When you think of a beach holiday, Japan probably isn’t high on the list of places that spring to mind, compared to say Thailand, Mexico or Borneo. It might surprise you to know that Japan is actually becoming quite the sought after beach destination due to its untouched white sand, palm-lined beaches and vibrant turquoise waters. There are stunning beaches all over Japan, with the most popular ones being found on the warmer southern islands.
The main locations for beaches in Japan lie on the Japan Island side, the Pacific Side, or around the Seto Inland Sea. The Seto Inland Sea falls in between Honshu, Kyushu and Shikoku, known sometimes as ‘Setouchi’, and is one of the main destinations for a beach holiday in Japan. This region experiences a pleasant and balmy warm climate and is home to hundreds of species of marine life, as well as being a rich art and cultural hub.
1. Jodogahama Beach
In Miyako, Iwate, northeast of Honshu Island on the Pacific Side. Majestic jagged rock islands rise from calm waters, a perfect backdrop as you bask on the sand. Enjoy nearby Sanriki Recovery National Park, where you can swim, explore the Japanese landscape further and hike to your heart’s content.
2. Miho Beach Shisouka
A short journey south from Tokyo, with views of Mt Fuji, Miho Beach is lined by pine trees and perfect for cycling and hiking. This beach is stoney so bring something comfortable to sit on!
3. Yonaha Maehama Beach
Miyako Island, Okinawa. 7 kilometres of pristine white sand, perfect to get the snorkel out in crystal clear turquoise waters and follow up by reading a book whilst experiencing one of the famous deep sunsets.
4. Gotanji Bathing Beach
On Naoshimi Island, situated on the Seto Inland Sea. This stunning little getaway hosts a range of quirky modern art installations, including the famous Yayoi Kusama Yellow Pumpkin sculpture and other eclectic art installations. You’ll also find a range of art galleries and fantastic tours of the island.
5. Yakushima Island
Yakushima Island is roughly an 8-hour train from Tokyo to Kagoshima, then you’ll need to catch a ferry boat to the island. Isso and Inakahama beaches are the most popular, with powdery white sand to snooze the day away on. The island is perfect for a stroll through old forests, and even see loggerhead turtles which nest between the months of April and September. Plus, for all the film buffs out there, Yakushima was the inspiration behind anime film, Princess Mononoke, so you can spot all the recognisable locations used.
Japan beach tips
Given the subtropical climate in the south, temperatures really can soar in the peak summer months, so be sure to think about where you’re going to head for some shade too. Most beaches permit swimming and sunbathing, however, some have restrictions for local environmental or conservation reasons, so always check before you venture out. Also, be careful of strong tides and poisonous box jellyfish that can sometimes make an occasional appearance, although the coastguards do notify people when it’s particularly bad.
6. Okinawa Island
Okinawa Island is home to a wide range of beautiful beaches with Manza, Emerald and Okuma being the most popular. Visit from May to October to enjoy the periods for swimming and sunbathing. Feast your eyes on reef fish and turtles hanging about the vibrant corals!
7. Hatenohama Beach
On Kumejima Island, Hatenohama is part of the Okinawa island archipelago. Marvel at ‘Go-e no Matsu’, an ancient pine tree, and enjoy the exceptional snorkelling off the beach or out on boat tours.
8. Shirahama Beach
Shirahama Beach is reasonably close to Tokyo compared to many of the southern options and is known for great surfing. You can even see the Shirahama Jinja Shinto temple from the beach. From Tokyo, travel to Odoriko by train and then take a quick ten-minute bus ride to Izukyu-Shimoda.
If you find Shirahama a bit too crowded, venture to nearby Shirahama Ohama, which is usually less crowded, but just as inviting with its delectable seafood and white sands.
Southern Kyushu. The pure volcanic sand will give you that spa-like feel. Rub it on your body and then jump into the sea for a dip to feel revitalised. Escape the crowds of Kagoshima, enjoy seafood and hot springs, alongside a very interesting archaeological dig site!
10. Kabira Bay
On Ishigaki Island – the penultimate island at the southernmost string of Japanese islands before you get to Taiwan. Expect coral reefs, perfect cream sands and palm trees swaying in the breeze. Other popular beaches to enjoy on Ishigaki are Sunset, Sukuji and Monehara.
11. Aherea Beach
On Tokashiki Island, one of the larger islands off the south of Okinawa. Lap up the temperate climate and balmy air as you sip on your favourite ice-cold beverage. Look forward to seeing sea turtles, parrotfish, soldierfish and humpback whales which frequent these waters. You can easily travel here by shuttle service from the ferry from Okinawa.
12. Nishibama Beach
On Aka Island, the neighbour to the aforementioned Tokashiki Island. This is a great one for a peaceful getaway as it’s often empty and is exceptional for snorkelling and hikes for epic views.
13. Nishi No Hama Beach
Nishi No Hama Beach, on Hateruma Island, is the most southern inhabited island in the whole of Japan. You’ll be rewarded for the journey with untouched, perfect china white sand, chirping birds and deep sky blue waters. It’s utterly dreamy!
For even more Japan travel tips, head to our travel guide below.