For the past few years, I’ve wanted to visit Ine, a traditional seaside fishing village on the coast of the Sea of Japan, a few hours from Kyoto. It’s just a liiiittle bit out of the way and never quite lined up with plans. Finally, we decided to make it happen. Alongside regular route planning, I mapped out the manhole card spots for added fun. To my surprise, I found one available along our trip, near the stopover at Miyazu Station. It was a really pretty design featuring Kyoto’s Amanohashidate – a pine-covered sandbar spanning Miyazu Bay. Timing would be tight but I was willing to give it a crack. First, though, let me tell you about the train we caught…
The Tango No Umi (丹後の海)
We caught a 7:32 train from Kyoto Station to Fukuchiyama, where we needed to transfer to the Tango Railway bound for Miyazu.
There was no way we were going to lose our way at Fukuchiyama with that wayfinding signage. At the top of the stairs, a staff member helped us buy tickets for the next leg and we rushed onto the platform to find the shiny blue Tango no Umi train.
We were about to take our seats before we spotted the lounge area at the end of the carriage. We settled in along with two young guys who were going to visit Amanohashidate. Read more about these trains here.
I’m starting to see why trains are such a big deal in Japan. I remember coming across a spot near Nippori Station where families stood to watch the comings and goings of trains below, squealing when a shinkansen would zoom by. For me, Shinkansens are still a novelty, but I’ve been totally sleeping on all the REALLY cool trains around the country, just like this one. See more pictures on Instagram via this hashtag.
Getting the Amanohashidate Manhole Card
We got off the train at Miyazu and had around 20 minutes to wait for a bus to Ine. Wasting no time, we power walked to the Roadside Station to get the manhole card. Luckily the bus to Ine also had a stop near here, so we wouldn’t have to walk all the way back. The plan was simply to get the card and get the bus—we’d attempt to find the manhole itself on the return journey.
The lady who walked in just ahead of us approached the counter and began a super long consultation about the area. The staff member was doing an excellent job; collecting brochures, consulting timetables, explaining everything in minute detail. That tourist was truly getting the works.
For us, it was like standing behind someone with two trolleys at the register when all you want is to ask for a key to the bathroom.
We decided that staring lasers into the lovely people probably wasn’t the best way to pass the time, so we checked out the Amanohashidate posters and brochures instead, learning that the three-kilometre long sandbar is one of Japan’s three most scenic views. It wasn’t far away, so naturally, we wanted to see it, if possible. Sadly, the public transport timetable and our tight schedule wouldn’t allow it to happen this time. We decided to hire a car in future and tack on a visit to the Tottori Sand Dunes.
The neatest thing I learned about Amanohashidate is that it’s traditional to view it bent over, from between your legs. Apparently, people have been doing this for a millennium!
Eventually, we couldn’t wait any longer and had to leave, sans manhole card, to search for the bus stop. The Lobby Boy was pretty calm as usual, but these kinds of moments totally twist me up. We started darting around checking the timetables for the bus stops in the area. If we missed the bus, there wouldn’t be one until much later in the day and we’d miss out on spending time in Ine.
Eventually, I busted into the glass waiting room, shocking two elderly women and interrupting their silence. I rushed over to one, asking where the Ine bus departed from. She couldn’t hear me properly so the other lady jumped in to help. As it turns out, they were waiting for the same bus, meaning I could bring my ridiculous, manic, city slicker freak out down a few notches.
The bus rolled up and we settled in for the hour and a quarter ride along the coast to Ine. As it was a local bus, this leg of the journey only cost a tiny 400 yen!
Enjoying Ine and heading home
I won’t go into detail about Ine now—perhaps in another post—but I will say that it’s a super charming little village, with a governmental designation to prove it. We were only staying one night (hence the bus stress) and went all out, reserving one of the funaya (traditional fisherman’s homes pictured above) which had a private bathtub and amazing views. While we were there, we feasted on fresh-caught seafood and joined a great sightseeing cruise which included feeding the local gulls and kites!
The next morning, we enjoyed a Japanese breakfast before heading off for the next part of our adventure—Arashiyama. We saw that the train back to Kyoto would go right near it, so we thought we may as well experience an overnight stay there—something we’d never done before.
We caught the bus to the Roadside Station in Miyazu, with only a short window for manholing before our train would depart. We got the card straight away but sadly didn’t have enough time to track down the manhole itself. A taxi would have been our best bet, but we didn’t want to risk missing the train and messing up the day’s schedule for this side mission. For the time being, we’d just enjoy the card!
The design features Amanohashidate, two local “Streaked Shearwater” birds and the local prefectural emblem in the middle. The local design I saw around the streets was similar, featuring Amanohashidate, but different to the card design. I’d have to try to complete the mission another time!
The slight feeling of defeat disappeared as soon as we got back on the luxurious Tango train, bound for Kyoto. This time we would be departing at a place called Kameoka where we’d catch a boat downriver to Arashiyama. But…we’d also luck out on getting another manhole card or two…
Manhole Card Address: Roadside Station Kyoto by the Sea MIYAZU
Nearest Stations: Miyazu Station (10 min walk)
Ask: “Manhouru kado ga arimasuka?” (マンホールカードがありますか？)
Manhole Location: According to the card, somewhere here.
Distance between card and hole: 1 hour on foot, 8min by car/taxi.
More info: here, on the City’s website (in Japanese)
*note: this information may change; always best to check here.
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