The environment at Enoshima Beach really is a bizarre contradiction for a nation that prides itself on cleanliness and orderly behaviour. I was always led to believe that the Japanese truly respect their natural environment. Or perhaps Enoshima Beach is simply a pressure valve for Tokyoites in summer . . . where they can strip off not just their clothes but also any respect they have for their surroundings.
—Matthew Abrahams writing for the Sydney Morning Herald about six months out of season. This is a problem discussed in Japan as well (see this TV report republished on Japan Probe).
There is a ton of amazingly beautiful and (more or less) unpolluted coastline in this country, but it tends to be of the boulder- or concrete-encrusted variety that is pretty useless for beach recreation, like this scene just a stone’s throw from Enoshima.
I’ll throw out a few explanations of my own for Shonan’s problems.
- The few “good” beaches around Tokyo have to accommodate a huge beach-going population — the Tokyo metropolitan area has a population about one and a half times that of the entire Australian continent. Even if most people were meticulously clean, a tiny percentage of bad apples would be enough to spoil the beach for everyone.
- Beach visitors in Tokyo generally live very far from the beach (at least half an hour by train) and probably have a more tenuous personal connection to it than your average Australian coast-dweller.
- Shonan attracts the lowest common denominator of Japanese beach-goers, as the more well-off prefer to drop a few hundred (or thousand) bucks and visit Guam, Hawaii, Southeast Asia or the Gold Coast. Thus Shonan gets a bigger share of working-class yokels than the urbane Tokyo that many foreigners experience.
- As James notes in the Japan Probe piece linked above, Japan has no qualms about drinking in public, and booze consumption inhibits any pre-existing qualms about leaving trash on the ground.
- For some reason I can’t figure out, public trash cans are very rare here; if you want to throw something away while walking down the street, you basically have to find a convenience store. Same story at the beach, except there are no convenience stores.