Since emigrating to Japan I have learned to love the humble Japanese convenience store. These little beacons of light and civilization are everywhere in Japan, from the loneliest Okinawan island to the busiest Tokyo high rise. You can book tickets, pay bills, do your banking, pick up and send packages, buy cell phones, get your beer, order food, buy ready made lunch boxes or lottery tickets or just browse the huge numbers of magazines. Sometimes you can even borrow their restrooms. Some convenience stores have a seating area with free hot water pots. They are open 24 hours a day, usually never close and the staff is amazingly service minded. During the trouble up north in March and Aril 2011 the convenience stores were a lifeline: they had the most advanced distribution network in the country, a perfectly streamlined inventory system and were able to get fresh food into the damaged areas before anyone else. Over a thousand convenience stores had to close due to the earthquake and Seven-Eleven alone saw 41 factories unable to operate. But they had 128 others spread out around the country that could pick up and keep supplies and food streaming into the damaged areas. For me the convenience stores of Japan are heroes, and I have quite a collection of these kind of “portraits” of lonely convenience stores at dusk or sunset.
I took the photos of a Lawson and Three-F store just next to Yuighama beach in Kamakura City, south of Tokyo.
A mere hour on train from inner city Tokyo (population 12.5 million) is the wonderful Yuigahama beach. It always amazes me that there can be such a beach so close to such a huge city without it being absolutely packed every day, all day. Where I come from we have a lazy miniature river flowing through the city and it’s lined with people and dogs and kids just looking at the water. When it’s not covered in ice that is. I took these photos of a nearly deserted Yuigahama beach yesterday, a public holiday. I wonder what everyone was doing? There’s several ways to get here from Tokyo, but most of them involves the Yokosuka line or the Tokaido line and then a bus, taxi or good walking shoes. Or you can rent a bicycle near by Kamakura station. The beach is cleaned regularly during the season but there’s still a bit of garbage lying around so I usually bring a bag and just pick stuff off the beach as I go along. If everyone picked half a kilo of garbage off the beach it would be spotless within a couple of days!
On my visit to Kamakura City and Yuigahama beach in Kanagawa prefecture south west of Tokyo I saw these two dogs playing in the ocean, trying to catch a tea bottle thrown by their owners! The smaller one didn’t stand a chance in the waves but the bigger dog bravely swam out into the ocean again and again! I think it is the closest I will ever come to seeing a dog surf! When it gets warmer maybe I will even jump in myself!
March 22nd was a public holiday here in Japan and a very rare chance these last few weeks for me to get a whole day to be totally unproductive. I love Tokyo above everything but sometimes even I have to get out of the concrete and yesterday I spent a whole day in Kamakura City, most of it on the famous Yuigahama Beach. Despite the brilliant sky it was still quite cold so I made sure to bundle up and of course forgot all about the sun screen lotion I should have applied once every 30 minutes to stay fresh.
Since it was a public holiday the beach was quite crowded, almost like one of the slower summer days, with fishermen enjoying the afternoon’s rest, couples, dogs, families and kids! On scene I was lucky enough to catch where these two adorable little kids playing! To cute for words, but I am sure this family must be pretty fantastic to raise kids like these!
It’s easy to forget, but Yuigahama Beach is a working beach with quite a few fishermen still making a living out of the ocean. The last two photos if of a man collecting wakame, or the green seaweed you’ll find in the miso soup bowls of many restaurants and hotels! At first I thought it must be a pretty rough hobby to go out and find the freshest sea weed, take it home, clean, cut and dry it all to have something green in your morning soup, but then I saw the prices they can charge for this! It almost made me reconsider my career. There were quite a few people collecting wakame that day, and the sea churns up an ever bountiful harvest for the savvy beach comber. Ecological and healthy, a good exercise and a great use of natural resources, what is not to like about these people collecting seaweed? Maybe I’ll bring a couple of extra bags next time. Usually I just fill them up with broken glass and pointy garbage (If everyone who went to that beach took away a kilo of garbage the beach would be clean every day all day). You might remember my compulsive cleaning of the beaches in Okinawa. I swear Holidays is what happens to other people!
Holidays is what the surfers at the beach were enjoying though. I’m not 100% on the surfers bit though, I’m vaguely aware of there being other sports involving waves and boards but I know nothing about them. Most of these very active people were well into their forties and over, and here I was thinking that surfing was mostly for cooler younger people. Shame on me! I liked it best when they were coasting out on their boards, laying down, in the photos I took it looks almost like they are just lying there, motionless on top of the water.