The swimming season officially opens in Japan with a ceremony by a Shinto Priest declaring the waters safe to swim in. This ceremony, called Umibiraki (literally sea-opening), happens at beaches all over Japan and most Japanese people will not swim in the sea until then.
Some beaches open earlier than others, but all beaches will be open by July 1st. The summer season in Japan is short, from July to Obon (Aug. 16) because the summer school holidays are short. Also, as the rainy season doesn’t usually end until mid-July, which means the high season is really just one month, from mid-July to mid-August. Most schools break for summer holidays from the end of July through the end of August.
Most Japanese stop swimming at the end of Obon, as this is traditionally the end of the summer. It is said that if you do swim after Obon, kappa sea nymphs will come out and pull on your legs!
Tokyo’s Shonan Beach
Along the coast of Kanagawa Prefecture, an hour by train south of Tokyo and 30 minutes from Yokohama. 10 km from Kamakura. Beach bars all along the beach. Very crowded in July and August. Also, Enoshima Beach next to Shonan is even more crowded! Water sports available.
Osaka’s Shirahama beach, Wakayama-Small stretch of beach with some food stalls. Very small waves for surfing or learning to surf. Very crowded in July and August.
Inland Sea’s Shiraishi Island
Quiet beach on the Inland Sea, no waves. Never too crowded since you have to take a ferry from the mainland to get to it. Just one restaurant, one beach bar and beach shop. Water sports available.
Kyushu’s Aoshima Beach, Miyazaki
Surfing beach which is wide enough you can drive your car onto it. One or two big hotels, but other than that pretty spacious. You can walk out to Aoshima Island from here.
Shirahama Beach. Cute surfing town with not much else going on. Very laid back.
Unfortunately, there is not much information on the internet in English about beaches in Japan. As an example of what Shonan Beach has to offer, see the website of one of the local beach bars called Umigoya.
For information on Shiraishi Island Beach, see the website of the Moooo! Bar.
Amy Chavez is author of Guidebook to Japan: What the other guidebooks won’t tell you” She is a columnist for The Japan Times, co-hosts the Planet Japan podcast. Visit her website at www.amychavez.com