Life’s a Beach in Shimoda

When you think of Japan, sparkling, blue-water beaches are probably not what come to mind. I didn’t think that kind of beach existed here. I’m aware that Japan is an island, but up until last week, all the beaches I’d ever seen here were more of a dark green, murky water sort of beach. But the beaches in Shimoda felt more like tropical beaches. The water was cerulean or bright turquoise, depending on the beach. The kind where you can see straight to the bottom. I spent five glorious and relaxing days in Shimoda (I really needed to unwind), and I used all of them to nap on the beach. I didn’t get to go to every beach, but of the ones I did go to, I have four favorites.

Nabetahama Beach

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Nabetahama Beach was the closest beach to where I stayed, but that’s not why it’s one of my favorites. It is why I chose to check it out. However, after getting there, I was glad I did. It as only about a 20-minute walk (1.4 km) from my Airbnb and the walk was really beautiful. It was crazy hot, so it was also a little bit miserable, but totally worth it once I got to the water. I could have driven, but I’m glad I didn’t. This is one of the smaller and less popular beaches in the area, so parking is limited. And it’s not free. Depending on the location, parking will run you between ¥1000 and ¥1500.

What I really liked about this beach is that it was smaller, so there were fewer people. Don’t get me wrong, it was still pretty populated when I went. There were families and couples all around me, but it still felt more intimate and private than the other beaches. Also, the waterfront has a cool walking path that allows you to really enjoy the scenery. The water here is very tame (hardly any waves) and pretty shallow, so it’s good for non-swimmers and kids. I also really like that there’s a small food stand to grab lunch and drinks (beer included). You can rent paddle boards and floaties there, too. Another perk: the beach has a proper bathroom and outdoor showers to rinse off the sand and salt water after you’re done.

The day I went there was some debris in the water from the trees, so the water closer to the foliage wasn’t quite as clear, but it was still pretty. It was a vivid aqua-marine color. The water was a little cold, but with the 98-degree heat (32 degrees Celsius), it was definitely refreshing. Also, there were cuttlefish in the water that you can see with a snorkle mask. 🦑

Sotoura Beach

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My second favorite beach is Sotoura Beach. The reason this one is near the top of my list is because dogs are welcome. I went to this beach several times, mostly later in the day, with my pups. I went after 5 pm every time, so I didn’t end up having to pay for parking, but like Nabetahama Beach, parking at this beach will run you between ¥1000 to ¥1500.  When I went there were always very few people, which I really liked. It allowed me to let my dogs run around and play without worrying about them running after strangers or other dogs (they’re super friendly and really like to play).

I can’t say that I found this beach particularly beautiful. On a scale of one to five, I give it a 3.5. It was crescent-shaped and the sand was a darker shade of tan. There was quite a bit of seaweed and debris on the shore, but the water was clear. The sun was already starting to go down every time I went to Sotoura Beach, so I can’t really say what the color of the water is. This oceanfront is bigger than Nabetaham Beach, but it’s not super big. There are also a few shops nearby. The landscape surrounding Sotoura is very beautiful.  The biggest disappointment for me is the amount of garbage I found on the shore. I would rate it higher if it hadn’t been so dirty. It could have been the time of year I went. One of my favorite things about Japan is how incredibly clean it is. It’s rare to see trash anywhere that isn’t a garbage bin, so to see so much of it here was a bit of a letdown.

Trash aside though, this beach is pretty great. I loved being about to take my dogs to the ocean. I read that it as hard to find, but I used my GPS and followed the signs and got there without a problem.

Yumigahama Beach

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The next shore on my list is Yumigahama Beach. This beach was a bit of a drive from central Shimoda (about 20 minutes or so), but totally worth it in my opinion. And the scenery of the drive is nice. Parking here, like at the other beaches, will cost you about ¥1000 to ¥1500. This beach is more commercialized than the previous two. There’s a hotel very close to the oceanfront, which I’m sure attracts a lot of visitors. And for good reason.

Yumigahama Beach is lovely. It’s a bow-shaped bay at the southernmost point of the Izu Penninsula. The shore stretches about a kilometer. They call it a white sand beach, but if you’ve ever been to Hawaii, Bali, or the Maldives, you wouldn’t think so. But because many of the beaches in mainland Japan tend to have dark sand (the kind that looks like dirt), so, by comparison, the sand here is white-ish. The water is a pretty greenish color, and there are mountains on all sides. The waves are not as mild as the ones at Nabetamahama and Sotoura. They aren’t big enough to surf, but you can definitely boogie board.

My favorite thing about this beach is the amenities. There are several places to eat and drink. There are three spots just in the lot that I parked my car and a few others on the actual beach. A street with shops is in very close walking distance, so if you forgot something, you don’t need to worry. Equipment rental is also available, which is great if you don’t have your own umbrella, beach chair or inner tube. And in the water, there’s a big bounce house with obstacles and slides that you can play. It’s a lot of fun.

Shirahama Beach

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Shirahama Beach is probably rated as the most beautiful beach in Shimoda. It’s definitely the most popular. And for good reason. This beach is stunning. The sand is the lightest I saw during my trip. And the water is clear and bright blue. The tide here is stronger than at the other beaches, so this shore attracts quite a few surfers. This beach extends about 800 meters. And almost all of it was completely full the day I went. It’s definitely the most crowded waterfront I went to.

Shirahama is about four kilometers from central Shimoda. With traffic, it’s a short 15-minute trip. Parking at this beach can be a little more expensive. I was able to find parking for ¥1500 through one of the side streets nearby. Parking directly in front of the beach costs ¥2000. The farther away you get from the beach, the cheaper it is. There are hotels right by this beach, too. So if you take the train to Shimoda or decide you don’t want to beach hop and just want to stay here, you can.

There aren’t restaurants or shops right on the beach, but there are quite a few just across the street from it. There’s a Seven Eleven that sells food, drinks, and beach gear, as well as food trucks and an outdoor Hawaiian food stand. There are surf shops, beach rental spots, cafes and souvenir stores all along the street across from the oceanfront.

One of the coolest things about this beach (and my sole reason for going) is the Shinto Shrine that stands on a rock formation on the edge of this beach. I’d seen so many cool images of it, and I just had to witness it for myself. I have a thing for shrines. And the ocean is the one place that I can go that always lifts my spirit, without fail. That makes this beach the perfect combination. I wanted to get a shot that had both the rock the rope was tied to and the Shrine with the water canal between it. But the day I went the water canal was full of rubbish and seaweed; it wasn’t a pretty picture. 😞 It’s still cool to see the shrine though, and the view from that rock is amazing. I’m very glad I went.

Not A Fan of the Beach?

If the beach isn’t you’re thing, there’s still stuff to do in Shimoda and the surrounding towns. There’s the Museum of the Black Ship, an aquarium right on the ocean, and Shimoda Park is a great place for great views and a little nature. There are lots of cool little shops (only open during the day) and there’s even a zoo a few towns over.

You can get to Shimoda and its surrounding areas by train or by car. I drove because I had my dogs with me. I’m glad I did, though. It made it easier getting from place to place on my schedule. The local buses can get you around if driving is not an option.

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