The Kawarago Beach Community

Japan has an abundance of accessible coast line which can be a huge draw to spending time there for anyone who enjoys being in and around the ocean. I personally enjoy surfing, and although I just said there was an abundance of coast line I spent a majority of time at one spot, Kawarago Beach. Kawarago Beach was just a 25 minute bike ride from the school and even shorter trip from my homestay family’s house. It was at this beach that I spend a majority of my free time, it did not feel like a proper weekend if I did not spend at least a couple of hours at Kawarago Beach.

My Family and I at Kawarago Beach on a cold day in late November

At Kawarago Beach there was a small surf shop just next to the parking lot, it is called “Mizuki Surf”. The shop is owned by a man named Bonji who is there almost every day. Bonji is an incredibly friendly and welcoming man. It was through Bonji I was able to meet a whole community of surfers who would frequent Kawarago Beach, not only to surf, but also spend time with each other. Whether they were all relaxing in their beach chairs set up in the parking lot or an actual organized event, Kawarago beach was always busy on the weekends.

Bonji and I in Bonji’s shop

The most common organized event was a beach cleanup and board demo. This event would happen about once every three weeks and became less frequent as the weather become colder in late November and December. On the beach cleanup days, many people would come to Kawarago Beach right after breakfast. Many would come to surf, but also many people brought their entire families who would come to also catch up with their friends and then all participate in the cleanup which would always be right around lunch time. It seemed to be ran by Bonji and a few of his friends as they would gather the crowd and pass out a variety of tools and bags to make the cleanup a little bit easier.

Everyone hard at work

As nice as it was to participate in the cleanup and help keep the beach clean, my favorite part of these days is that Bonji’s friend Yuta would usually make his monthly trip to Kawarago. Yuta worked for a surfboard shaper out of Chiba. Because the beach cleanup would always draw quite a crowd, Yuta would make the multi hour drive in his van and bring a variety of beautifully hand shaped boards. He would then let friends or friends of Bonji demo these boards for free in hopes that some might fall in love with a board and purchase it. These boards were easily the nicest boards I had ever ridden and if I had the money to buy one I would have without a single regret.

Some of the demo boards

Although a majority of people in this small surf community did not speak much English, they were all very friendly and always tried to make me feel as welcomed as possible. Being able to join in these special events and practice the little Japanese I knew added a lot of value to my time in Ibaraki and will always be a one of the most positive memories of my internship.