The beaches nearest to Tokyo aren’t beautiful, but they are fun. Here’s a guide.
Type “world’s best beaches” into Google and what pops up first is an article from cnngo, which is a countdown on the worlds best 50. Unless you have pride or income at stake, its hard to dislike such an article, as it’s not difficult to gaze longingly upon the photos and daydream about lying back in one of these heavenly places with a cocktail and maybe a beautiful, exotic other in tow…
Until of course a grim reality intervenes, be it your wife screaming at you for leaving the toilet seat up or the teenage kids home school teacher calling through to tell you the useless little turd had been suspended for stealing the janitor’s collection of Penthouse mags. Or something thereabouts.
Once that’s been played out you can move onto what these articles are really about – poking those readers who do actually have income, and especially pride, at stake with a literary tripod, and enjoying the anguished or dismissive reactions coming from the fiery pits below, aka the comments section. That one’s been clogged up by jilted Filipinas and apoplectic Greeks, upset their slices of perfection had been left their apparent due. Poor Greeks, nothing seems to be going right for them these days.
That said, I can only imagine their reaction had they looked carefully over the entrants, in particular number 30, which was handed to Isshiki Beach, south of Tokyo on Japan’s main island of Honshu. I’d imagine with all the sweetness and poise your proverbial 9/10 who has just seen her boyfriend promise to fetch her a glass of bubbly then get snagged at the counter and quickly disappear into the night arm in arm with the frumpiest chick in the bar. Isshiki possesses neither the gold or white sand (it’s ‘ash colored’) nor the blue or turquoise waters (it’s ‘silty’), you’d assume were vital for getting anywhere near this beauty paegant. Rather, it won because of its personality, as indicated by the line “it never loses its dignity in the fashion of beaches further up the coast”.
I don’t disagree that it does maintain an air of dignity. It’s a good call for families in the area wanting a day at the beach. And hat tip if the writer’s very aim was to stick it in there in order to rub some people up the wrong way.
Nonetheless, the statement itself loses a bit of dignity when you look one place above on the countdown and see it’s been pipped by Koh Phangan’s Haad Rin Beach, a beautiful stretch, but one which happens to host the notoriously hedonistic Full and Half-Moon Parties. Aka a medallist in the world in Beach Dignity Loss, if not the gold one. Just as bad, go there almost any other night and come you’ll see the long row of drink stands manfully lined up, yet lucky to see two customers a night, almost as if they were taunting and mocking the beach for it’s failure to maintain that pace every other night as well.
Meanwhile the beaches further up the Shonan coast possess, in their natural state, little dignity to lose. Come any time other than the beach season of July or August, and you’d see dark water that could double up as a prop for a horror movie limply spilling up onto smokers-lungs-colored sand. It all looks a grim mockery of the very concept of a beach, like a side project Frank Miller, Director of Sin City, and the Dark Lord, Sauron, were working on before they ran into funding difficulties and decided instead to drop it on the doorstep of orderly middle, class Japan’s capital as a kind of schoolboy prank. Rather than dignity being lost, any dignity these beaches have at all is, imho, down squarely to the drunken revellery that goes on each July and August.
Well these places, Zushi, Yuigahama (Kamakura) and Enoshima (East and West), are only around 50kms away from Tokyo, and 20 odd kms from Yokohama. However multiplying those distances would give you a far better sense of how far they are away from the countries two biggest cities. Darker skin, bigger dogs, more tatts happily displayed, and when it comes to hair it seems somebody raided a large host club, stolen its stocks of golden hair dye and attacked as many people as they could down here with it. Most importantly however, the locals seem much more informal and less guarded with one another down here compared to the capital.
The same relaxed attitudes extend to foreigners, which leads to moments that just wouldn’t, couldn’t, happen in the cities. Nothing too great mind you, but a more than welcome sign that some of the usual customs and barriers of the capital aren’t necessarily in place here. Being invited to sit down and enjoy our Thai dinner by a random mother, her best friend and her student age daughters, and not be a target of English practice, is something extremely unlikely happen to a gaijin back in town. And some are further outside the box; playing volleyball with a group of very heavily tattooed and no doubt heavily troubled young lads, no doubt on the way to becoming yakuza, if not already; or, a friend and myself getting roughed up in a shot drinking drinking contest by a wee slip of a 22 year old former hostess. This was after she had already dusted off her young male friend, who lay passed out next to her as we walked in.
And while passing out here is far from uncommon, the default is quite the opposite for the local boys who acquire a zest I’d rarely seen here. I heard it put well the place has a spring break kind of feel to it. Japanese guys are generally comparatively tepid in the way they go about trying to pick up girls but down here, amidst the sun and chu-hi, they suddenly go ‘Italian’.
Funnily enough, the local guys become such different animals when they step onto the sand here, it provides ample opportunities to foreign gay guys. A couple of gay guys I know who come here do far better than any single straight guy I know who ducks down here and seem rusted on certainties for getting extra phone numbers, if not more. And nearly always, it’s with guys who have steady girlfriend’s and apparently little prior idea they swung that way as well.
And there’s no need for the straight, single, foreign guy to feel left out of this. There are plenty of girls, who having lugged more inches of high her and more grams of make up down here than probably anywhere, welcome the attention, or go and get some. One example springs to mind of a chick more or less walking up to a mate and daring him to show her what he had down there, then showing her what she had when he didn’t immediately deliver. Few chicks are this upfront of course, but they are more forthcoming down here. If this appeals your best bet might be Zushi, closest to the US Navy Base down there at Yokosuka.
The whole exercise is of course made easier by one of Japans better points – the nation’s comparatively lax liquor laws. Drinks in the bars here normally run from 600-800 yen. However if an afternoon pounding back drinks at those prices sounds a stretch, you can vote with your feet and bring over beer and liquor from the conbini onto the beach.
And while it is helped by this similarity to the rest of Greater Tokyo, it is blighted by a difference. Once you step onto these beaches you leave some of the safety Japan is deservedly renowned for. Normally, if you’ve realised you lost something in Japan, you might not be all that worried, as it will probably be kept at the shop the next time you return. Not here. I’ve had a friend lose his bag and wallet which held 100000 yen after being lured up into a bar by some new found mates while some others pilfered his bag (though to add a local twist to it, they did leave 1000 yen on his towel for the miserable train ride home. Other have parted ways with wallets, designer glasses and bags, and a good friend just emailed this morning to tell me he left his iPhone down there, he’s still pretty cut about it so I haven’t told him it won’t be coming back) and bags. If you are ever down here, have someone watching if you’re off or never turn your back on your towel and don’t bring down here what you can’t afford to lose, especially if you’re going to knock a few back.
As with the natives, you could well find bars friendly above and beyond the call of duty. There is a greater chance down here though you’ll experience the kind of customer service you might expect to cop in other parts of Asia. Personal Example- the experience of handing over a 10000 yen note for something to eat or drink and been, three times I’ve handed over 10000 yen in cash only to be told has only ever happened down at these beaches, and quite a few times at that. Certainly too many times to be a coincidence, and that’s without the wry smile and lack of protests or shame from staff. Breaking any 10000 yen notes into 1000s before getting on here might be a sound idea, lest someone be prepared to take advantage of your seemingly wasted state.
You might argue that you shouldn’t drink too much, but rolling into a bar half-cut is just as likely to land you into fun, as trouble. And let it also be said the vast majority of bars are near enough to being on the level, which is just as well because you can rest assured after an afternoon of sun and booze sooner or later the combinis will sooner or later seem too far to walk to, or the girls too close to risk leaving, or the siren songs of their bar flower sisters too cute, and in you’ll be stumbling….
…to be continued