Japan’s surfing spots prepare to cash in on Olympic wave
In the hope of attracting more tourists and stopping population decline, these municipalities are hosting surfing events and building special websites to promote themselves as destinations for surfing enthusiasts.
Ichinomiya in Chiba Prefecture will host the 2020 Olympic surfing event. Located on the Pacific coast, Tsurigasaki beach attracts many surfboarders in the early morning and late afternoon as it is easily accessible from Tokyo. The nearest station is Kazusa-Ichinomiya, which is about an hour by express train from Tokyo Station.
Each year, about 600,000 surfers visit Ichinomiya, population 12,000. It hosts an annual competition for professional surfing athletes from around the world and has seen its profile steadily grow.
In 2015, the Ichinomiya Municipal Government launched a comprehensive economic strategy focused on “surfonomics.”
It has built up a “surf street” along the beach with shops and restaurants. An information center opened in April 2018 rents out surfboards and bicycles for visitors to carry their gear on.
Since December 2016, Hyuga in Miyazaki Prefecture has also pursued an initiative dubbed “Relax Surf Town Hyuga”.
Having a warm climate, the city has one of Japan’s most popular surfing spots.
In 2017, it attracted 300,000 surfers and beachgoers, up from 200,000 in 2012.
Hyuga releases promotional videos on a special website as well as uploads images of its coastline on social media. It is working very hard to attract surfing events to capitalize on surfing’s Olympic debut.
Although Makinohara in Shizuoka Prefecture lost the bid to host the 2020 Olympic surfing events to Ichinomiya, it was chosen to host training facilities for the United States and other surfing teams.
The city, sitting directly across from the Izu Peninsula on the opposite side of Suruga Bay, also organizes lessons for elementary school students in order to introduce the sport at an early age.
Another spot that is known for quality waves is part of the Izu Islands, Niijima Island. It takes about 2½ hours to reach Niijima from Tokyo by high-speed ferry or 35 minutes by air.
Niijima Island used to host international surfing events and is trying to energize its economy by wooing back surfers.
The move seems to be succeeding as the annual domestic surfing festivals and competitions it hosts have led to an increase in surfers in recent years.