Getting wet in Hiroshima

With summer just around the corner, we will all soon be looking for some way to escape the oppressive Japanese summer heat! Japan is a country with 35,000 kilometres of coastline so one might imagine that finding a beach to relax on should not be too much of a challenge. Unfortunately, a large percentage of the coastline is encased in concrete, or is just downright manky. However, there are a few good spots to cool off at in Hiroshima-ken. Read on for the low-down on Hiroshima’s summer hotspots:

By Kate Stewart

BEACHES

There are a surprising number of great beaches in Hiroshima prefecture, including a whole host of stunning coves located on off-the-beaten-track islands. While there are some good beaches on the mainland, the islands are worth the mission. Some recommendations are:

Bayside Beach, Saka: If you are based closed to Hiroshima City and don’t want to travel far or if you are limited to public transport, try this beach. It is only 20 minutes from Hiroshima station on the Kure line, then a 5-minute walk from Mizushiri Station.

Etajima Island: Etajima is one of the largest islands in the Seto Inland Sea and has numerous beaches to lounge on. Try Sun Beach, Moon Beach, the New Blue Beach and Human Nagase Beach. All are pleasant and worth the journey. Access to Etajima is from Hiroshima Port or from Kure Port.

Tsutsumigaura Beach, Miyajima: If you’re tired of Miyajima’s deer and temples, head instead for the back of the island where you will find a 1 km long sandy beach. If you want to stay overnight you can choose from beach houses or campsites. In addition, there are tennis courts and even a nice grassy area (not an automatic in Japan!) Go to www.hiroshima-cdas.or.jp/miyajima/english/kanko_to/park/park2.htm for more information.

Sunset Beach, Setoda: The islands along the Shimanami Kaido (the road leading from Hiroshima to Shikoku across six islands) are littered with little beaches. Sunset Beach on Ikuchijima is very popular and good for swimming. It also made a great venue for a sangria beach party last summer! To get there, take a ferry from Onomichi and it’s just a 10-15 minute walk from the port.

WATER PARKS

Alternatively, if you are not a fan of salt water, there are a few water parks in the prefecture where you can beat the heat in an entirely sand- and salt-free environment.

Family Pool Chuo Park (behind the Hiroshima Baseball Stadium): It has numerous outdoor pools, including a current pool. With its central location, it’s a perfect place for city-dwellers to cool off. Entrance fee is ¥670.

Chichiyasu Hi-Park (Saeki-gun, near Miyajima-guchi): This park is a little more expensive at ¥1500 but claims to have 100% natural water in all of the pools (which is supposedly good enough to drink although I’m not sure I’d recommend testing that out). the park boasts fun slides, a wave pool, 2 paddle pools for the youngsters and 2 swimming pools.  Check out www.hi-park.com for opening times and directions.

CANOEING AND KAYAKING

For those in search of a little more action there are a number of kayaking and canoeing companies both within Hiroshima and in neighbouring Okayama and Yamaguchi prefectures.

Go no Kawa Canoe Park, Sakugi: This is a good 90 minutes by car from Hiroshima but well worth the drive. You can rent kayaks and canoes here for 500 to 800 yen an hour. There are three popular routes along the river from the park, each between 12km and 15 km long, and each of which will tkae an hour or two to complete. Lessons are also available. Email kumami@hiroshima-cdas.or.jp for more details.

Murakami Suigun Setouchi Seakayak Adventures: The calm water of the Seto Inland Sea is a great place to go sea kayaking. This particular company offers a tour to Miyajima and you can even paddle through the red torii gate. Company owner Murakami-san is very nice and eager to help foreigners.

Alternatively, check out http://www. anchorage.jp/setouchi/kayak.html for a list of kayaking companies. Prices range from 6,000-10,000 yen a day for a guided outing.

SURFING

I have been asked by many people about surfing in Hiroshima-ken. The main obstacle to surfing here would be the lack of waves! With the exception of braving a typhoon for a freak wave, (friends tell me this has been done between Onomichi and Mukaishima), your closest options are Kochi-ken (in southern Shikoku) or Shimane- and Tottori-kens on the Japan Sea coast. Yamaguchi-ken is also an option, but better for more experienced surfers.

For beginners, I recommend Kochi. It is safer, warm, and has more of the things you need to get started than the west coast options. For wave and beach information check out: http://www.surfinglife.jp/ or pick up a copy of ‘Beachcomber’ magazine, free in most surf and sports shops.

If you are heading for Kochi, chances are you will be passing through Onomichi. Drop into Rodeo Surf for wax, surfing supplies and all the local knowledge you will ever need. The owner, Manabu Osumimoto, rents boards, gives lessons and can tell you where to go to find the right waves for you. Alternatively, visit Board Magic in Hiroshima City (www.magicislandsurf.com).

THINGS TO BE AWARE OF ON JAPANESE BEACHES

Many beaches only officially open in July and August. They will usually have the
dates posted at the beach itself or in local papers and websites. Although it is unlikely that you will be prevented from swimming outside these dates, it does mean that facilities, lifeguards and parking are often unavailable.

Global warming has seen a huge increase in the number of jellyfish in Japanese waters over the last 5 years. They are most abundant in this area towards the end of summer (late August – September/October). For this reason many beaches close near the end of August. Beware, their stings are very painful, and they leave pretty nasty scars.

If you can get over the crowds, the jellyfish and the concrete, you should be able to find a place to cool off over the summer. Enjoy!

For more information on beaches and other summer activities around Hiroshima prefecture, check out www.gethiroshima.com.