Amanohashidate is the sanbar across Lake Aso in Miyazu Bay. There are two places where you can see the iconic view and the view is different from both of them.
The first is "View Land" behind Amanohashidate Station. For 800 yen (covers getting there and back) you can take either a cablecar or chair lift to the top. The view from here is more straight-on. It tends to be the clearer view of the two spots. Around View Land there are some rides a bit like a tiny amusement park.
The other view is across the way at Kasamatsu Park, which is also reached via a cablecar or chair lift. The angle from Kasamatsu Park makes the sandbar look longer and thinner than at View Land. I also believe that this is the view that people tend to better understand the "Bridge to Heaven" idea.
The name "Amanohashidate" roughly as "Bridge to Heaven". In order to see it as a Bridge to Heaven, you must look at it between your legs. View Land and Kasamatsu Park both have platforms where you can do this. It is definitely worth trying. There is something interesting and special about the view from upside down!
You can also walk along the sandbar itself, which I also recommend. You get an appreciation for the actual length of the sandbar, the pine trees are nice to walk through, and there are great views of the bay. You can also swim here in the summertime.
To get a better idea of what the views are like from each spot, see my pictures.
Chionji is located right beside the speedboat docks on the side of Amanohashidate Station. It is most famous for its pagoda, which was built in 1500. It is also said to have one of the top three Monju Boddhisatva symbols. Those traveling from the station to the other side of the sandbar will pass the temple, so it is nice to at least walk around the grounds a little. Because it is located in such a prime location, it offers a lot more souvenirs and charms than most temples!
Entrance is free.
Kono Shrine is also known as Motoise Kono Shrine. Motoise means "Origin of Ise", which is the holiest Shinto Shrine. The reason is that Kono Shrine is believed to be the original site where the supreme goddess Amaterasu was worshipped and it was changed to Ise later on.
Although one might expect Amanohashidate Shrine to be the main shrine, Kono Shrine is actually the principal shrine in the city (Amanohashidate Shrine is a very small shrine located on the sandbar).
At Kono Shrine on the left-hand side there is an interesting bamboo piece sticking up. If you put your ear up to it, it sounds like trickling water. It's a very nice sound, actually.
Entrance is free.
58 Koaza-Iwamoto Aza-Tai,Miyazu-Shi, Miyazu, 626-8
There are many ways to visit and experience Amanohashidate. Some people just go up the cablecar or chair lift behind Amanohashidate Station and see that view, but the other side offers another completely different view and it is worth it to it from both sides.
To get to the other side, there are two methods:
First, you can walk along the sandbar. It seems like a quick walk, but the length is 3.6 kilometers, so walking it actually does take time (especially if you stop to take pictures). Alternating between the path along the pine trees and the beach is a nice way to walk it.
The second method is to go by speed boat. The fair is very reasonable: 600 yen one way or 1000 yen for a two-way ticket. If time is an important factor, buying the two-way ticket is a good idea. The speedboat is fun and gives you a side-view of the sandbar.
From the dock or the other side of the sandbar, just walk up past the shops and Kono Shrine to reach the lift/cablecar to see the view from Kasamatsu Park.
If you have the time and you want to fully experience Amanohashidate, I highly recommend walking one way and taking the speedboat the other way. This allows you to see the sandbar from the vantage points on opposite ends, see it from Miyazu Bay (on the speedboat), and see it up close as you actually walk on it!
There are trains bound for Amanohashidate that leave directly from Kyoto Station. The destination is Amanohashidate Station, so it is very easy to recognize. The express train takes over 2 hours (Kyoto Prefecture is quite long) and costs a little over 4000 yen one way. It is a limited express train, so there are special tickets however, if you don't buy them at the gate you can purchase a normal ticket and then pay the difference to an attendant on the train and s/he will give you the proper ticket so there is no need to worry about it.
From Miyazu Station, note that the train will actually go backwards to get to Amanohashidate Station. This is unusual for Japanese trains, but here it is supposed to happen, so don't think you missed your stop!
From the station, one of the cablecars/chair lifts is located on the hill behind. To many visitors, this side offers the best view.
At Kasamatsu Park (the viewing point on the opposite side of the station), there is a circle off the side of the overlook on the far left of the platform. Visitors can try to throw little clay disks through the circle. If you are successful, your wish may come true.
You can buy the disks there (3 for 100 yen) OR if you spend 1000 yen or more at the gift shop behind the throwing area they will give you 3 disks for free. If you think you want to buy some souvenirs, it's best to buy them first and see if you can get your disks for free, although the 100 yen fee is also very reasonable.