Walking along the Yuigahama beach in Kamakura City on the edge of the Pacific Ocean I saw this couple having fun with some sparklers. It looked fun and romantic. Fireworks are very popular in Japan and an integral part of Japanese culture. Unfortunately there are very few places for people to enjoy them safely in the crowded cities of Japan. But the beach will always do nicely.
Since for the last few days at Yuigahama, the famous Pacific Ocean beach just on the edge of Kamakura city to the south west of Tokyo, there’s been a rather unusual algal bloom, a phenomena known as akashio (赤潮) in Japan and often called “red tide” in English. It is a natural occurring phenomena when concentrations in plankton grow rapidly and has nothing to do with tide nor is it often very red. Sometimes these algal blooms are associated with a kind of plankton that can glow with a bluish light in the dark but there hasn’t been any reported bioluminescence so far this time at Yuigahama, although I have heard that there were some two nights ago in Enoshima, further down the coast to the west of Kamakura but I am not sure how correct those observations were. If you live in the area, tonight might be the best night of the year for a midnight walk along the beach!
I was a little disappointed with bloom, as it looks a little bit and could be poisonous I was in no mood for swimming so instead I decided to head as far as possible to the east along the beach. I got quite far when another very interesting natural phenomena occured, a kaimu, or ocean mist. For a few minutes there were white wisps of smoke blowing in over the water, as if there were many small fires further out in the ocean. The sun was still blazing though, but in a few minutes a thick wall of mist rolled in from the ocean, completely obscuring the sun and turning midday into early evening in a few minutes. It reminded me of the solar eclipse we had a couple of years ago. Visibility was very bad in mist and the water level rose very quickly, which sent quite a few beach goers scrambling to get their stuff out of the rising water. The silence was also erie, sounds being muffled and nothing much being visible. Quite an experience! The mist last about an hour but even as it passed it left a strangely muted sky much of it remained until nightfall, all over the city of Kamakura.
All in all, it was an interesting day at the beach. I tried to look out for dead marine life but didn’t find anything out of the ordinary, the odd dried up blowfish or carp. As I always do, I also gathered a full plastic bag of plastic garbage that had drifted in from the ocean or been blown out on the beach by careless beach goers. If everyone picked just one piece of garbage every time they visited a beach the world would be a cleaner place in no time!
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 couple of weeks ago when I visited Kamakura I took these photos of the Yuigahama beach at sunset, after a short rainstorm. The clouds were clearing up and the moon was there, one of my favorite times in one of my favorite places. There were still a few surfers out in the ocean, they must be a hardy bunch!
Yuigahama beach faces south, so it is tricky to photograph during the day. I have so far made many visits to beaches facing south, east and west but I have never spent any longer amount of time on a beach facing north! That is one of the things on my to do list in life. The north coast of Japan is still a big blank for me.
In the autumn or early winter the worst of the summer storms have passed, few people visit the beach and it is cleaner than during spring or summer. I still found one unopened package of Onikoroshi, a supermarket brand of Japanese sake. I am almost addicted to beach combing and whenever I visit this beach I bring a small garbage bag to collect garbage, plastic, pieces of glass and anything that does not belong to the beach. I wish everyone was as manic as me, the beach would be spotless in no time! One short stroll along the beach usually results in a well filled garbage bag that I put in the trash cans near the stairs leading down to the beach. The only thing I never collect is forgotten children’s toys. I always have a secret wish that the child who forgot it will come back and find it again. I wonder if that ever happens in real life?