From whacking watermelons with sticks to burying your friends in the sand or holding sweltering Japanese style BBQs, Japan has a very specific beach culture. We’ve introduced some of these activities before on our site, but this time, we’ve supersized the experience by adding more activities–and extra cheese!
We’ll introduce 13 beach scenes that you’re bound to experience on any trip to a Japanese beach, and present most of them in a six-second Vine video. We picked one of our favorite places to Vine from: Shiraishi Island in Japan’s Seto Inland Sea where one of our writers happens to live. This tiny island of 560 people in Okayama Prefecture, is one of Japan’s best kept secrets: the beach is never crowded, the sea is tranquil, the sunsets superb, and the beer never stops flowing.
Get ready to take the plunge into the sea of Japanese beach culture with a local to show you la plage–Japanese style!
You’ve just gotten off the ferry at Shiraishi Island and I’ve come to meet you. Konnichiwa! My name is Amy and I’ve been running the Moooo! Bar on a the beach here for 10 years. I’m going to treat you to a day on our beach! It’s about a 10-minute walk from the ferry port, but the scenery along the way is beautiful, so I don’t think you’ll mind.
▼We pass a small beach and Benten Island on the way.
Finally, we’re here. Check out the beach–there’s hardly anyone on it! This is pretty normal.
The first thing we want to do is find a place on the beach to settle in for the day. Since we didn’t bring a tent or a parasol to shade us from the sun, let’s do what many Japanese people do: rent a space! Yep, you can rent shade (who woulda thunk it!) in a kyukeisho.
1. Kyukeisho (rental space)
▼This is the Moooo! Bar kyukeisho. It is covered by a bamboo roof. The price is 500 yen per person per day (approx. US$5) and includes a table with a hammock. You can also use the dressing room.
Others, such as “Freestyle” below, offer sajiki style where you can rent space on a raised platform. Hiro (the octopus hunter) runs this kyukeisho and he offers one space for 1,000 yen during the week (US$10), and 2,000 yen on the weekends (US$20). If you rent a space, you’re welcome to bring your own food and drink, but as the sign in the video reminds you, you’re expected to take your garbage home with you.
2. Umi-no-ie (seaside restaurant/shack)
On the other hand, we could go for an umi-no-ie instead, which is bigger than a kyukeisho and in addition to offering food and drink, may also offer shade, a dressing room, and showers for after swimming. Since it’s my treat today, let’s go to the Moooo! Bar where we can relax in a hammock in the shade while drinking moogaritas and pina mooladas from the bar.
▼Any structure on the beach, even a bar, can be considered an umi-no-ie. However, what they offer in addition to food and drink can vary.
This is Amano-san’s umi-no-ie. She offers space, showers and assorted foods such as udon, kakigori shaved ice and curry rice.
3. Ukiwa (swimming rings)
So, now that we’re settled in at the Moooo! Bar, let’s go swimming. But not without your ukiwa swimming ring!
▼Forgot to bring yours? No worries, you can rent one from an umi-no-ie.
4. Kakigori (shaved ice)
After a nice swim, it’s great to be back in the hammock relaxing! Ahhh. But aren’t you thirsty? It’s a little early to start drinking, but it would be nice to have something cold and non-alcoholic. Let’s go find some kakigori.
▼Kakigori comes in many flavors such as strawberry, lemon and melon. This one is called Blue Hawaii.
Hey look! Over there is a special kakigori stand, dedicated exclusively to this Japanese summertime favorite.
5. Sunayama (sand hill)
Now that we’ve eaten our kakigori, what should we do next? I know, let’s build a sand hill!
▼A typical sunayama has a moat around it and tunnels underneath.
But some people take it a bit further…
6. Suna-ume (burying someone in the sand)
Okay, it’s time to do something really fun–let’s bury each other in sand! Ready?
▼Both adults and children love burying each other in the sand.
▼These people are really into it–they brought a shovel!
▼Since it’s not often you have your friends in such a vulnerable position, mild hazing is acceptable!
7. Suikawari (watermelon splitting)
Look over there! Some people are doing suikawari!
Groups who come to the beach will usually bring a watermelon to eat. But they won’t cut it up in the traditional manner. Instead, they’ll whack it with a stick to open it. Now that’s whacky! And it’s also tons of fun.
▼This watermelon has been whacked a few times but not quite enough to crack open. Yet…
8. Umi no Wan-chan (surf dogs)
Dogs love the beach too, so you’ll find plenty of cute beach dogs on land and water.
▼ Too cute to pass up.
▼These dogs even have their own inflatable swimming pool on the beach!
This is one of our local beach dogs.
9. Beach babes
Speaking of cute, even our small island has fashionable girls who come to the beach. The usually dress up in their best make-up…
…and their best bikinis! In heels, of course.
10. Group photos
And naturally, Japanese beach-goers love to take photos! And not just selfies. One of the most popular types is the group jump photo, which takes a bit of practice and timing to get right.
▼This girl takes a picture of her friends jumping in unison.
▼But any type of group photo is popular. These girls spell out the word L-O-V-E
As if it isn’t hot enough already, or maybe because it’s so hot that a few more degrees won’t make a difference, a Japanese-style BBQ on the beach in the scorching sun, is mandatory.
▼Fresh seafood, like this sazae (giant snail) used to be the norm for BBQs on the beach.
But these days, most people grill meat. And don’t forget the veggies: onions, carrots, pumpkin, green pepper, etc can all be thrown on the BBQ.
12. Yuhi (sunset)
That was really nice of those guys to invite us to join their BBQ. Nothing like a little nanpa (flirting) on the beach! I’m stuffed. Let’s go back to the Moooo! Bar now, grab a Moogarita and watch the sun set.
▼Always choose a beach that faces west.
13. Hanabi (fireworks)
Now that it’s dark and we’ve had too many Moogaritas, let’s set off some fireworks!
▼Fireworks (totally legal to buy in Japan) are a popular summertime activity and necessary for a good beach outing that goes into the night.
Well, it’s time to go home now but let’s grab a draft beer at another umi-no-ie before heading back to the mainland–one for the road! Cheers!
I hope you enjoyed your day on the beach on Shiraishi Island. May the remainder of your summer be filled with tranquil seas, superb sunsets and beer that never stops flowing.
Photos © Amy Chavez/RocketNews24