Saturday, 1 October 2011

The Sands of Shirahama

If you’re looking to see the best of Japanese mainland beaches, you can’t do too much better than a place called Shirahama. It lies to the south of Osaka and is about two and a half hours on the slow train; so not too far away from us. We had heard much about it from some of our Aussie friends and given that it was the last long weekend of summer, they had lured us down to check it out. From what I can gather, Japan is not particularly known for having great beaches as many are rocky or consist of dark and gritty volcanic sand, much of which goes into glass production. However, Shirahama is quite the exception with its white silica sand spanning across a wonderfully proportioned horseshoe bay that is reminiscent of a mini Bondi Beach. You may wonder why this particular cove has such wonderful white sand? Well, as only the Japanese can do, the sand was shipped in from Perth, Western Australia in the 1990’s and has been beautifully maintained (despite the occasional typhoon) ever since. From this pristine stretch of sand a resort town has grown, and it has now become one of the most popular honeymoon spots for Japanese newlyweds. In fact when local movie producers are looking to film a scene from Waikiki Beach in Hawaii on the cheap, this is the place they come. Although it was still quite warm when we arrived, it was clearly the end of the tourist season with the beach being largely deserted. While local lifesavers continued to practice their rescue drills and the occasional tourist splashed around in the jade green waters, Shirahama remained surprisingly quiet. This is a far cry from the peak of summer where it is certainly the place to be and towel space is at a premium. We had plenty of areas to choose, but eventually settled for a spot close to a small square of sand that had been pegged out as a place where a sea turtle had recently laid its eggs. Like us, it had obviously been attracted by the soft sand and a place to enjoy the warmth of the summer sun. In the evening we returned back to the beach to enjoy a spectacular sunset, with a big red sun as bold as the one on the Japanese flag sinking below the horizon directly out to sea … it’s not surprising that honeymooners love this place so much! As darkness hit, we enjoyed the local tradition of lighting fireworks on the beach. This is apparently an accepted aspect of summer in this tourist town, with groups creating their own sky show most nights for others to enjoy when the sun goes down. This can be a dangerous practice after a few drinks, but we survived and in the cool of the evening it seemed like the only fitting way to celebrate our day on the sand in Shirahama.

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