Yuigahama beach in Kamakura, home of the 2020 Summer Japan Olympic sailing events

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/www.wellerpix.com

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 / www.wellerpix.com © 2015

A Day in Nagoya: Boat Race Tokoname

As a photographer in Japan, I get to see some pretty cool stuff, either on assignment or just out exploring with my camera. As I explore, I’ve started making a mental tourist map of places to revisit with my wife, to take friends and family who come to visit, or to suggest to first-time travelers in Japan. So, I’m going to start a new section here on the blog called “A Day in Nagoya,” where I guide you, my readers, around my new city with camera in hand. Since I live here, I have more than a day, but everything I plan to feature is something that you could do if you were short on time in the city. And of course, as this is a photography blog, I’m going to try to choose places, events, and activities that have a strong visual appeal. Mind you, if you only have one day here, you’ll want to choose carefully, because there are a lot of fun options. Hopefully this new section will help you do just that.

First up, Boat Race Tokoname:

kyotei boat race in tokoname, near nagoya.

Racers try to break out at the start of the race.

If you’ve ever taken the Meitetsu Line from Chubu Centrair International Airport to Nagoya Station, you may have looked out the train window and seen the boat racing arena at Tokoname. Perhaps you’ve even seen a race underway. I’d been curious about these races for awhile, so I decided to head out there last Sunday and see what it’s all about.

The Japanese term for this type of racing is kyōtei which simply translates as “boat racing”. The sport is one of four types of racing (also including horse, bike, and motorcycle) on which betting is legal in Japan. These are small, one-person hydroplanes, and races consist of 3 quick laps around a 600m water course.

kyotei boat race gambling in japan

Boat racing is one of four types of “public sports” for which betting is legal in Japan.

I’m not a gambler; I went to photograph the races and learn a little bit more about the sport. There were a couple of other photographers, but most people came to bet. Still, it was nice to see a few families who seemed like they were just enjoying watching–and listening to–the boats on a beautiful and warm autumn day in Japan.

Click on an image below to enter the gallery.

Boat Race Tokoname is located within easy walking distance of Tokoname Station on the Meitetsu line. General admittance is ¥100 (less than a buck), you can sit inside or out, and there several cheap and delicious food options available. Check the website for more information.

Ben Weller is a photographer in Nagoya, Japan. View his website here or contact him for assignments around Japan or Korea.