Kanagawa Prefecture is next to Tokyo and is easily reachable from the city by train or bus. The prefecture is mostly known for tourist spots such as Yokohama and Kamakura. While these places are indeed great, there is much more to Kanagawa. I visited an area called “Shonan” for the first time, and I did some research about it before I went.
Shonan is a coastal region made up of eight cities and five towns that runs along Sagami Bay. In fact, Kamakura is also part of the Shonan region. Shonan is loved for its mild weather, stunning views of Mt. Fuji, and sailing and surfing. Despite being close to Tokyo, however, it isn’t so famous among travelers yet. I decided to explore a coastal town called “Hayama,” which is part of the Shonan region, and couldn’t wait to see what activities awaited me.
I reached Hayama in about an hour from Tokyo and I got to experience many great activities all in one day. I got a chance to experience real Japanese culture and make some wonderful memories. I will introduce the day I spent in Hayama, so read on for inspiration on what to do when you visit!
First, I went to the area of the harbor called Hayama Marina, a great location for marine activities such as sailing. I heard that this area won a Michelin star from the Michelin Green Guide. I also heard that there are currently some international sailing teams preparing for the upcoming 2020 Olympics in the offshore area of this marina.
Click here for a map of Hayama Marina.
For the first activity in Hayama Marina, I was taught some simple yoga by a professional teacher from the Yoga Organization of Japan. I’m not good at sports or yoga so I was a little nervous, but her instructions were easy to understand and she was kind with first-timers.
I felt the tension release in my body and the exercise we did can also help boost our immune systems. The class was held with a lovely panoramic view of Sagami Bay, and I felt relaxed and refreshed when we were done.
According to what I heard, there is a beautiful beach in the vicinity that was chosen as one of the world’s best 100 beaches. Here there are yoga events such as the “Beach Yoga Week in Hayama” which is held every year in early October.
After a few minutes’ walk from Hayama Marina, I went to eat lunch at La Marée, a French restaurant built to look as if it’s floating on the sea. The restaurant was several storeys high and reminded me of a European mansion, with Western-style décor and an authentic yet comfortable feel.
The staff of the restaurant told me that La Marée debuted in 1977 to engage local people in French cuisine. Before that, French food was unfamiliar in Japan and most people avoided it since it was believed that one should have deep knowledge of Western table manners and wine in order to participate. However, La Marée aimed to provide a comfortable and casual French dining experience suited to Japanese tastes using local ingredients, and that is exactly what they did. Many locals enjoy French cuisine nowadays in Japan.
We were served a five-course meal including a colourful seafood salad, grilled Edo-style conger eel (pictured below), shrimp and whitebait flan, a choice of meat or fish, and the day’s dessert. We finished off with a choice of coffee or tea. I chose the meat option and enjoyed a juicy steak.
The food was freshly prepared and tasty and it was great to eat with a view of Sagami Bay. The staff was very welcoming and the atmosphere was relaxing.
Click here for a map of La Marée.
After a satisfying, healthy, and filling lunch, I headed back to Hayama Marina for a short boat trip.
The staff explained that the boat was built in 2017 and had a capacity of 50 people. It felt comfortable and modern.
I let the wind blow my hair around as we saw Morito, Shibasaki, Isshiki, and the Chojagasaki Coast, which are all connected. It was a joy seeing the surrounding islands and townscape, as well as Morito Shrine’s torii gate on the small Nashima Island, which is one of the top 50 sightseeing spots in Kanagawa. This view was voted as one of the top 100 sights in 1996.
Along the coast, we could also see the Hayama Imperial Villa. It was great seeing where Japan’s Imperial Family sometimes go and it gave the place a really special and regal feel.
The waves weren’t too rough; one member who said he usually gets seasick turned out to be fine, so this short cruise is recommended even if you are nervous about feeling ill. On a clear day, the wonderful views of Mt. Fuji, Japan’s tallest mountain, are surely something to see.
After an exhilarating cruise, we paid a visit to the Museum of Modern Art, which is located close to the Imperial Villa. We caught a glimpse of the grand grounds on the way.
The museum had an exhibition of the works of Ms. Fumiko Hori, an artist who happens to be celebrating her 100th birthday this year. I had an enjoyable experience to see her lovely paintings and drawings, especially of animals. Moreover, I could see the sculptures and the view of the sea in the outside space of the museum.
Click here for a map of the Museum of Modern Art, Kamakura & Hayama.
Japanese calligraphy, locally called “shodo,” is done with a brush using black ink on white paper. It is a form of art that is still practised today with characters derived from China called kanji, all of which have their own meanings. After visiting the museum, we had the opportunity to try shodo for ourselves.
No knowledge of Japanese was required as the kind teachers help you out with everything, from the kanji’s meaning to the correct stroke order. Examples of kanji were prepared so we could choose which one we wanted to write.
The teachers of shodo showed us how to hold the brush, keep the paper in place, and write the kanji correctly. Afterwards, we could write our name in Japanese and take our works home with us.
It was a super fun activity and although it was challenging, I felt proud of the kanji I wrote. Everyone else present seemed to enjoy the activity as well!
Before going home, we stopped at HAYAMA STATION, which is the name of a shopping store where you can buy local products such as souvenirs and snacks. For example, I found a special sparkling drink made with a local fruit called Summer Mikan Cider. It was a great way to end the day by getting something locally produced that I may not be able to find anywhere else.
Click here for a map of HAYAMA STATION.
I was nervous about visiting an unknown place, but I had a truly wonderful day. I experienced a lot in a short time and got to mingle with local people and learn a lot about local culture while having the time of my life! Those looking to explore off-the-beaten-path locations in Japan, please take a look at the details of the “Feel SHONAN Project,” which I took part in this time!
*This article was written in cooperation with Kanagawa Prefecture.