrolled in the municipal elementary and junior high schools as of the year 2008. 646 of which were studying in 61 public elementary schools while the remaining 286 were studying in 38 public junior high schools.

Brazilian students enrolled in public schools study the same academic programs and go to the same classes as students of Japanese descent. Special teachers and assistants are hired to teach and help students of foreign nationals by certain schools. Sometimes, even part-time interpreters are utilized in order to help Brazilian students. Even though interpreters are not considered as formal teachers in schools, their efforts in helping Brazilian students as well as teachers are recognized as useful to the community.

Based on a survey conducted in the year 2008, several parents of Brazilian descent often face the challenge of choosing which kind of school to send their children to: Japanese or Brazilian. There have been instances when Brazilian children who used to attend Japanese schools would transfer Brazilian schools and also the other way around. Because of an economic decline, several Brazilian parents lost their sources of income by the year 2010, which made them incapable of paying for annual tuition fees of Brazilian schools that range from 30,000 yen to 40,000 yen.

Around 50 percent of Brazilians in Hamamatsu that are of high school age no longer attend high school as of the year 2010. Because they are no longer able to afford high school, attendance rates in high schools decreased. Another factor that resulted in this decrease is the difficulty of these Brazilians with the Japanese language. Currently, there are efforts being made to boost school attendance by the Hamamatsu NPO Network Center. Japanese-language classes, as well as native language classes, are now being held by Hamamatsu volunteers and a non-profit organization to help foreign children adjust and excel in their studies.

A Guide to the Local Attractions in Hamamatsu, Japan

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There are a lot of local attractions that can be visited when in the city of Hamamatsu. One of the top attractions on the list is the Act City Tower Observatory. Located just beside the JR Hamamatsu Station, the Act City Tower Observatory is the only skyscraper in the city. Because of this reason, the observatory has become a symbol of the city. Its design was based on the image of a harmonica as a memento of how immersed the city is in music. In fact, Hamamatsu is sometimes referred to as the “City of Music.” The structure consists of shopping outlets as well as a food court. Okura Hotel is also located inside the building. At the 45th floor of the building lies an observatory where guests can look over central Hamamatsu. Even the sand dunes at the shore can be seen from this observatory.

Another must-see when in the city of Hamamatsu is the Chopin Monument. A ratio of 1:1 scale replica, the monument depicts the image of the famed Art Nouveau statue of Chopin made with bronze. The statue was created by the famous artist Wacław Szymanowski. The original statue is located in Warsaw, which is a sister city of Hamamatsu.

To be in awe, take a look at Hamamatsu Castle. The Hamamatsu Castle Park begins from the modern city hall building all the way to the north. Standing on a hill, the castle is situated in the southeast corner of the park. Built under the command of Tokugawa Ieyasu, his rule also denotes the start of the Edo period. This castle served as his residence from the year 1571 to the year 1588. The castle currently houses a small museum that contains a number of armors, as well as relics, obtained from that era. There is also a miniature model of how the city must have looked 400 years back that is on display inside the museum.

To the north side of the castle lies a Japanese garden, a ceremonial teahouse, and a koi pond. Some commons areas may also be found there. Other places to check out when in the city of Hamamatsu include Hamamatsu Flower Park, Hamamatsu Municipal Zoo, Hamamatsu Tosho-gu Shrine, Hamamatsu Fruit Park, Iinoya-gu Shrine, and the Nakatajima Sand Dunes, which is among the three biggest sand dune areas in the country.

Events to Check Out in Hamamatsu

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Aside from the great places to see, one of the main events that occur in Hamamatsu is the Akiha Fire Festival in Haruno, Tenryu-ku. Held every month of December, the festival features fire, sword, and bow and arrow dance performances at the Akiha Shrine. The festival is dedicated to Mount Akiha, which is said to have the supernatural capability of preventing fires. A firewalking ceremony is also performed in the Akiha Temple in celebration of this event.  

Another one of the performances that are a must-see in Hamamatsu is the Enshu Dainenbutsu. Located in the Saigagake Museum, it is performed every 15th of the month of July. A Buddhist chanting ritual, dainenbutsu is usually performed outside of the house of the family that is commemorating the beginning of the Obon holidays following the passing of a loved one. A procession is formed by the group in front of the house of the family. The person carrying a lantern leads the group and marches to the rhythm of flutes, cymbals, and Japanese drums.

For people who love watching the sky, definitely check out the Hamamatsu Kite Festival. Held from the 3rd to the 5th of May every single year, the festival features a Tako Gassen, which basically means kite fight, and elaborately decorated floats in the shape of palaces. The origin of this festival dates back to around 430 years ago when kites were flown by the lord of Hamamatsu Castle in celebration of the birth of his first son.

There are, of course, still a lot of things to anticipate and see when visiting the city of Hamamatsu. With so many sights to behold and various things to do, one must really try to visit the city when in Japan. Though it is not as popular as other areas in Japan such as Tokyo, Hokkaido, and Okinawa, the city is still brimming with pride and culture that are sure to be delights to meet visitors from around the world.