If you think Japan is all Geishas, Hello Kitty, and Harajuku girls, think again… there’s more to this fascinating island than meets the eye. Japan is fast becoming one of the world’s top tourist destinations, and with its promise of amazing cuisine, fascinating cities, age-old traditions and quirky pop culture, it’s not hard to see why. As it gears up to hit the sporting limelight when the Rugby World Cup hits its shores in Fall 2019 (with the Olympic games falling in hot pursuit in 2020), there’s never been a better time to think about packing up your suitcase and heading east. Outside of the cities and the stadiums, there’s a very different, and completely unmissable, side to the country – namely, its incredible beaches. Explore the possibilities with our guide to the top 5 beach destinations in Japan.
Situated just west of Okinawa and about 2000 km from Tokyo, Ishigaki is considered Japan’s premier beach destination. Blessed with a fantastic location that makes island hopping around the Yaeyama archipelago a breeze, Ishigaki makes a particularly great spot for families, with safe, net- protected beaches and plenty of water sports on offer. For nature lovers, the area provides some great opportunities for wildlife spotting, with lucky beachgoers often spying reel fish and sea turtles close to shore. Along with its pristine sandy beaches, Ishigaki also boasts a lively nightlife, with enough restaurants, bars and clubs to keep you entertained into the wee hours.
Taketomi Island offers everything you could want from a beach holiday: white sand, shallow, clear waters, and immaculate coral reefs. If you’re looking for the easy convenience and nonstop entertainment of resorts, forget it… Taketomi is a sleepy, “lost in time” kind of place, where visitors are expected to abandon taxis for buffalo carts, and where the only form of nightlife consists of a quiet beer overlooking the sunset. However, if you’re looking to relax on golden sands, try a spot of snorkeling, or take a bicycle ride around the island’s gorgeous scenery, you’re in the right place.
If we’re talking best beach destinations, it would be remiss not to mention Japan’s most tropical hotspot, Emerald Beach. The beach is situated on the main Okinawa Island of Honto, and gets its name from the stunning, emerald colored waters that lap its shores. Honto is commonly considered the “Japanese Riviera”, with palm- fringed, picture- perfect beaches and a high society vibe. Consisting of a 500 meter stretch of white sand, Emerald Beach sits in the Ocean Epo Park on the north coast of the Island (if you’re travelling with kids, be sure to take in the park’s free aquarium and museum). Interesting fact: Emerald Beach is completely closed off by a massive reef, which allows it the status of the only beach-lagoon in Japan.
One of the most urban destinations to make the list, Nokonoshima is a small island in the middle of Hakata Bay. Consisting of a series of beaches overlooking the skyscrapers of nearby Fukuoka, Nokonoshima is not the place for holidaymakers who want to escape the beaten track. However, if you want a taste of beach life while still having easy access to the city, you couldn’t get much better. While you’re in the area, be sure to check out Nokonoshima Gardens. Its colorful floral displays make the island a year- round attraction, and are well worth a visit in their own right.
If you’re looking to escape the crowds, head over to the island of Shikoku. Its southern shore is largely deserted, and boasts a number of charming beaches. Chief among them is Asakawa Ozuna, a pretty, tranquil spot overlooking the pristine waters of the Pacific. Although the beach and its surrounding areas are a mecca for Japanese surfers, it’s rarely crowded, and retains a tranquil air of serenity even during peak season. Despite the low numbers of visitors, the beach has some great facilities on offer, including accessible parking, showers, beach lockers and toilets. Considering all it has to offer, Asakawa Ozuna makes a top choice for families looking to enjoy each other’s company in a relaxed and peaceful environment.