Exploring Hamamatsu Using Bus Lines
You may never have heard of the Japanese city Hamamatsu but you must know Yamaha, Suzuki and Kawai. The city is home to aforementioned international manufacturers, as well as lots of high-tech firms.
The city, located about 90 kilometers east of Nagoya, is the biggest city in Shizuoka Prefecture. For tourists, however, getting to major places of interest is not always easy. Although the city has the population of about 800,000, it lacks subway networks and tram systems. By using bus lines wisely, however, you can explore this city further. On July 31, 2015 I visited Air Park, Hamamatsu Castle and Act Tower by using bus lines.
Line 51 bus runs two to three times an hour. The timetable on the left is for weekdays (Monday to Friday). The one on the right with the pink backdrop is for Saturdays and Sundays.
Hamamatsu Station Bus Terminal(North Exit): Map
1. Air Park (Japan Air Self-Defense Force Exhibition Hall)
Before starting your Hamamatsu tour, drop by the tourist information center near the ticket barrier of Shinkansen (Bullet Train). You can get the travel brochures in English, Chinese and Korean. But there are no brochures dedicated to public transportation. So I had to ask the office staff for bus information for the Air Park.The staff says that the bus departs from North Exit Bus Terminal #14 gate. When I went to the terminal I learned that the Line 51 bus is the bus for Air Park.The bus runs about two to three times an hour, enough frequency for the facility. The bus line also runs close to Hamamatsu Castle area. So I decided to visit Air Park first and Hamamatsu Castle next.
I took the 11:03 a.m. bus and by the time I got off at the bus stop, IZUMI-YONCHOME (泉四丁目)my wristwatch showed 11:35. Then I had to walk another ten minutes on a grueling summer day.
When I went to the entrance of the Air Park I found some open air exhibits such as a retired Blue Impulse fighter aircraft used for demonstration performance. It was so hot that I soon went inside the Exhibit Hall. Before I went into the exhibition space I borrowed a voice guidance tool for free. It has English, Chinese and Korean guidance. The voice guidance, however, gives me only a brief introduction to each area and it may not be enough for some visitors who are keenly interested in military artifacts. The hangar area, however, is a children’s paradise because there aren’t so many aircraft museums in Japan and family visitors enjoy flight simulator and cos-play of SDF uniforms.
The reassembled zero fighter is particularly one of the draws of this hangar area. There are only a few remaining zero fighters in Japan and only a few places in Japan where it is exhibited permanently. Legendary old Italian aircraft Ansaldo SVA-9 was another pleasant surprise for me.
Air Park: Map
2. Where to Dine around Air Park?
At Air Park there is a cafe restaurant called Fuji on the third floor of the Exhibit Hall. On that day, however, I looked for a dining space outside. On my way back to the bus stop I found a Ramen noodle restaurant. I ordered the set menu for 850 yen (tax included).
Ramen Noodle Restaurant “Aimasho”: Map
3. Boarding Line 51 Bus Again to Hamamatsu Castle
I got back to Izumi Yonchome Bus Stop and I took the bus bound for Hamamatsu Station. After about twenty minutes I got off at Shiyakusho-Mae Bus Stop which is close to the main keep of Hamamatsu Castle.
4. Hamamatsu Castle Park and Garden
Before I revisit the main keep (I have visited the park a couple of times). I enjoyed the short walk around the park and Japanese garden.
The Japanese garden inside the park created in 1958 is smaller in scale than popular Japanese gardens such as Kenroku-en or Hamarikyu garden. This garden, however, is noted for the excellently aligned traditional bamboo fences. The bamboo fence in the photo is called Takeho-gaki (竹穂垣). The promenade along the Takeho-gaki fence is one of the most oft-photographed places in Hamamatsu Castle garden. The garden also has a nice wooden bridge, slide falls and an artificial waterfall. This Japanese garden is a nice place to relax even during cherry blossom viewing season.
5. Newly Restored Gate and Castle Keep fences
Lots of history buffs come to Hamamatsu castle for the Tenshumon gate newly restored based on old drawings. The gate stood until the late 19th century. In 2014, it was restored back to what it used to be. You can enter the gate building for an admission fee of 200 yen for adults, which includes both the gate and the castle main keep.
Originally built around the early 16th century as “Hikuma Castle” the castle ground was expanded around 1570 by Tokugawa Ieyasu who later became the first shogun of Edo Shogunate, A few years later Ieyasu had to face the mighty warlord, Takeda Shingen, then moved westward to enter Kyoto, the capital of Japan at the time. In 1573 Ieyasu was bitterly beaten and barely survived the battle when he returned to Hamamatsu castle. According to Ieyasu, such bitter defeat served to establish his indomitable spirit which led to his later success. The castle later became the symbol of promotion and success because of its historical background. Both the castle main keep and the gate building have some displays depicting the battle of Mikatagahara. The main keep also has some armors, swords, and furnishing goods during Edo period (1603-1868).
Main Keep of Hamamatsu Castle: Map
Related: Kanazawa Castle
6. Kururu West Loop
While Hamamatsu does not have trams or subway lines, there are some bus loops lines collectively nicknamed as “Kururu”. The bus stop for Kururu west loop stands close to that of Minami-Shiyakusho bus stop. The bus line has the flat fee of 100 yen and is a very convenient mode of transportation. I got off at Hamamatsu Station Bus Terminal. From there I headed for Act Tower, the highest building in Hamamatsu.
7. Act Tower
Act tower is actually one of the buildings of Act City complex made up of concert halls, congress facilities, Musical Instrument Museum, Act Tower with Hotel Okura Act City Hotel Hamamatsu and some shopping malls. Its observation deck of about 200 meters in height is open only during weekdays from Mondays to Fridays. When the sky is clear enough you can even see Mount Fuji but unfortunately it was hazy when I went there.
On a clear day and with some luck, you may be able to see Mount Fuji from the observation deck of Act Tower.
Act Tower: Map