Do you like white sand beaches, cool clean waves, and scenic views all around?
If so, hop in your car or jump on a train and make the 2.5-hour trip from Tokyo to Shimoda (Izukyu-Shimoda Station) on the southern tip of the Izu Peninsula.
I recently took my family for a 4-day 3-night surfing trip to beautiful Shirahama beach which is on the coast about 5KM from the city of Shimoda. We got a room for four (4 single beds) at the Shimoda Prince Hotel for only JPY 13,000 per night inclusive of tax. The rates are typically this low or lower except during the high summer season (mid-July to the end of August) and Golden Week in the spring.
The room was spacious by Japanese standards and had a micro-balcony that overlooked the hotel’s beautiful private beach and the Pacific Ocean.
The children had a great time exploring the hotel’s beach and the small tide pools on the south side of the beach. And, there were always 4-5 surfers riding the nicely shaped waves that were breaking over sand and rock about 30 meters from the beach.
Being novice surfers and wanting to avoid any rocks, we opted to drive 3 minutes down the road to the Shirahama public beach. The beach was pretty packed on Sunday. But during the week the crowds dropped to a manageable level.
There are surf areas on the far ends of the beach with a surf shop located on the highway above the beach. Public parking at the beach ranges from JPY 1,000 to JPY 2,000 per day.
We chose to park at the Shirahama Marina Surf Shop at the southern side of the beach because the cost was only JPY 1,000 per day and we could rent any needed equipment there. The staff were also quite friendly and helpful.
FYI, surfboard rentals range from JPY 3,000-4,000 per day.
The waves on the beach were perfectly suited for my surf gang. They were breaking about 2 meters high and good distance out from the beach. For those that wanted a tamer experience, you could catch the “soup” or white wash and still get a very nice ride.
Compared to crowded and not so clean beaches of Shonan where we usually surf, the crystal clear water, white sand beach, and relatively small number of surfers made surfing at Shirahama a real treat.
In terms of food, we would usually hit the local convenience stores for lunch. But I have to admit, we did get sucked into the McDonalds in Shimoda (located right across from the train station) for breakfast almost everyday. What can I say? It’s hard to convince three hungry boys that a 7-11 onigiri (rice ball) would be better dietary decision than a Double Egg Sausage McMuffin at McDonalds. And, truth be told, the hotcakes and coffee, aren’t a bad to start a surf day.
After surfing all day, we’d usually head back to the hotel, shower, and then head into Shimoda for dinner. There are a bunch of restaurants in the area right around the port where all the fishing boats are moored and some more over by the train station.
Of special mention was Fukunoya an eclectic little restaurant that was established a few years ago by “Boss” Minoru Fukuda. Having run a jazz bar in Tokyo for almost 30 years, the “Boss” decided to relocated to Shimoda and set up shop. His stated goal is to provide delicious meals at the most reasonable price in Shimoda.
In my opinion, he has more than accomplished his target. My big plate of yakisoba was only JPY 350, about half of what it would cost in Tokyo or other restaurants in Shimoda. Other set dinner meals were all priced JPY 700 and less. The food was great, the servings generous, and the atmosphere very friendly. We will definitely go back.
There are plenty of other things to do in the area besides surfing and playing on the beach. There are cable cars, hot springs, an aquarium, a harbor tour on a faux Black Ship, an observatory, monuments, temples, fishing, and more. So, whether you want to surf, or just stretch your legs and explore a scenic side of Japan, catch a wave to Shimoda.
Written by Mark Shriner
Copyright Rugby News Japan 2015