Summer Days: Soak up some sun!

By on July 30, 2017

In a former incarnation, Tokyo’s ex governor, Ishihara Shintaro wrote the award winning novel “Season of the Sun” (Taiyo no Kisetsu) depicting the hedonistic lifestyle of young sun worshipers who hung out on Kanagawa’s long stretches of beaches over half a century ago. As the summer heat continues, the new generation of dark-skinned, volley ball-playing, dog-grooming, bikini-clad and broad short-wearing sun-seekers continue the legacy… it’s time for you to take the initiation.

Shonan is the name of the region that stretches along the coast of Sagami Bay from Oiso in the west through Chigasaki and Enoshima to Zushi and Hayama in the east. It’s not exactly exotic but there is the hint of a Californian carefree beach lifestyle without using a single air mile. 

Shonan Beach

Shonan Beach

Shonan likes to see itself as a mini Miami, with a touch of Mont-St-Michel thrown in for good measure. Convenience stores, fast food restaurants, the odd love hotel and poor town planning make it closer to a poor man’s Venice Beach. However, arrive early morning and you’ll catch the very real vibe of a true beach resort readying itself for another day of summer fun.

Oiso Long Beach pool by Murozo

Oiso Long Beach photo by Murozo

As the sun rises, the aroma of sea air is unmistakable. Rusting bikes ridden by silver surfers with their long boards precariously balanced and their dogs running alongside join the beach boys and girls heading for the water. 

Remove your flip flops and get some sand between your toes. If you choose not to hire a board, just get in the water and splash around. Surfing, sailing, windsurfing and fishing equipment are all available, and there are enough activities to keep  your tribe occupied for days.

Shower down in the free public showers or use the shower service for a small fee, provided by many of the temporary beach bars that populate the beach in the summer months. The promenade lining the beach leading to the Enoshima Aquarium offers another diversion, and then it’s off to the enchanted island that dominates the bay.

Walk over the Benten Causeway to Enoshima island and stop for a plate of turban shellfish (sazae) at the cluster of outdoor restaurants. Then take the steep, narrow street lined with local specialities and oddly familiar souvenir shops, to the main gate of Enoshima Jinja.

On the far side of the island, the adventure begins; a series of caves filled with statues of lucky Japanese deities, were said to be the home of a murderous sea dragon. Explore the botanical garden founded by the English merchant dating back to 1880, and climb the observation tower. Enter the Enoshima Jinja, where buildings date from 1657, and the naked  statue of  Benten, the  goddess of Enoshima, is displayed. It was she, so the legend has it, who stopped the dragon’s evil ways, and in so doing, Enoshima emerged from the sea. If time allows, try the spa at the entrance to the island with its numerous pools and grotto cave that opens on to the sea, and within a few hours, you’ll be the one to emerge refreshed.

Continue your journey eastwards by car to some of the finest marinas in Japan. Shintaro Ishihara’s home base of Zushi, with its exotic, refined atmosphere, and  Hayama, home to the imperial family’s seaside villa, give a taste of how the other half live. Alternatively, take the wonderfully quaint Enoden line to Kamakura, the ancient political capital of Japan, and follow the temple trail. This dinky train weaves in and out of the houses and takes you through the seaside towns. For the perfect ending, dine at Bill’s café (if you made a reservation) in Shichirigahama for cool dining with a sea view.

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Isshiki beach, Hayama

Looking for a place to stay? Head west to the far end of the bay where Oiso is the perfect resting spot. The Prince Hotel is home to a huge moving pool and water park, ‘Oiso Long Beach’, which can also be used by non-guests. Late night bowling and drive-in movies complete the fun.

The region comes alive for the summer as the Tanabata festival in Hiratuka parades giant bamboo decorations festooned with wishes from July 2nd to the 5th. Whether you choose to make it a day trip or spend a weekend exploring this exciting coast, once you’ve passed your initiation into the sun tribe, you’ll be back for more. 

INFO

OISO LONG BEACH is open
from July 8 – Sept 18, 2017
9 am – 5 pm Pool One Day Pass
Adults ¥3,800 Middle School age children ¥2,600 Elementary school age ¥2,100
July special: Preschoolers get in free for the month of July 2017
(It’s generally cheaper to go to the pool at 2 pm)
http://www.princehotels.co.jp/pool/oiso/

HOW TO GO TO ENOSHIMA BY TRAIN
Take the Enoshima Romance Car Limited Express Train operated by Odakyu Electric Railway from Shinjuku Station. Get off at Katase-Enoshima Station. Alternatively, you can take Odakyu line from Shinjuku to Fujisawa. Change onto the Enoden line to Enoshima. The Enoshima Kamakura Free Pass gives you a roundtrip from Shinjuku and unlimited use of the Enoden line for 1 day.

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