Overshadowed by Japan’s myriad cultural, historical and ultra-modern attractions, Japan’s beaches are often overlooked. Although it lacks the year-round beach destinations of its southerly Asian neighbors, Japan certainly offers a bevy of its own fine beaches. Its 6,852 islands have more than 1,000 of them, from packed, urban party strips to secluded sandy getaways.
This picture-perfect island beach near the north end of the Tsuruga Peninsula consists of a narrow white strip of sand hemmed in on both sides by clear blue water. As well as soaking up the sun in one of Japan’s most stunningly beautiful locations, visitors enjoy windsurfing and diving. The beach can be reached by ferry from Shikaga or by a five-minute boat ride from the ferry port near the Shikihama bus station.
This remote group of Pacific islands have been called the “Galapagos of Japan.” Its spectacularly pristine scenery includes white-sand beaches, high rugged cliffs and turquoise waters. The Ogasawara Islands also feature their own uniquely developed plants and wildlife. Chichi-jima Island, the main island and the prime entrance point to the region, is set almost 700 miles south of Tokyo at the southern end of the Izu Islands.
Although sea and sand is not the main draw here, Zushi is highly popular among locals and visitors for its lively atmosphere, flush with activities and events during the summer and offering a colorful peek into the unique beach culture of Japan. As well as sunbathing and swimming, Zushi’s beach-goers also can enjoy surfing and fishing. Nearby Kamakura has similarly attractive beaches and is home to the Kamakura Daibutsu (Great Buddha of Kamakura).
Shirahama’s white-sand beach is set just outside Shimoda near the southern end of the Izu Peninsula. With no reef and decent waves, the beach is ideal for swimming and surfing. On a rock outcrop within plain view of the beach is Shirahama Jinja, a red Shinto shrine, while the nearby hot springs also draw plenty of visitors to Shirahama.
Set at the southernmost tip of Japanese territory, this tiny island is mostly made of coral. Upon arriving via ferry, visitors may feel as though they have entered the South Pacific. In addition to the clear shallow waters and bright white sands of Nishi Himi, the island’s most popular beach, Hateruma offers lush rainforest scenery and spectacular snorkeling and diving.