If you like getting away from it all and visiting somewhere completely deserted, Kumamoto is a great place for you to live in Japan. From this small city, you are just a short train journey away from dozens of forgotten locations where you can disappear for the day and relax. While popular beaches are crammed in the summer time, there is one seaside destination where you’re more likely to have the place to yourself, especially if you visit out of season.
From Kumamoto, take the JR Misumi Line (operated by Kyushu Railway Company) to Akase, a 40 minute journey that will set you back about 650 Yen. The rickety old train hugs the coastline as it shakes its way down Kyushu. You can get wonderful views of the sea – at times you feel as if you’re flying right over the water’s edge, and then suddenly you are plunged into verdant darkness as the train dives and swerves through the natural surroundings.
Akase Station (located between Oda and Ishiuchi Damu in Uto, Kumamoto) is known for its secluded location. As the train pulls away from the single platform, you will be completely deserted in a jungle-esque setting. Up the path you can see signs of a small car park, but other than that you are surrounded by perfect, natural stillness and quiet.
Trains run roughly every hour, so plan your return journey carefully. If you turn up a little early for your train, you can always spend time taking snaps of the very photogenic train tunnel which starts at the end of the platform. Or you can try to catch a picture of the butterflies in the flower beds. If you’re lucky, you’ll catch a glimpse of dozens and dozens of brightly colored caterpillars inching their way along the train tracks. It is an interesting sight – all of them worming along in the same direction, and then suddenly disappearing from view as the train comes along and probably ends up squishing most of them.
From the Akase Station platform, walk up the path and then down a very steep hill towards the seaside. Look out for the gargoyles that decorate the eaves of the picturesque little houses down the hillside – some of them are pulling quite spectacular grimaces. Once you reach the main road, turn left and it’s just a one minute walk to the zebra crossing that will take you down to the beach.
Akase beach is small and stony, but with patches of soft sand near the shoreline and towards the fishing port. The sand is of that quality where your feet very easily sink into it, and coupled with the high waves that hit the beach, I wouldn’t recommend taking young children there for swimming. However, for a spot of paddling it’s ideal – the water doesn’t get deep until you are quite a way out and so there is lots of space for splashing around in the shallows.
If you plan to make a day trip of it but forget to take a picnic, you can rely on the decently sized 7/11 Convenience Store that is located right behind the beach. Even if you’re just popping down for the afternoon, a cheeky ice-cream will help restore your energy after battling the sea breeze. There is also a restaurant a few hundred meters along the coast which serves Western and Japanese style food such as soup, gratin, tempura and rice.
So there you have it! A mere stone’s throw from Kumamoto you can find yourself a slice of paradise in this secluded location. Okay, it’s not the most beautiful or interesting place in the world, but it’s certainly quiet and the perfect place to get lost in a good book. Of course, if you want to make more of the trip you can always go down the road to Okoshiki Beach to see a larger, sandier beach – famous for the wave shapes made in the sand by the receding tide which is very picturesque at sundown.