Jasmin Young catches a wave in the surf town of Taito
Excerpted from To Japan With Love: A Travel Guide for the Connoisseur, available from ThingsAsian Press.
Upon moving to Japan and spending my first three months in Tokyo's concrete jungle, I was pleasantly surprised to learn of the remote town of Taito. My home for eleven years, this little beach community is well known by professional surfers from all over the world. Since there is no reef along the coastline, surfing is safe even for novices, and because of the consistency of the wave conditions along this part of the Pacific coast, Taito is the perfect venue for surfing events.
Here we hold Japan Pro Surfing Association contests, as well as World Qualifying Series and World Championship Tour events. Both are part of the Association of Surfing Professionals World Tour. Many of the world's top surfers compete right here at Taito Beach, so it is not uncommon to bump into legends such as nine-time ASP World champion Kelly Slater or three-time JPSA champion Masakazu Kouno (Zuccho) during competition season.
In Taito you will also find a Japanese surfer named Yama-san. He is the town "organizer," orchestrating just about every event in Taito, from beach cleaning to matsuri (festivals). One such classic event that I so look forward to at the beginning of every summer is the Surf Town Fiesta (officially called the Surf Town Festa), an annual, week-long festival that includes many of the major international surfing contests.
What I love about this yearly celebration (besides the delicious food and beer) is that although the surfing competitions are a major highlight, the Surf Town Fiesta also focuses on other important aspects of beach life. Yama-san is a self-proclaimed "eko" surfer, which is Japanese English for "environmentally friendly" surfer. He has introduced many important concepts to the local Japanese surf scene, such as recycling, and keeping the ocean clear of the plastics and fishing lines that are the cause of many turtle and dolphin deaths. Yama-san is also passionate about the importance of beach safety, and has introduced lifesaving techniques at the fiesta.
To some, these things may seem like common sense, but because we are in such a remote area of Japan, eco-focused philosophies are new to many of the local surfers and fishermen. I too am an eko surfer, and am honored to have a friend like Yama-san, who works tirelessly to promote an appreciation of the environment during the fiesta. It is important that we as surfers not only enjoy the ocean, but also respect it, and the creatures that live in it.
The Surf Town Fiesta is a time for fun in the sun, good food, and friendship. But it is also a time to emphasize the importance of our ocean environment. We welcome pro surfers from all over the world to come and share our paradise, and I hope that our surfing friends will take our message back to their own beaches and help keep our oceans clean.
Getting to Taito
Taito is an easy day trip from Tokyo. From Tokyo Station take the Wakashio Line directly to Kazusa Ichinomiya or the Rapid Line to Soga Station and change to the Sotobo Line to Kazusa Ichinomiya Station. From Ichinomiya, it is a ten-minute taxi ride along the Togane-Kujukuri Toll Road to Taito Beach.
Surf Town Fiesta
One of the first events of the summer, the festival is held yearly around the first week of June. From June until the end of August, beach tents are erected where food, ice cream, and drinks are available for beach goers. The waves are usually small and fun during this time of year, so even novices can enjoy the activities.
To read more essays from To Japan With Love, click here.
Published on 12/21/09