Shimoda has some of the most beautiful and pristine yellow-sand blue-ocean beaches in all of Japan. Commodore Perry certainly picked a choice spot to roll up at in his black ships- further up the coast other trade envoys were met by steel-toting Samurai’s stood on the grey-sand grey-ocean cock-roach infested trash-havens of Enoshima and Kamakura. Not for Perry though, and not in Shimoda. Shirahama, Tatadohama, and Ohama beaches are gorgeous, sun-kissed, and every time I’ve visited them- about 50% empty.
I drove down to Izu with Mike, Jason and Aya last weekend- continuing a tradition of three years now to camp overnight on Tatadohama Beach. Unfortunately this may be the last time we go, as Jason and Aya are moving to the US, and Mike was so frustrated by the traffic getting into the Izu Peninsula he almost vowed to never return. Feel his rage on his blog here.
It took us over 7 hours to drive about 130km from Shinjuku to Shimoda. We spent almost all of that time in bumper-to-bumper traffic, trawling out of Tokyo, hugging the coast road, snailing in and out of the little tourist towns like Atami that dot the coast like limpets. To some extent it’s our own fault though- we left at 10am, traffic peak time. To really get anywhere out of Tokyo at a decent clip, you need to leave at an ungodly hour of the night.
We arrived at Ohama beach around 5pm, with just enough daylight for Mike to take a dip, and Jason and Aya to do some surfing and skim-boarding. I preferred to stay dry, a perpetual land-lubber, and sat in my camping chair, drank my beer, and took photos of the beach life unfolding around me.
Kids play on the wet sand.
Surfer guy marches his board towards the ocean.
Momma thinks about taking a dip.
Jason contemplates his next skimming route.
Mike bodyboards while girls look on.
Limpets hug the rock like small sea-side towns hug the coast.
I recommend Shimoda’s beautiful beaches to you with a few proviso’s:
1- Camping on the beach is technically illegal, but all the surfers do it, so you shouldn’t have a problem really.
2- You should aim to drive to there and from there in the middle of the night if you want to avoid traffic.
3- Inns and ryokans nearby fill up fast, especially in the height of summer, so book ahead. On the same note- in high season the beaches are apprently totally packed. Avoid high season.
There’s a few other things to do around Shimoda besides lounge on the beach- there’s a ropeway up a cliff-side, the shrine where Commodore Perry signed the treaty with the Shogun to open up Japan, lots of pretty rocks, and of course many onsen. I’ve only ever lounged on the beach- expecting I’d be under-whelmed by the reportedly small Perry museum, but you can give all those things a try.
You can see all MJG’s Tokyo content here:
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