Miyukinohama – Odawara Beach
Last year, during the peak of the summer I visited Odawara City on the coast south west of Tokyo, at the far west end of Kanagawa Prefecture. Odawara is easily one of my favorite cities in Japan (after Tokyo of course), not least because it is a coastal town with a long beautiful coastline. When I first came to Japan I always wondered why Japanese were so reluctant to develop their coastal areas, whereas France and the US have resorts, mansions, expensive commercial districts and high class villas built up right up to the ocean most of coastal Japan has nothing more exciting than a high way or a gasoline stand. Well, after the tsunami I sort of get it. The main beach here in Odawara is called Miyukinohama (御幸の浜), for the Japanese word “miyuki” or 御幸 which means imperial visit. It is in memory of the emperor Meiji who visited with his empress in 1873 to observe local fishing. For thousands of years the emperors had been very secluded in their palace, so for the local citizens of Odawara an Imperial visit must have been amazingly exciting! Emperor Meiji was the first emperor to actually travel around a little bit and Odawara was one of his first visits during a difficult transition time between the old and the new Japan. It was much too hot for me to dare to undress and get into the ocean, my skin would have burnt up in minutes, but I imagine it must be very different during the traditional New Year’s swim that is held here on the 1st of January every year when hundred of people brave the cold! Odawara is close enough to Tokyo be a possible day trip and well worth the effort. Get on the first train out of Tokyo and go back just after sunset, it will be a great way to spend a day off without having the hassle of booking hotel rooms, or you can stay the night like I did. Definitively recommended!