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Lake Hamanako

Hamanako (l) is a large lake at the Pacific Coast of western Shizuoka Prefecture. Originally a fresh water lake separated from the ocean, Hamanako got connected to the ocean as a result of an earthquake in 1498 and its water turned salty. The majority of Hamanako's attractions are concentrated around the Kanzanji Onsen, a hot spring resort on an inlet along the lake's eastern shores.

It was not until the late 1950s that Kanzanji Onsen's hot spring was drilled and a town with various tourist attractions grew around it. Although Kanzanji Onsen does not have the traditional atmosphere of a more historic onsen town, it does offer an attractive range of baths with views onto the lake. Most of the baths are found in the town's hotels and ryokan, and many are accessible not only to staying guests but also to daytrip visitors for a small fee.

The following is a list of some of Kanzanji Onsen's best baths that are open to day trip visitors:

Sago Royal Hotel

Daytime Hours: 11:00 to 17:00 (entry until 16:00)
Daytime Admission: 1100 yen
Overnight Stay: From 10,000 yen per person including 2 meals

Hanasaki no Yu

Hours: 10:00 to 23:00 (entry until 22:00)
Admission: 1420 yen (1680 yen on weekends, 1980 during high seasons)

Ratings:    best of the best    best of Japan    outstanding

While the history of Kanzanji Onsen does not extend far into the past, its namesake temple is believed to have been founded in the early 800s by the famous monk Kobo Daishi. The grounds of Kanzanji Temple are quite expansive, extending over the forested tip of a peninsula that juts out into Hamanako. There are nice walking paths through the forest with views out onto the water.

Among the other attractions around Kanzanji Onsen, the most noticeable is the Pal Pal Amusement Park with its large Ferris wheel. The park's other rides include roller coasters, merry go rounds and water slides and are particularly well suited for kids. Rides can be paid for individually (typically 200-800 yen per ride) or used with a 1-day freepass (4200 yen).

A unique sight of Kanzanji Onsen is the Kanzanji Ropeway, which travels over the inlet between the Pal Pal amusement park and the summit of Okusayama Mountain. A free observation deck with nice views over the town and lake and a paid music box museum are located on the mountain's summit at an elevation of about 100 meters.

As an alternative to going up in the air for good views of the area, sightseeing boats allow travelers to enjoy the scenery from the water. Cruises of 30 minutes (1000 yen) or one hour (1500 yen) travel out of Kanzanji's inlet and further into Hamanako Lake. The boats can be boarded at Kanzanji Temple or the entrance to the Hamamatsu Flower Park, a spacious park with flowers for every season.

At the end of a day exploring the lake or as a mid day meal, travelers should consider eating Japanese Eel (unagi), a locally farmed specialty. Many restaurants offer the dish, usually broiled and served over a bed of rice as unadon (in a bowl) or unaju (in a rectangular box). The meal can be a bit on the pricey side, usually costing around 2000 yen.

Getting there and around

How to get to Lake Hamanako

Lake Hamanako is located ten kilometers west of central Hamamatsu, the largest city in Shizuoka Prefecture. Hamamatsu is a stop along the Tokaido Shinkansen (85 minutes, about 8500 yen from Tokyo or Shin-Osaka by hourly direct Hikari trains). From Hamamatsu Station, take a bus to Kanzanji Onsen (40 minutes, 620 yen, departures at least twice per hour).

How to get around Lake Hamanako

Although Lake Hamanako is very large, the majority of its attractions are centered around Kanzanji Onsen and within walking distance from one another. Stretching along the southern coast of a small inlet, all attractions can be reached within a 30 minute walk from each other.

Hours and Fees

Pal Pal Amusement Park

Hours

Closed

Admission

Kanzanji Ropeway

Hours

Closed

Admission

Hamamatsu Flower Park

Hours

Closed

Admission