Any anime series worth watching will contain the famous "beach" filler scene, my favorite one being in "Bleach. If you have seen any of those archaic episodes then you know the drill - taking a long train ride to the coast of Japan, setting up your towel, busting open a watermelon and playing with fireworks. These are all core elements of Japanese summer culture, so if your visiting Japan around summer season, why not give it a shot?
If you are in the Tokyo area there are three beaches that will often be recommended to you; Enoshima, Zushi and Atami. If you check out my earlier blog posts I did write one about Enoshima, its not a place for swimming but a fantastic place for sightseeing. Zushi is a little closer to Tokyo, however the beaches are dirtier and often full of partying teenagers. My personal recommendation is Atami; a clean beach, crystal-clear waters and plenty of seafood. Zushi is located in Shizuoka prefecture, and while further, is only around 50 minutes away by Shinkansen on the JR Tokaido line and you can leave from either Shinjuku or Shinagawa station. A one way ticket costs about 4,000 yen, so you can expect the travel alone to be 10,000yen. This seems pretty expensive; but for summer activities there is nothing better. You can also take the Shinkansen one-way and the slower, cheaper train back to save money.
Atami town is extremely old and traditional-looking - the buildings are mostly wooden and there are plenty of old-style sushi restaurants, souvenir shops and famous hot springs and ryokan. I could have easily spent a week there exploring the winding side streets and hidden shrines. The beach is about a seven minute walk from the station downhill with plenty of opportunity to grab an inflatable or two on the way.
The view from the top of the hill is incredible; as Shizuoka prefecture is quite mountanious, so towering over the beach there are clusters of grassy emerald-green mountains.
Once you make it to the beach be sure to hire a parasol; you can hire one until 5pm for 3,000yen, if you return the ticket at the end they will even give you 1,000yen back!
The sun was beating down intensely so we were very happy to rent a parasol for a few hours - even the sand itself was scorching so remember to bring sandals.
Once we found our space and set down our towels we could begin the party and crack open the chu-hai! I wore a one-piece swimsuit by Japanese brand "Bubbles" paired with a lace Peignoir by another of my favorite brands - Swankiss. My friends and I picked up our inflatables from Swimmer - you can find a Swimmer in Japanese department stores or big stations and basically just sells Kawaii nick-knacks and home-ware.
Usually the sea in Atami is very calm, but on this day it was our misfortune that there was a typhoon nearby in Chiba so the waves were the biggest I have ever seen. Luckily there was a seawall out in the distance that broke the bigger waves - some of them were as big as three-story houses! Even with the seawall the waves were pretty violent, more than a few times they came crashing over our heads as we were swimming and dragged us under. The first attempt my hat and sunglasses were stolen from me by the sea! cheeky. Before we left one of the bigger waves pushed my friend under the surface and when she bobbed back up she was missing something quite important - her wig!
We tried to find it but it was useless, I offered her some seaweed as a replacement but she wasn't having any of it. Somewhere right now in Shizuoka I imagine there is a shark wearing my friends wig, my hat and sunglasses.
Apart from the life-or-death experiences and sea-muggings we had an excellent day; much ice cream was eaten and we got the relaxation we deserved. On the way back to the station we stopped at one of the local restaurants for my favorite food, Kaisendon - raw fish on rice. The fish was extremely fresh and tasted even sweeter after a tiring day in the sea and came with a selection of tsukemono - Japanese pickles. I hope if you visit Japan around summertime you too will embark on your own anime beach filler episode!