Japan is famous for many things, from cherry blossoms, to Michelin-starred sushi, to unique cafés filled with cats, owls and even foxes. However, with the possible exception of the Okinawa archipelago, inviting beaches are not upon Japan's most conspicuous charms — which is strange, considering the country is made up of islands. These are Japan's most popular swimming beaches, known in Japanese as kaisui-yokujo, from Kyushu to Hokkaido and everywhere in-between.
Shirahama Beach, Wakayama
Most people head to Wakayama for hiking, be it for the exercise benefits that accompany the days-long Kumano Kodo trek, or for a spiritual pilgrimage to Holy Mount Koya, which was founded in the 8th century by a now-famous monk named Kukai.
Wakayama is a peninsula, however, and while much of the water that laps at its sandy shores is of the ... ornamental variety, certain beaches in this prefecture are great swimming beaches. Shirahama Kaisui-yokujo, for example, is located just five minutes by taxi from JR Shirahama Station, and is at its most inviting from early May to late August.
Emerald Beach, Okinawa
Think you have to take a flight or ferry from Okinawa's main island to find an incredible beach? Think again. While not as famous as Kabira Bay on Ishigaki, the main island's Emerald Beach is every bit as beautiful. As an added bonus, it's not far from Churaumi Aquarium, which is one of the Naha attractions you're likely to visit anyway. Come here between April and October for the best swimming conditions, but keep in mind that since Okinawa is tropical, rain showers can occur at any time.
Shirahama Ohama Beach, Shizuoka
Shizuoka is a Japanese prefecture many travelers visit (it offers one of the best views of Mount Fuji), but few fully explore. For example, you'll find one of Japan's best swimming beaches on the prefecture's Izu peninsula, though most guide books won't tell you that. You can access Shirahama Ohama beach, which is at its most resplendent during the months of July and August, by riding the Izukyu Railway to Shimoda station via the "Shizuoka" Shinkansen stop.
Shimao Beach, Toyama
Toyama is a Japanese prefecture many travelers simply pass through, usually en route to Kanazawa, a historical city that's been hailed as the "new Kyoto" in recent years, or some other destination in the Chubu region. If you'll be in this part of Japan between July and August, however, you should definitely make a stop at Shimao Beach. One of Japan's best swimming beaches, it's located right on Toyama Bay, and is easily accessible from JR Shimao Station.
Wadaura Beach, Chiba
If you've ever been to Japan, you've almost certainly been to Chiba prefecture — it's where the busiest of Tokyo's two airports, Narita, is located. However, depending on the landing path your plane took, you might not have seen the incredible Japanese swimming beaches this prefecture offers. The most stunning among them is Wadaura Beach, located is near the southern tip of the Boso peninsula. Ride the JR Uchibo line to Wadaura Station during the months of July and August for a long Japan layover you won't soon forget.
Aoshima Beach, Miyazaki
Miyazaki prefecture is one of the least-visited in Japan, located in a sparsely-populated corner of Kyushu island, which is not a very popular destination anyway. However, if you do happen to be here (if you're coming to famous Nagasaki, for example, it's not a huge trek), visit Aoshima Beach, which you can access between July-August via Aoshima Station along the JR Nishinan Line.
Kikugahama Beach, Yamaguchi
White sands are probably not the first thing you think of when Yamaguchi prefecture comes to mind. After all, the most famous attraction here is the historical Kintai Bridge, which is at its most beautiful during cherry blossom season. However, if you'll be here in July or August, ride the JR Sanin line to Higashi-hagi Station. You can even combine a trip to this excellent Japan swimming beach with a visit to the nearby Hagi Castle ruins!
Note that if you are in Yamaguchi prefecture during cherry blossom season, you probably shouldn't make the trek to Kikugahama. While it's "open," ostensibly, and may even be beautiful, temperatures will be far too chilly for swimming, to say nothing of the probability of dangerous tides.
Marine Park Nezugaseki, Yamagata
Yamagata prefecture is perhaps best-known for the "snow monsters" that rise over its Zao Onsen during Japan's winter months. Come during summer, however, and it's a different landscape entirely. Though Marine Park Nezugaseki faces the Sea of Japan (which is far from a tropical body of water), you'll nonetheless be in a warm mood, thanks to the bright waters and golden sand. Swim here in July and August, and access this beach via JR Nezugaseki station.
Ozuna Beach, Tokushima
If you've ever been to Shikoku Island's Tokushima prefecture, it might surprise you to learn that one of Japan's best swimming beaches is here. After all, the most famous natural attraction of Tokushima is the Naruto Whirlpools, where you definitely don't want to take a dip. During July and August, however, Ozuna Beach near Sabase Station is a perhaps place to get some sun and surf.
In August, you can even stop in Tokushima city and see the annual Awa-Odori dance festival! Visit the official Tokushima Tourism website to see when the festival will take place in coming years. The dates are different every year, so it's important to check before you go in order to avoid disappointment.
Gennadai Kaihin Koen (Seashore Park), Hokkaido
Like Yamagata prefecture, the island of Hokkaido is most famous as a winter destination, though the popularity of Furano's lavender fields on social media is starting to change that. If you travel to Hokkaido during summer, for flowers or otherwise, make sure to visit the swimming beach at Gennadai Kaihih Koen, or Seaside Park. Located just a short bus ride from JR Esashi Station, this beach will have you feeling like you're someplace a lot warmer than Japan's coldest and most northerly island.