You might not think of the beach as the first few destinations in Japan that you would want to add to your Japan itinerary, but you might want to reconsider. The city lights and culturally rich attractions are great and all, but can it beat a beach day out?
You wouldn’t expect Japan to be scattered with amazing beaches, complete with picturesque landscapes. Some are even wonderful spots for sunsets and sunrise — after all, it is the Land of the Rising Sun. The island nation’s beaches are perfect getaway spots for the people of the city. The peace and serenity are exactly what they’re looking for. There’s the impression that the only beaches worth visiting are all down south of Japan — little did they know beaches on the mainland, even the northern part, can be twice as beautiful!
No matter where you are in Japan, there’s a beach waiting nearby for you to chill at. The beach culture in Japan is quite impressive. Read on to find out more about the top beaches in the country and what we may as well refer to as the “Japan beach etiquette”!
Are There Beaches in Japan?
The answer to the title is 100% yes! Japan is an island country. It’s surrounded by a wide, blue ocean. Some of the beaches are blessed with extra stunning landscapes and natural forms. You wouldn’t believe your eyes when you see them!
The Japan beaches have categories — or some sort of. Some are perfect for swimming, water activities like surfing and jet skiing, beach activities like volleyball and even just sunbathing. Some of these public beaches are more developed than others, fully equipped with barbecues and beach umbrella set-ups. There are also Japan beaches more remote and just full of nature, which makes them the ultimate spots for underwater activities like snorkeling.
As soon as summer hits, you’ll see families and groups of friends crowding every beach of the country! From dipping in the waters to beat the heat and suntanning in the warm sun to beach sports and water activities, the whole stretch of shore will be full of excitement and fun.
Whether it is traveling down south during the colder seasons or packing a day bag for the seaside in summer, the Japanese love their beaches. Let’s take a look at the top beaches in Japan — both mainland and islands!
Japan’s Mainland Beaches
Not all of the people in Japan want to take days off work just for a day at the beach down south. Some just want a day trip to a nearby beach on the mainland. You might think it’s a substitute for the island beaches of the tropical Japan destinations, but you’ll be surprised at some of these being even more beautiful than you imagined!
What’s more, these mainland beaches are more accessible and some even offer things you won’t get on the Japan islands. Here are the top mainland beaches for your short day getaway from the bustling cities:
Shizuoka — Miho Beach
Don’t want to travel too far out of Tokyo? Perhaps a car ride to Mizo Beach in Shizuoka will satisfy your beach day cravings. This beach is unique in the sense where you won’t be getting a normal seaside view — you’ll be getting a Mt. Fuji view!
Miho Beach is not your average sandy sand beach — it is rather pebbly in comparison. But a lie down on the sand isn’t what the visitors are here for. The stunning view amidst the tall pine trees and other beautiful flora nature makes the trip down here worthwhile. Grab your swimming suit — a dip in the sea with Mt. Fuji in the background sounds like an unbelievable experience!
Shizuoka — Toji Sand Ski Resort
Even though it’s named as a resort, it’s not really one. Also in Shizuoka, not so far from Tokyo, is the Toji Sand Ski Resort! This is not your average beach. While you can still bring your beach mats, you might want to grab a sled as well (or rent one at a shop near the beach). This Toji Sand Ski Resort is one of the only few with a sand slope that you can sled down on as you take in the beautiful scenery.
After your sledding adventures and a dip in the waters, get your adventure on by exploring the nearby open cave called the Ryugukutsu. A trip to the Toji Sand Ski Resort will undoubtedly not be your average beach day in the best way possible!
Kanagawa — Yuigahama Beach
Kanagawa is not far off from Tokyo, and if you find yourself in the area or looking for a beach to relax after a busy few days in the city, head down to Yuigahama Beach. This is the perfect choice for those looking for both relaxations as well as convenience in a beach spot. Yuigahama Beach is close enough to the nearest train station and fully equipped with pop up stalls of food and drinks for your pleasure.
It’s only natural to assume a beach so developed would be less of nature and more commercial. Rest assured Yuigahama Beach is the perfect balance of serenity in nature and modernity.
This beach spot is one of the favorite local choices for surfing as well, depending on the currents and tides. Plan your days accordingly to enjoy the best of what this beach can offer!
Kanagawa — Zushi Beach
Just around the corner from Kamakura in Kanagawa is the Zushi Beach. This is one of the most popular beaches in the area and the first choice for swimming, surfing, and parasailing. If you’re in the city to visit the Budhha Statue, why not drop by this 600m long beachside for a leisurely stroll or sit?
If you’re lucky enough to get a clear sky on the day of the visit, be sure to stay till sunset. You’ll get to witness a spectacular view of Mt. Fuji as the sun sets behind its hilly bits.
Wakayama — Shirahama Beach
Take note that this is not the Shirahama Beach in Shizuoka that we’re talking about, this is the one in Wakayama! Named as the “white beach”, you expect it to be one of the most popular beaches in the country — and you’re right. This spot is one of the most ideal ones for both dipping and lounging, along with a wonderful resort area to spend a few nights in.
One thing this beach spot has that the others don’t is the oceanside onsen. After your dip in the steaming Japanese hot springs, cool yourself down in the clear waters of the Shirahama Beach. You should also definitely stroll down the strip of sand to view the magnificent cliff formations!
Iwate — Jodogahama Beach
While it’s a bit of a travel from central Tokyo, believe me when I say this beach is worth the trip. Jodogahama Beach in Iwate is part of the Sanriku Recovery National Park, so you’re assured a clean and nature-rich beach — its name does translate to Pure Land Beach.
Not only this beach is a popular destination for all things swimming and hiking, but it’s also great for exploring the nearby caves amidst the beautiful and unique rock formations by going on a boat cruise. If you’re not all that adventurous, just the sight of it from the beachside is more than good enough.
Japan’s Island Beaches
Fair enough, Japan mainland has its own exquisite range of beaches, each with its own unique factor that the rest won’t have. Onto the island beaches in Japan — the Okinawa area is one of the most popular beach destinations for locals and tourists alike!
The region is blessed with a semi-tropical climate all year round, and since it became so popular, the area is full of beach resorts worth spending a couple of days — or even a week! — to fully explore the mainland island as well as the other smaller islands.
Because it’s such a tropical island, there are tons of beaches that you might get overwhelmed! Fear of missing out on the best beaches in Okinawa? Read on to find out the top ones to put on your Japan island beaches list!
Hateruma Island — Nishi no Hama Beach
On the southernmost island in all of Japan is Hateruma Island. This inhabited island, specifically the Nishi no Hama Beach, is the place to go if you’re looking for the most natural beaches in the whole country. The contrast between the fine sand and sparkling blue water is quite breathtaking — not to mention the awesome feeling of dipping in the waters and lying down on the soft sand bed.
Nishi no Hama Beach is quite far out and less developed in the sense of beach stalls and shops, so it’s best to bring your own swimming and beach stuff as well as refreshments to make the best of your day there.
Miyakojima Island — Yonaha Maehama Beach
Located on Miyakojima Island is the famous Yonaha Maehama Beach. The reason it’s so popular is that it’s one of the beaches in all of the Pacific with the whitest sands! It’s no wonder visitors make their way here despite the slight inconvenience in terms of accessibility.
With 7km long of white sand, even with the popularity, the beach is rarely crowded at all! Every kind of water sports can be done here — if you’re a fan of scuba diving and snorkeling, make this your #1 beach destination in Japan!
Don’t just travel here for a day. The island has resort areas full of campsites and hotels that line the shore. Wake up to the view of the horizon — if you’re lucky enough, you might even get a room that overlooks the sunrise or sunset! One of the best hotels you should consider is the Hotel Locus — stylish and affordable, it also has a couple of retail outlets to feed that shopaholic side of yours!
Taketomi Island — Kondoi Beach
More accessible than the former two beaches is the Kondoi Beach in Taketomi Island. This beach is only a short ferry ride away from Japan’s top travel destinations, Ishigaki. This beach is more untouched than the ones on mainland Okinawa Island, so it’s one of the best island beaches to get your snorkeling gear on and see some fishes and corals!
If snorkeling is not your thing, a normal swim and dip are just as ideal — or you can take in the sun as you lie down on the soft, ivory sand.
Ishigaki Island — Sunset Beach
Last but definitely not the least of the list is Sunset Beach on Ishigaki Island. As the name suggests, this beach is the ultimate spot to view the sunset. To complete the serene view, the combination of the beach’s white sand and the glistening sea is so breathtaking it can be a picture on a postcard!
Before the sunset, take some time out for your snorkeling activities — you’ll be surprised at the variety of marine life you’ll see! Other water activities like jet boards and wakeboarding are available too! Ishigaki Island has become such a popular holiday destination that the resorts are great to stay a night or two so you wouldn’t have to rush your time on this spectacular island!
Japan Beach Tips
We all know that Japan is special in every form and way. So one would assume that there are things about Japanese beaches that are unique to Japan. You’re absolutely right! When it comes to public spaces, there are unspoken rules that — regardless if you’re a local or foreigner — everyone is obligated to follow.
Any and every beach trip is a wish for a relaxing day in the sun surrounded by sand and sea. We wouldn’t want to disrupt someone else’s peaceful day out by not following — or even not knowing — the unspoken Japan “beach etiquette”.
There isn’t a set-in-stone beach etiquette, so to speak. But, there are things better off knowing than without that will guarantee a smooth beach adventure in Japan. Here are a couple of tips you should take note of before your beach-venture!
Your trash is yours
If you notice anything about Japan, it’s that the country is speckless. It is known as one of the cleanest countries in the world! This includes the beaches as well — you won’t see trash lying around on the white sand. The only things you’ll find on the beach are washed up seaweed (if any) and seashells.
All this is because there’s this sense of individual responsibility when it comes to public spaces in Japan — beaches included. The locals (expats, as well) will not leave behind what wasn’t already there before, and that includes primarily trash. Your trash is your own, and they still belong to you until they’re binned properly in the trash bins.
The whole concept of keeping your own trash is a huge thing in Japan. Since there aren’t many bins lying around in the first place, locals just hold on to their trash till they come across one — sometimes they won’t and they’ll take it all the way home to bin it then!
The best thing to do before going to the beach is to bring extra bags with you to store all your trash. Expect the beaches to not have a single bin at all — so you wouldn’t want to be walking around with handfuls of trash, do you?
There is “swim season”
Just from reading the title, you’ll be wondering, “what is swim season?” Japan has a term called umi-baraki, which is Japanese for “beach opening”. This is basically the indication that the swim season has started. It’s unusual to think of beaches to be open or closed, but in Japan, they can be! While they wouldn’t physically be closed with metal gates and all, everyone in the country knows it’s not the time to be visiting a beach.
Don’t get me wrong, everyone is still welcome to go to the beaches at any time of the year. One thing you have to note is that there won’t be any lifeguards around, so all beach activities are at your own risk.
The Japanese have the umi-baraki for a number of reasons, the main one being safety. The exact date of the “swim season” is determined by the water quality, temperature, and other similar factors. During this “swim season”, you’ll see not only lifeguards around but also ropes in the sea to indicate the separation of safe areas and deeper waters — these strongly depend on the tides and currents.
Some beaches may even have a “no swim” rule throughout the entire year. You’re basically not allowed to enter the waters at all! This might be because of danger factors like boat and jet ski paths, and dangerous currents. Before heading down to a beach, look up if it’s under the “no swim” beaches like Kabira Bay.
While this may not be a rule of some sort, but it’s a great tip to keep in mind, especially when chatting with fellow Japanese people. The Obon season is the time of the year where the people of Japan honor the spirits of their ancestors. Legend says that it’s during this time when the spirits return to land from the sea.
Because of such beliefs, many of the older generations wouldn’t be seen at the beach after this national holiday, when the ancestor spirits return to the sea. You’ll definitely see the younger generation people casually chilling on the seaside with their beach mats and big hats — they’re apparently unfazed by the unsettling stories of being pulled into the waters to their deaths by their ancestor spirits.
I guess if you’re a believer in legends, you might want to skip out on visiting the beach after the Obon season ends. Most people just go ahead with it — to be fair, there hasn’t been any news about suspicious disappearances at the Japan beaches, so I’d say it’s a safe bet that your beach trip in August is all safe and well.
If you come from a country where beaches are full of rental shops for your beach mats, towels, and other beach stuff, you’re lucky. Some beaches in Japan are just the sun, sand and sea — no stalls set up for these rental services, and not even an eatery in sight.
For this very reason, come extremely prepared! Bring all you need for your beach trip — pack your beach towels, hats, and other beach accessories. You may want to wear your swimsuit underneath your clothing just for convenience — it might be difficult to find a changing room at some beaches.
Don’t forget about refreshments! You don’t have to make your own food from home (unless you want to). Drop by a convenience store or supermarket on the way to the beach to get a couple of necessities — like a few bottles of water and some snacks. Do take note that depending on the beach, drinking alcohol might not be allowed, so check beforehand!
For those beaches that have cafes and stores, the items there tend to be more expensive. If you’re anything like me and want to save a few bucks, you’ll come with everything you need and more! If you don’t mind the extra splurge, the beachfront shops might be of convenience to you.
What’s Your Pick For Sun, Sand, and Sea?
You’re all set with the tips for Japan beaches, and you know exactly where to go for a fun beach day depending on the part of the country. There are tons of breathtakingly beautiful beaches in the country — it’s only normal to want to go to them all! When the weather is warm and the sun comes out to play, what will be your first pick for the sun, sand, and sea in Japan?