The Kyoto Tango railway may not be the fastest way to get between Kyoto and Amanohashidate. However, it may very well be the most beautiful way to do so.
The Kyoto Tango railway, or Tantetsu, is in fact a network of three lines, The Miyafuku Line connects Miyazu with Fuchiyama, the Miyamai Line connects Nishi-Maizuru with Miyazu, and the longest one is the Miyatoyo line, running between Miyazu and Toyooka. If you haven’t heard of any of these places before we won’t blame you – they’re all pretty small cities, located off the beaten track in “Tango”, the northwestern part of Kyoto prefecture (Toyooka however, is located in Hyogo Prefecture).
We took the 50 minute ride between Nishi-Maizuru and Amanohashidate on a crisp November morning. The first half of the trip or so took us through rural plains and fields, as well as along a scenic stretch of the Yura River, before reaching the Kunda Bay, a part of the Sea of Japan.
In the beginning of our trip, the train wasn’t even half-full, as this part of Kyoto is not on most tourists itineraries. As we got closer to Amanohashidate, one of the most beautiful spots in Japan, the number of people on board slowly started to increase, but rest assured that this area is nothing compared to central Kyoto when it comes to the number of visitors. Even though the number of trains is low, and the seats sparse, you shouldn’t have any trouble getting a seat.
From the train window, we could see several sandy beaches as we swished along the coast. This part of Japan has particularly hot summers, with temperatures sometimes often reaching close to 40 degrees and hence, the beaches tend to get quite crowded during the season while beaches are in operation, usually early July to the end August. As this was in November, all the beaches were completely deserted.
Miyazu, a city of 20,000 or so people, is something of a hub-city of the Tantetsu railway. If you’re planning to explore the area beyond Amanohashidate, spending the night here might be a good option since it’s one of the most well connected cities in the area, with both buses and trains taking you to Kyoto in two hours or less. The lodging options in Miyazu also tend to be somewhat more reasonably priced than those in the immediate vicinity of Amanohashidate. From central Miyazu you can reach Amanohashidate in about 30 minutes on foot or 4 minutes by taking the Tantetsu Miyamoto line, as it’s only one stop away. Other parts of Tango are also easily accessible from here thanks to the Tantetsu railway and the handful of buses connecting the rest of the area with Miyazu.
As JR doesn’t operate the Kyoto Tango Railway, you will not be able to use the Japan Rail Pass here. There used to be another discount rail pass called the Kyoto Sea Area Pass allowing for unlimited travel along the Kyoto Tango Railway, but sales stopped in October 2016. At the time of writing, there are currently no discount tickets available.