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海開き/うみびらき/Umibiraki/opening of the beach

After the dreary rainy season, it's time to open the beach in Japan! Unlike tropical countries where people can go to beaches throughout the year, beaches are open only for a limited amount of time. People can still go to beaches for swimming offseason but there would be no lifeguards or other rental equipment such as a swim ring. So people cannot really enjoy beaches safely if beaches are not opened. The word 海開き (umibiraki) literally means to open the beach and referred to the day when a permit is issued for the use of the beach or ocean as a leisure activity for that beach at the beginning of the bathing season. On the day of beach opening, a Shinto priest comes and prays for safety and no accidents during the season.

There are other words for the opened beach in Japanese. 海水浴シーズン/かいすいよくしーずん/Kaisuiyoku season/Bathing season also refers to the time when beaches are open. The word 浜開き/はまびらき/Hamabiraki/opening of the seaside has exact same meanings as 海開き.

The exact date of 海開き (umibiraki) varies from region to region. For example, in the southernmost region of Japan, Okinawa, umi biraki is held at the end of March. Kansai region holds the event at the beginning of July and in the Kanto region, it’s in the middle of July. In some places in the Kansai region, 海開き (umibiraki) is held earlier so that people can go 潮干狩り/しおひがり/Shiohigari where people collect the shellfish in the low tide.

While the beaches are open, there are a number of 海の家/うみのいえ/Umi no ie/beach houses where people can rent floats and parasols, and where you can buy ice cream, beer, curry, ramen, hamburgers, and other snacks. In addition to the beach houses, nets are installed to protect swimmers from jellyfish and sharks, parking lots are set up, and lifesavers are deployed to ensure that people can enjoy the beach safely and comfortably.

The sight of local children running with great joy to the sea just after the opening of the beach to enjoy their first swim is reported in the news every year as a reminder of the beginning of summer.

In recent years, some beaches have banned drinking and noise, as events like dance clubs are often held at night, causing noise problems.

Momoka Yamaguchi

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