Beach Lover? Head to Izu Peninsula!
I am a beach lover. Come summer, seaside is the place to be.
Sadly for me, summer in Tokyo doesn't last as long as in Sicily, and the weather here is often beach-unfriendly due to the tropical weather that brings frequent rains and storms.
But summer comes to the Kanto region, eventually, so where to go?
I avoid the beaches close to Tokyo, because they tend to be too crowded for my taste, and instead I travel for about 2 to 4 hours south towards Izu peninsula.
The Izu region is blessed with beaches, made of pebbles, or white sand, or black sand, or simply cliffs, they are more or less close to Tokyo, making them the ideal one day trip or one week vacation destinations. Everyone can find their favorite strip of sand in Izu.
I love traveling all the way down to Shimoda, at the tip of Izu peninsula, which alone offers tens of beautiful fine white sand beaches.
The most famous of all is Shirahama, perfect for surfers and young crowds who want to have fun and still be close to facilities, restaurants, and shops. On the left end of Shirahama beach there is a rock with a sacred red gate on top, which serves very well for scenic pictures of sunrises or sunsets. Those who need more spirituality than nature can provide, can visit the nearby small Shirahama shrine.
Not far away from Shirahama there's another beach, called Shirahama Chuo, part of it is reserved for the nearby hotel patrons, but the rest is public. There are rocks even very close to the shore, so one needs to be careful when running or jumping into the water. This beach has very shallow and calm waters, making it an ideal place for children. It offers some fine snorkeling spots, too. It is also close to a few cute souvenir shops where I always stop by to buy summer accessories.
The perfect beach for children is, in my opinion, Sotoura, the closest beach to the station and town center. Its moon-shaped coastline, naturally carved into the rocks, is very beautiful adn the water is always clean and flat. As far as I remember, Sotoura is the only beach where I could swim all day long without worrying about waves, surfers, and drunken boys annoying people on the beach.
The less known beaches are the less accessible and the farest, but also less crowded. It is the case for Kujuppama, which is tucked between high cliffs and takes a bus ride up and a long walk down before reaching the small opening where one can finally lay a towel and relax in peace. There aren't many shops around here, so make sure to bring all you need with you...you don't want to hike up again any time soon, believe me!
Tatado, Kisami Ohama, Irita beaches are further away form the city, reachable only by bus or car, and keep in mind that Izu is not Tokyo metropolis: buses schedule is very relaxed, with only a few rides per day, so make sure you plan your trips with an eye on the timetables.
I found Ohama and Irita beaches very beautiful and very good for families, but sea conditions are unpredictable, such that on some days the water is calm and clear, but some others it is agitated and that's when many surfers take over.
It is hard to pick what my favorite beach is, because they all have some peculiar traits, a sort of personality that is unique to each of them and makes it difficult to prefer one over the others...that's why I go back to Shimoda every time I can so that I can spend time in all its wonderful beaches!
However, if long holidays are not possible for you, then the closer beaches of Atami and Ito offer the best trade-off between distance and beauty. They can still be a bit crowded, but there is more to gain than to lose here: lots and lots of onsen where to soak in after a long day at the beach, breathtaking views of the mountains and the sea, walking trails around town and beyond to explore.
Summer is not over yet, or so we wish to think, so there is still some time to go and find the beach that works best for you.