Hamanako: The Beautiful Lake in Shizuoka Prefecture

Probably one of the scenes that provide some kind of peace and serenity is a view of a beautiful lake. Something about its calm waters offers some kind of peaceful feeling. There are several beautiful lakes around the world and some of the best ones can actually be found. Japan consists of several lakes, some of which are accentuated by quaint trees and flowers during certain seasons. One of the beautiful lakes that can be found in Japan is Lake Hamana.

Lake Hamana, Japan: History, Overview, Unagi, Etc.

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More commonly known as Hamanako, Lake Hamana is located on the west side of Hamamatsu. Situated in Shizuoka Prefecture, the lake is near the eastern border of Aichi. Having a surface area of almost 65 square kilometers, Lake Hamana is actually the 10th biggest lake in Japan.

Initially, Lake Hamana was a lake containing fresh water. However, due to several earthquakes, as well as a tsunami that occurred in the year 1498, the water in the lake has turned brackish. At present, Hamanako is a famous resort area during the summer season. Some activities that are popular during this season in this area include boat excursions as well as water sports like water skiing, windsurfing, fishing, kayaking, and parasailing.

Aside from its water activities, Hamanako is also quite popular for its oysters and eels. Just off the coast of Enshu Nada, blowfish, also known as fugu in Japanese, and pike conger, also known as hamo in Japanese, are also caught by fishermen. In addition, the region of Hamanako is also popular for its strawberries as well as mikan oranges. These fruits can be picked and bought in certain places close to Mikkabi, located on the northwest edge of Lake Hamana.

The lake is also well-known for its hot springs or onsen. These are located in towns that are close to Hamanako such as Bentenjima Town, Mikkabi Town, and Kanzanji Town. The area of Hamanako is also situated next to the historic Tokaido highway, which connects Kyoto and Tokyo. because of this, the area also contains a number of sites that date back to the Edo period. Close to the coast lies the original Arai Checkpoint. It is the sole extant barrier checkpoint station that can be found on the Tokaido. A historical inn known as Kinokuniya Inn is near the station with both being close to the west of Araimachi Station.

Just a single stop going to the east on the JR Tokaido Line coming from Bentenjima, the lovely Maisaka Shukuwaki-honjin can be found. It is an inn open to commoners, as well as samurai, that travel on the Tokaido highway. However, typically, it was utilized for more important people back in the day when the honjin was full. The place is also highly popular among tourists.

Just north of Bentenjima lies the Nakamura Residence. Situated over the Ufumi Bridge, the Nakamura Residence is the household of a samurai family that is still preserved to this day. Another great place to check out near the lake is the Makayaji Temple. Close to Mikkabi Station on the Tenryu Hamanako Line, this temple dates back to the Kamakura period. It consists of a Heian-style garden as well as three ancient Buddhist statues made of wood. Two of these statues are actually designated as National Treasures.

Kanzanji Onsen: Finding the Best Baths

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One of the most famous places to visit when in the area of Hamanako is Kanzanji Onsen. Kanzanji houses numerous hotels and ryokan that offer hot spring baths. It also houses a fun fair known as the Hamanako Pal Pal, which is a ropeway that goes up to Okusayama Sightseeing Platform. Other places to check out in Kanzanji are Kanzanji Temple, Hamamatsu Flower Park, and Hamamatsu City Zoo. Strawberries and mandarin oranges are also highly popular in the area.

During the summer season, Kanzanji is typically flocked by windsurfers, parasailing aficionados, and sea kayakers. Most of the attractions that can be found in Hamanako are located around the Kanzanji Onzen. The hot spring resort is situated on an inlet that runs along the length of the shores on the eastern part of the lake.

The hot spring resort was established in the last 1950s. After its drilling, towns surrounding the hot spring developed into tourist attractions. What makes this hot spring resort special is its offer of a fantastic view of Lake Hamana. Generally, the hotels and ryokan in the town offer these hot baths that are sure to soothe one’s aching and sore muscles. The hot springs can be used both by staying guests and by day trip visitors.

One of the most famous hotels in Kanzanji Onsen is Sago Royal Hotel. During the daytime, the hotel is open from 11 AM to 5 PM though the entry is only until 4 PM. Admission to the hotel costs 1,100 yen per head. An overnight stay in the hotel costs 10,000 yen per head, which also already includes two meals. The hotel is situated next to to the Kanzanji Temple. It features numerous baths, one of which is its rotemburo, which are its outdoor pools located on the rooftop. The rutemburo offers a 360-degree view of Lake Hamana.

Another hotel in Kanzanji Onsen is Hanasaki no Yu. The hotel is open from 10 AM until 11 PM though entry is only until 10 PM. Admission to the hotel costs 1,360 yen per head on weekdays. However, on weekends, admission costs 1,620 yen per head. During high seasons, the admission cost increases to 1,940 yen per head.

A huge public bath, the hotel is a portion of the Hotel Wellseason. It especially caters to day trip guests. The hotel offers a wide range of baths that include outdoor baths, which overlook a beautiful garden. It also provides relaxation services. In case one gets hungry after a dip in the hot water, there are restaurants available in the area.

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Another temple worth taking a look at is Kanzanji Temple. Though uncertain, many say that this temple was actually founded by Kobo Daishi (Kukai) who was a well-known priest hailing from the 9th century. A Soto Zen temple, Kanzanji Temple is situated on a tiny hill. It is located at the back of the Sago Royal Hotel. Among the many notable artifacts in the temple is its huge statue of Kannon, which is the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy.

There are also viewing spots within the temple that oversee Lake Hamana. The temple also consists of a cave called Ana-Daishi. Many say that the cave holds prayers for healing of diseases of the eyes. The complex also consists of small shrines that allow supplicants to write ema, which are votive plaques. These plaques are made for people looking for a partner in life or a happy marriage. A yearly fire festival is also held in the temple every 15th of December.

As mentioned above, there is also a ropeway in Kanzanji known as the Kanzanji Ropeway. It transits over the inlet located between the famous Pal Pal park and the summit of Mt. Okusayama. An observation deck can be found at the top of the ropeway, which offers a nice view of the town and the lake free of charge. At the peak of the mountain, at an elevation of about 100 meters, stands a music box museum.

Main Attractions in Hamanako: Hamanako Garden Park and Music Box Museum

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The two main attractions of Hamanako are the Hamanako Garden Park and the Music Box Museum. The Hamanako Garden Park is only 10 minutes by foot away from the Murakushi bus stop. This bus stop can be reached by taking a bus from the Hamanako Pal Pal bus stop. This trip takes only about 15 minutes. With an area of 56 hectares, the park is operated by the prefecture. Admission to the park is free of charge.

The park consists of three areas, namely, the Westside Area, the Town Area, and the Country Area. Getting on the Garden Cruise when in the Town Area is highly recommended, which is a boat ride on the river that strides through the park. The cruise takes about 8 minutes to complete. A one-way trip costs 600 yen per head for adults and 300 yen per head for children.

On the other hand, the Country Area consists of five zones. One of these zones is known as the Plum and Cherry Blossoms Court. As the name suggests, this is the area where the Kawazu-zakura, which is a variety of cherry blossom that flowers early, plum, and acacia bloom during the month of March. Standing at 50 meters high in the Town Area, the Lake View Tower also offers visitors a view of the park as well as of the lake.

For the tower, admission costs 300 yen per head for adults and 100 yen per head for children. The Town Area consists of 12 facilities. These include the Waterside Stage, the Visitor Center, and the Friendly Terrace, which has an area of 1,000 square meters. The area is also a great place to watch the sunset amidst the blooming of the flowers in the garden.

The second main attraction of Hamanako is the Hamanako Music Box Museum. As the name suggests, this museum specializes in music boxes. This fascinating museum can be found at the top of Mount Ohkusa. The museum itself overlooks Lake Hamana. It also houses around 70 automatic musical instruments that were curated from different parts of the world. Exhibits in the museum include automatic pianos and organs, mechanical dolls known as karakuri ningyo, a fairground organ, gramophones, and different types of music boxes from the 19th to the 20th century.

Curators in the museum explain to the visitors the history of music boxes as well as how these beauties work. Demonstrations are shown to let visitors have a better understanding of music boxes. How and why music boxes were invented are also explained. Monitors even show the mechanics of music boxes as well as the different parts of music boxes inside and out.

Actual music boxes are also played after the introduction of music boxes. The museum is basically an open space 6 meters high with the sounds of the music boxes playing echoing in the hall. The instruments, as well as the tunes, being played inside the museum changes based on the time as well as the curator. One may find the tunes played by the music boxes not just beautiful but also soothing and calming.

The installment of a carillon can also be found at the rooftop observation deck. For beginners, a carillon is basically the origin of music boxes. This installment plays seasonal melodies every hour. Aside from the beautiful music, guests are also able to witness the beauty of Lake Hamana from the observation deck. If one is lucky and the sky is clear, one may also be treated to a view of the magnificent Mount Fuji.

Other Places to See in Hamanako

There are many more places that one can check out in the area of Hamanako. For families, they can also go to the Hamamatsu City Zoo. This zoo houses more than 450 animals from 30 various species. The zoo is especially known for its various species of monkeys. In fact, the zoo’s primate collection is among the biggest in the country.

Aside from the zoo, one may also check out Hamamatsu Flower Park. It is a huge garden park that consists of different flowers that are in bloom the whole year. The park houses more than 100,000 plants from 3,000 species. Some of the highlights that one may expect to see in the park include a fountain show, lawn areas, a rose garden, a Mexican garden, a Balinese-style garden, and a western-style garden.

The glasshouses that can be found in the park are also highly popular. These glasshouses are collectively known as the Crystal Palace. After walking around this park, one may also check out the Hamamatsu Fruit Park.