Goza Shirahama

Goza Shirahama Beach is what so many of Japan’s once beautiful beaches could be, but unfortunately aren’t. The white sand beach is the main summer attraction of Goza – a sleepy fishing village located at the very tip of the Shima peninsula.

Goza is fairly isolated. There is only one road to the village, and it is too far for all but the most intrepid urban day-trippers to visit. It isn’t a surf beach, the water is smooth and emerald green. Its great for swimming as there are virtually no waves. (For surf beaches, try the beaches on the Atsumi Peninsula in Aichi Prefecture, or Kou Shirahama east of Ugata)

The water is clean, there are offshore pontoons for you to climb on and rest (or jump off), and there is plenty of room on the long white beach for out-of-water fun. The Japanese like to number and rank things – and Goza Shirahama Beach has been selected as one of Japan’s top 88 beaches. It has a tropical like atmosphere in the summer.

In the early mornings or on weekdays (even in the peak season) the beach is virtually empty. The white sand can be crowded on weekends in the summertime, particularly in the afternoons during school/university holidays. In addition to the many minshuku and ryokan, there are small cabins (called “bungalow” – but actually like small tatami floored huts/shacks) that can be rented just meters from the beach, and car camping is available – so the beach is popular with university students and the young. There are plenty of shops, ice-cream vendors etc. Fireworks are permitted on the beach at night (Saturday nights are the most popular).

The beach however is not the village’s sole activity, employer or attraction. The history of Goza is considerably older than the combination of sunscreen, bikini and parasol umbrellas would suggest. The local economy is marine based – Goza has an important local fish market as it is one of the few villages in the area with a sealed road (many of the fishing trawlers based on the local islands bring their catch to Goza’s fish market).

Most of the men are still involved in fishing and trawling, many of the women continue to work as ama divers connected with the pearl and shellfish industry. Tourism though has become a vital earner for the locals, and excellent seafood is one of the main atractions of the local minshuku

One of the best things to do is to stay overnight in one of the Minshuku. The seafood banquets are exactly that, and can be pretty educational too (as in – “what on earth am I eating now???” – view slideshow). The families mostly speak Kansai-ben (the dialect of the Osaka region), though with the exception of some of the older villagers, most can speak hyoujun-go just as well. Go for a late night stroll, light your fireworks, do some star-gazing (there is no air-pollution obscuring your view), and get up early for a visit to the fish market (if it isn’t a busy weekend, the minshuku operators may take you there and show you your breakfast while its still alive…) or an early morning swim while the beach is still empty.

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