A GUIDE TO SURFING IN JAPAN (CHIBA, SHONAN, ICHINOMIYA)
I’ve finally had a chance to post this up after many weeks… I hope you enjoy my little recap of my adventures trying to find surf in Japan. I only had time to do a day trip in Japan, so this isn’t a good guide for week long adventures in Japan… but if you happen to be out there and want to make a quick trip out to the ocean for some waves, then read on!
I’ve posted this picture before. This is Shonan, near Kamakura. The waves roll into this bay and clean up quite a bit. The downside is, it is super crowded and the waves are usually smaller here compared to the exposed side on the ocean. I do recommend you check it out if you have time though!
The first step is to plan out your route. Most people will be coming from Tokyo. Your goal is to get to the Kazusa-Ichinomiya station. In my case, I was coming from the Hamamatsu-cho station near the Tokyo Bay hotel (where I was staying for work). Your best bet is to go up to the information counter and purchase your one-way ticket to the Kazusa-Ichinomiya station. You will have to likely transfer at Tokyo station, and then catch the rapid train out to Ichinomiya. I paid around 2,000 yen ($25 or so) for the entirety of my one-way ticket out there (and the same coming back).
Once on the train, you’ll keep going east out of Tokyo, passing many cities, skyscrapers, housing developments, parks, and even cemeteries.
Eventually you’ll be further and further out of the city and you’ll see more rural landscapes, such as fields and forests and more traditional-looking houses.
You’ll pass through the Chiba prefecture and you’ll want to get off at the end of the line, which is the Kazusa-Ichinomiya station. If you want, you can connect here to the Torami station which is a bit closer to the surf schools. Unfortunately, I didn’t get off there but I probably should have.
Once you’re out of the station, orient yourself and make sure you’re travelling East towards the Ocean. There’s a long road that goes straight to the water. In my case, as soon as I got out of the station I turned left, crossed railroad tracks, and past a few businesses. You’ll also pass a Surf English language school on your right. If you hit this, you know you’re going the right direction.
I found myself on a beautiful palm-tree lined road with fields on either side. So serene.
I stooped down to take a photo of this little wooden structure… it caught my eye in the tall grass.
After about 30 minutes of walking, I re-assessed my sitation and decided it was best if I hitch-hiked. I knew it was going to be about an hour more of walking according to the GPS on my Blackberry, and I didn’t want to waste any time in my day since I had to catch my flight home the next day and didn’t want to get back too late. I stuck my hitch-hiking thumb out for about 15 minutes before a very cute older Japanese woman picked me up in her beaten-up white farm truck. She gestured at me in both a friendly and impatient way and so I ran over to her and got in the truck. In Japan, people drive sitting on the right side of the car, so sitting on the left sure felt weird! We weren’t able to communicate very well since I spoke no Japanese and she spoke no English. All I knew how to say was Hello, Goodbye, Please, and Thank You, and “Ocean”, “Surfboard”, and “Wetsuit”. That wasn’t enough.
She drove me all the way to the ocean (Bless her heart!) and I understood that she was saying that there were 3 main surf spots in town. She showed me spot number one.
And then spot number two.
And then I was finally able to communicate to her that I didn’t have a wetsuit or a surfboard and I needed to rent one. So she dropped me off at some of the surf stores in town. I walked along the road going into every store, but no one really spoke English and I was able to discern that they didn’t do any rentals and didn’t know anyone that did.
I kept walking and finally came upon the Surf Garden complex. Up the stairs to the left (very hidden) is a gym… (yes, a fitness centre), and surfboard rentals. LOL! What a strange combination.
I had a strange conversation with the man running the shop since he also didn’t speak English, and was able to eventually rent a wetsuit and board for the day for 6,000 yen, about $70. Expensive, like everything else in Japan. But still worth it!
He called a girl downstairs to come help him, and she spoke more English. She was a complete angel, and made sure I had the right size wetsuit and was even able to find me a board I liked… a 7’8″ expoxy board in nice condition. They even lent me some flip flops.
I was stoked.
Then they led me across the street and pointed at the forest and told me to go through it. I asked them twice to make sure I was hearing them right, but they assured me there was ocean and surfing through there. Check out my video.
It was a leap of faith but I ran through the forest and over some bluffs and sure enough, I saw waves. And even a couple surfers, but not crowded at all.
So I grabbed my board, ran out, left my flip flops right on the beach like all the other guys there (no one steals ANYTHING in Japan, apparently… one guy even left his cellphone there)… and started surfing.
It was a little mushy, it wasn’t a huge day, or as epic as they say it is normally there, but it was a great vibe and I had a blast surfing in Japan.
After a few hours I came back to the shop and they even had a little indoors shower for me. Awesome!
I hung out with my new girl friend and we talked about Japan, about Canada, and about surfing. What a different life. So strange to see someone just like me, living the same dream as me but on the other side of the world.
We went down to the bar to have a drink, and only after I had ordered it did I realize that I had spent every single yen I had on the train and the rentals. I had nothing to my name, and they didn’t accept cards anywhere there. So my new friend talked to the manager and he was nice enough to comp my drink and even offer me food if I wanted. I took lots of pictures together with my new friends.
She even offered to give me a lift back to the station… and no matter how many times I declined, she insisted. So I got a ride all the way back to the station in town. What a sweetie. I can never thank her enough. I gave her my card and told her to call me when she visits Canada one day.
Back on the train, the sun is setting and I’m driving by all sorts of sights I didn’t notice on the way there. The tankers, the ships, the ports… even Disneyland!
We went right by a giant Ferris Wheel too.
Finally back in the city I’m craving some food, so I stop by the very busy Shibuya station to get some ice cream from the Stone Cold Creamery. I wait in line, listen to them sing old 50s tunes while sculpting and mixing toppings and ice cream on a ice cold stone slap. A delicious way to end the day.
Surfing in Japan. I’ll never forget it!
Here’s a map for reference:
Tags: Chiba, guide, Ichinomiya, Japan, JR line, Kamakura, Kasuza-Ichinomiya, ocean, rentals, Shonan, Stone Cold Creamery, Surf, Surf Garden, surfboard, Surfing, Tokyo, train station, waves, wetsuit, yen