It’s the first of July, and it looks like a much shorter rainy season in 2018 with a nice long summer ahead. For us, the big day is finally here: the city outdoor pools are open and the beaches are gearing up for a busy season.
It’s an exciting time for keen swimmers and summer holiday fans, but knowing where to go could be a little bewildering for some. We’ve compiled below a short list of our favourite and most convenient quick fixes.
We’re currently Tokyo-based and so yes, the list is geared towards quick journeys from central Tokyo, and is by no means exhaustive - It’s a big old place. We are always looking to expand our coverage to the rest of Japan and of course to discover new spots too, so do share your own quick city swimming breaks with us on instagram, twitter, facebook and email at [email protected]
Pool: Aqua Field Shiba Koen
For a proper day out to a pool with something for everyone, try Aqua Field Shiba Koen. It houses an excellent (and not too deep) 50m pool with ample space for lane swimming alongside designated free swim and fun space. There’s also a small kiddy pool which means the pool is suitable for all ages.
While there are many options out there, for us the perks of this pool make it the most solid all-round choice. There are times when the two-hourly ten minute get-out-the-pool breaks are not observed so you can keep on swimming - a luxury compared with some of the other more rigidly controlled places. Being so central means there are always a lot of foreigners and tourists there, and the atmosphere is not so militant about drinks, phones and snacks, although of course be discreet as rules, and staff, can change year on year. There’s a super, shaded area on the roof of the changing rooms with nice tables and chairs where you can enjoy a picnic while watching the action, and taking in the stunning views of neighbouring Tokyo Tower.
Shiba Koen is a park in the central borough of Minato-ku, so if you’re on your holidays you can work up a nice sweat walking here from popular gaijin hotel spots like Roppongi, Azabu-juban and Tokyo Bay. At 600 JPY for 2 hours it’s not the cheapest, but should you wish to extend your visit you can pay later for additional hours (300 JPY/hour). Shiba doesn’t divide the time into pre-set 2 hr blocks so you can turn up anytime and have a proper swim. The sunsets here are magical.
Open from July 1st until September 15th.
You can have a look at our page listing Tokyo pools.
River: Hatonosu, Tama River
If you’re in the mood for a cooler freshwater dip and some clean mountain air, head west from JR Shinjuku Station to Hatonosu. For the travel time, cost and ease of access from central Tokyo, this is our pick for the best quick fix river swim.
Hatonosu station is located next to a beautiful gorge which has been carved out of solid volcanic rocks by the Tama River. It’s in the Okutama region which is a sparsely populated city at the western edge of greater Tokyo. The water is cool, and might well be snow-melt even in early July, which sounds kind of heavenly to us compared to central Tokyo’s 35C, 100% humidity and probable pollution in the air. Do take warm layers for après-swim as Okutama gets chillier than central Tokyo, especially in the evenings.
There are different options to suit all swimmers: nice rocks for jumping off into deep, dark, clean pools, a little pebble beach to wade into transparent light-blue water and some larger shallower sections too.
While it’s not exactly a secret place Hatonosu gets considerably fewer visitors than Okutama Station and Mitake on the same rail line. What’s more it has a bigger onsen which is closer to the main swimspot! If you are visiting Tokyo at the height of summer and you want a break from the insanity of the city, this may well be just the place for you,
It’s 1080 JPY each way and takes just over an hour and a half from JR Shinjuku. That’s about one hour on one train, a quick hop off at Ome (there’s a good station soba stand if you get hungry on the platform) and then around 30m more on a different train. On your journey you don’t need to walk anywhere, leave the station or even change platform so it’s a doddle getting there!
For more info on Hatonosu check out our article.
Beach: Hayama Isshiki
Japan is of course, an island nation and surrounded by great ocean spots. Tokyo may form one of the world’s largest megapoli but it’s within easy daytripping distance of some real beach gems - east in Chiba and Ibaraki, and west in the paradise of the Izu peninsula. Our quick-fix pick of the bunch, though is a little closer than those.
Hayama Isshiki beach might look suspiciously close to the Tokyo-Yohohama megacity, but the currents mean cleaner, and clearer water is the order of the day. It’s a place so nice that the emperor has his summer beach residence here. The sandy beaches are clean and lighter in colour than some of its neighbours (both aesthetically and practically pleasing - your feet will not get quite so frazzled when you walk).
You might look at the map and think it’s not worth the journey, which involves a train plus a bus ride, but you will be grateful you spent the extra time when the bus turns down the peninsula and shows see how packed the sand and sea at the much more commercial Zushi is.
When you arrive there you’ll instantly feel the vibe at Hayama is much more chilled, and it’s great for swimming. There’s a small swell and a very calm bay just perfect for floating around. South of the main beach is a much more deserted stretch with an even-more-deserted island you can swim to. There are even nice tall trees to fall asleep under and hide from the midday sun.
With bars in the summer right on the sand, paradise sunsets and a mixed crowd it’s for sure the best all-rounder, and we think even as a quick fix, Isshiki can proudly hold its own against some of the Kanto region’s finest.
Getting here is easiest if you take the JR Shonan Shinjuku Line from JR Shinjuku Station to JR Zushi Station followed by a short (around 20 minutes depending on how busy it all is) bus journey. It’s 1170 JPY each way and should take just over an hour and a half.
Check out our page on Hayama Isshiki for more details.