Summer is Here!! Hazzah! So time to get organised and check out some of the beaches on offer in Japan. Get some peeps together and hire a car for the weekend! Most of Japan’s best beaches lie along the Japan Sea. It’s camping time!
Wadahama Beach, Fukui Prefecture
Take the Maizuru expressway and exit at Oitakahama IC; turn left and follow the 16 toward Sonobe, then turn left onto the 237 and follow the signs to the beach! You’re there! Alternatively, train it to Wakasawada Station and walk 10 minutes north to the beach.
A very popular beach, due to its shallowness, this place has many beach stands and various rental places. Parking is typically 1000 yen per day in July and August. If the weather is still good in September, you can park some places for free! The main beach is quite shallow and flat (great for those who want to splash rather than swim) but if you head further west along the bay, there are areas where the water is deeper and you may catch a wave or two. There are also onsens and camping grounds along the bay, so check it out!
Takeno Beach, Hyogo Prefecture
I have to say that this is one of my favourite beaches in Japan. It’s a small secluded beach, just a 10minute drive from the well known Kinosaki Onsen (or a 190yen 9 minute train ride, and 15 minute walk north). It has been ranked in the top 100 beaches in Japan by the Ministry of Environment.
A long and sandy secluded beach in a town with a population of 4000 people = Heaven! Stands are set up along the beach in summer, selling food, and providing cold water showers to wash off. Public toilets are at both ends of the beach, and for those looking for a nice warm dip to clean off after your swim, you can pop in to Kitamaekan. This hot spring has a lovely view of the beach from the second floor of the building. Parking up here is around 500 yen a day.
Probably best to avoid night swimming in September, as the jellyfish come in on the warm current and can’t be seen in the dark. During the day this hasn’t been a problem for me.
There are camping facilities at Bentenhama Camping area (turn left at the lights as you walk out of Takeno station), and a number of guest houses in the town. Camping is 1000 yen per adult or 500 for children.
On my recent tour of Okinawa I visited Tokashiki Island, just a 30 minute high-speed ferry ride away (from Tomari port). The beaches are accessible from the port… if you wish to walk for at least an hour in the heat. Instead, best to hire some floaties, or grab some accommodation, and take advantage of the ‘Service’ ride to either Aharen Beach (The main beach with most of the accommodation, the one grocery store and a selection of restaurants) or Tokashiku beach, where there may only be one restaurant, but you have quite a high chance of seeing a sea turtle grazing on the sea grass (check about 10 metres out from the last red buoy in the swimming area). Tokashiku Marine Village also offers use of its showers for 500 yen, and a ride to Aharen beach or the Ferry Port for 300 yen per person.
For accommodation, I recommend Sea Friend. You can book discounted rental gear, including snorkels and fins here at half the non-guest rate and they also organize dive experiences (so don’t worry if you do not have your diver’s license yet!). 6000 yen per person will get you breakfast and dinner (a great option considering there aren’t many) in a twin room with western beds, and nice little flat screen mounted on the wall. Sea Friend staff will pick you up from he port and bring you to the resort, and there is a pathway that runs from the dining hall to the beach. Try renting a sea kayak and heading towards the uninhabited Shibugaki Island off the coast. There is some fairly good snorkeling around here, but be careful on the northern shore of this island: because of strong currents, it’s best to stay bay side if you’re heading out there guide-less.
On Zamami Island you can enjoy great snorkeling just off the shore. Again, best to hire some gear, so you can take advantage of the free bus ride to the beach, it’s about a sweaty half hour walk to both Ama (sea turtles are said to be here, but I wasn’t fortunate enough to see them) and Furuzamami beach (my recommendation for snorkeling). You can also take a sea taxi out to the uninhabited islands for a dip and further snorkeling, but hire an esky (cooler box) before you head out and fill it with your favourite cool treats.
Unfortunately there is no service for travel between Tokashiki and Zamami, although they both lie in the Kerema Island group. Ferries can be taken to both island from Tomari port in Naha.
Back on the main Island of Okinawa, the beaches are a little more typical of Japanese beaches (ie roped off from the rest of the ocean). If you’re headed to Chatan for some shopping at American Village you can visit Sunset beach, a nice little place for a dip. Ahara beach is a 20 minute walk from here and is also known as ‘Pirate Beach’ for its amazing pirate ship playground (was I tempted? Yes!).
This time around, I was determined to see Churaumi Aquarium as well, so I decided to hire a car after returning from Tokashiki Island. OTS Rent-a-car is right at the port and I got a k-car (actually they gave me a Honda Jazz [sweet!]) for 5300 for 24 hrs, including insurance (a 500 yen surcharge). You can also pre-purchase your aquarium tickets and get a discount of 400yen at OTS. A 2 hour drive north and we arrived at our accommodation, a massive ‘family room’ with tatami, futons and 2 single beds overlooking the beautiful Emerald beach. Accommodation at the Yugafu Inn Bise will set you back from 3000 yen per person, but gets you amazing views, access to the onsen at the Hotel Mahaina Wellness Resort just down the way, and puts you right on the door stop of the Aquarium too! (Did I mention there is a pool too, for those who don’t like to get sandy). If you have time after all this, pop into Nakajin Castle, a 7k drive from the hotel. It’s the most intact of all the Castles in Okinawa and a World Heritage Site.
Well, I hope I have gotten you all sufficiently excited. I sure as hell know I am! So grab some sun-screen and your friends and get out there! It’s going to be a long hot summer!
P.S. For those of you who haven’t found the magic of Jalan.net yet, check it out. They have great specials and plans and you earn points for your bookings which later turn into discounts! It’s a very user friendly website and won’t let you accidentally book 2 hotels for the same night; very handy! ;)