5 Faves: Beaches

Summer is in full swing here and when the mercury rises, sometimes there’s no better place to be than at the beach. Being an island nation, Japan has no shortage of sandy stretches, though some certainly outrank others. From Hokkaido’s icier waters to the subtropics of Okinawa, here are some of the country’s best beaches:

1. Ranshima Beach (Hokkaido) – Beyond the city of Otaru on Hokkaido’s northwestern coast, this lightly visited beach sits tucked in a cove, surrounded by mountains and pine forests. The sand is more gray than white, but the waters are clear – and refreshingly cold – and traffic noise is a non-issue. Pack a lunch and some snacks for this spot, as there aren’t any concession on the beach itself.

2. Sobama Swinning Beach (Sado Island) – The Sea of Japan is more known for its seafood than its swimming holes, but Sobama Swimming Beach is a lovely 4 kilometer stretch of sand that opens onto protected waters. A seawall blocks swimmers from the island’s notoriously strong waves and riptides, while the long beach is perfect for castle building and volleyball games. On clear evenings, the sunsets here are spectacular.

3. Onjuku (Chiba) – There are plenty of beach-themed day-trip possibilities from Tokyo, but Onjuku is a cut above. The sand is so white it practically sparkles and the waves here are fairly decent for surfing. The 1609 shipwreck of a Spanish Galleon here forever linked Onjuku to Acapulco (the ship’s destination); today, the two are sister cities. There are plenty of shops and eateries a short walk from the beach and the town is worth exploring on foot or by bike.

4. Ibusuki (Kagoshima) – Ibusuki’s black sand is good for one thing – burying people in it. The famous sandbaths – heated by geothermal sources bubbling away underground – are reputed to be invigorating the body but it certainly is a test of endurance to stay buried in volcanic sand for the requisite 15 minutes. A cold shower will never feel so good.

5. Sunset Beach (Okinawa) – The name may be trite, but the evenings here as the sun descends into the East China Sea are truly remarkable. There’s plenty of sand to stretch out, BBQs are permitted and roped off swimming areas are perfect for little ones. Weekends are crowded, but show up here on a weekday morning and you have the sand and the nearby seawall practically to yourself. If you get hungry or feel the need for some retail therapy, the shops and eateries of Mihama’s American Village are just steps away.

A beach in northern Okinawa
A beach in northern Okinawa


3 thoughts on “5 Faves: Beaches

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  1. It’s always difficult to believe that thousands upon thousands of human beings perished on Okinawa, many never to be found again. Personally though, the only time I was at a beach in Japan was in my very early childhood – perhaps two years old. I have never been able to go back to a beach there in spite of having spent perhaps two years as an adult.

  2. Update: Ranshima’s got a couple of cafes now. And there’s a 7/11 across the street. It’s also gotten super-busy during the summer in the last couple of years – guess people finally caught on to the fact this beach exists (to my chagrin).

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