Shonan in the Sun: The Gold Coast of Japan

The Shonan region of Japan encompasses the coastal beaches and cities of Sagami Bay, situated just southwest of Tokyo. A magnet for tourists in the summer, the region’s mild climate attracts surfers and other children of the sun year round. They come for the ocean air, the sunsets, and for the chance, on clear days, to surf in the shadow of Mt. Fuji, towering in the distance.

Already famous in Japan thanks to several popular novels and films, Shonan will soon get global attention. In June, the International Olympic Committee announced that Fujisawa’s Enoshima Yacht Harbor, right in the heart of Shonan, will host sailing events for the 2020 Summer Olympics.

Olympic sailing events in Japan Enoshima yacht harbor, home of the 2020 Summer Japan Olympic sailing events

Enoshima Yacht Harbor in Fujisawa, Japan, will host sailing events during the 2020 Summer Olympics. Ben Weller/

To me, Shonan has become a second home. Aya’s family is from Fujisawa, and we were married in Kamakura. We’re big fans of the Olympics, so to have an event happening right in our backyard is a real treat. Five years out, and we’re already preparing for the influx of Olympian athletes and their fans. The three galleries below will walk you through the areas that make up the central hub of the Shonan region, and will hopefully serve as a guide for any visitors to Sagami Bay. Click on the first picture to view each gallery.

  1. Enoshima Island, the physical and spiritual heart of Shonan, offers tourists an idyllic walk among parks, shrines, caves, tidal pools, and rock formations. Get your reservations early for a ryokan (traditional Japanese inn) where you can sleep on tatami mats and bathe in hot springs. Back on the mainland, across a short causeway, you can find surf shops and pubs, rent jet skis, or just relax on the beach.

2. Surfing at Kugenuma

Just west of Enoshima Island is the Kugenuma Beach area, closest to Fujisawa City. I spend a lot of time here with my wife and with my camera. The views of Mt. Fuji are spectacular on clear days, and it’s also one of the most popular surfing spots in Shonan. The waves aren’t massive, but what the beach lacks in intensity, it makes up for in a zen-like calm. The skate park next to the beach channels that zen, and is quite possibly my favorite place to photograph–anywhere.

3. Kamakura

This small but historically significant city adjacent to Fujisawa is hip and hella fun. If you’re there for a day, visit the city’s famous Kotoku-in Temple in the morning, and walk inside its famous daibutsu (large Buddha statue). Have lunch in town, and then spend the afternoon at Yuigahama Beach. Everything’s within walking distance from Hase Station on the Enoden Line, connecting Kamkura with Fujisawa.

These are just a few of the places to go, and things to do, while you’re in Japan for the 2020 Summer Olympics. I’ll continue to add more tips to the blog as the Games approach. Aya pointed out that I need some more food pictures, so our next trip to Shonan, in November, will be food-focused, with a blog post to follow.

Ben Weller is a photographer based in Nagoya, Japan. All images by Ben Weller / © 2015


  1. Elmer Nev Valenzuela · October 7, 2015

    Great travel pics.

    • benwellerphoto · October 7, 2015

      Thank you Elmer! I hope they inspire people to visit this beautiful area.

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