Sand traps

By on June 30, 2008
Photo © Elena Derevstova
All kids love the beach, the place where they can run around half-naked, dodge waves, soak siblings, have fun with rocks and discover the awesome capabilities of sand mixed with water.  They arrive off the train needing Ritilin and leave salted, wilted and half-blind with grit in their eyes. If it doesn’t leave you a mental wreck, a day at the beach can be the one family trip of the summer worth commemorating on a photo T-shirt. 

 

When the asphalt starts sticking to the bottom of your shoes, that’s probably when you’ll be most appreciative of an ocean breeze. The immediate area around Tokyo Bay is too polluted for swimming but you can see wind surfers on the brown waters swilling around Makahari Messe and Inage. As on most Japanese beaches, the sand is dirtier than you would like and generic but kids will have fun burying each other in it. For parents, the sunsets can be picturesque, and there are large pathways for strolling or rollerblading. 

 

If you’re living on the west side of Tokyo, the beaches south in Kanagawa and even those around Zushi and Kamakura are workable destinations. Kamakura and Shonan beaches are popular with surfers and beach loungers, beach volleyball enthusiasts and anyone with a small dachshund. During the summer, they will all be crowded and noisy, with music blaring out of someone’s ghetto blaster or safety announcements blaring over the PA system. The water is grey (just close your eyes and say Maldives), relatively clean, and there are pockets of mild waves where the kids can venture out on their body boards. 

 

Going west, the prettiest day-trips are out towards Shimoda on the tail-end of the Izu peninsula, which has naval history, scenic footbridges, and dramatic outposts jutting into blueish waters. The waves are stronger and are more for surfers or serious body boarders. Shirahama is sandcastle paradise and is long enough to occupy the most ardent beachcombers. Izu itself was once the playground of bubble-economy businessmen so the coastline is still dotted with theme hotels and onsens now offering discount travel packs for families.

 

Heading directly east from Tokyo, you need to journey all the way to the northeast end of Chiba to hit a decent sand trap. This is Kujikuri, or “99-mile” beach, the revered destination of weekend surfers. For families, it’s ideal because it’s bordered by campsites and there’s room enough to let out the kids and animals without leashes. 

 

But two of the best beach enclaves are located further south of Kujikuri. One of them is Onjuku. You’ll also find surfers dotting the waters here as they patiently scout for waves, but the clean sand and pretty coastline is reason enough to make the half-day’s journey out to the Boso peninsula. This is the beach that inspired the popular vintage song, “Moon Desert” which is the Japanese equivalent of “Danny Boy.” There will be a milling crowd of Japanese tourists taking pictures in front of Onjuku’s landmark statue, the image of two people riding on camels in the desert. 

 

Finally, there’s Moriya, a tiny sand haven in the shape of a near perfect half-circle. Off-season, it’s peaceful and sublime, offering views of an inexplicably placed island torii. During the beach season, it’s insanely crowded with young Tokyo residents knocking knees with each other over beach towels and under volleyball netting. It’s well-maintained, with the swim area marked off by a safety perimeter as well as areas designated for banana boat rides and other water activities. If you can catch Moriya just outside of the beach season (mid-July to the end of August) or combine it with a stay at a Kujikuri campsite, you’ll have enjoyed the best beaches around Tokyo and lived to wear the T-shirt.

 

Shonan, Kamakura, Zushi. Take the Yokosuka line from Tokyo or Shinagawa or the Keihin Kyuko line from Shinagawa. If you’re on the west side, there’s also the Shonan Shinjuku line from Shinjuku. 

 

Enoshima. Take the Yokosuka to Kamakura and transfer to the Enoden line. If there’s time, stop off at Hase station which is a step away from the smaller, quieter Sakanoshita beach.

 

Shimoda. JR Tokaido Line. There’s the Izukyu Express or a scenic Odakyu line from Shinjuku.

 

Inage and Makuhari Messe. Take the JR Keiyo Line to Inage Kaigan station.

 

Kujukurihama, Onjuku and Moriya. There’s the Boso Express which is expensive and sporadic and the JR Sotobo line coming out of Funabashi.  For Kujukuri, you’d transfer at Oami to the Togani line for Kujukuri.

 

 

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