Every time the summer season approaches, most people can think of nothing but refreshing water. This includes going to the beach, sunbathing, snorkeling, and swimming to name a few. The goal is to relieve the heat by going into the cold waters. There are various beaches all over the world that one can travel to when on vacation. Should one think of visiting Japan, the archipelago actually has several islands and beaches to offer. One of these beaches can be found in Oarai, Ibaraki.
An Overview and Map of Oarai-machi, Ibaraki, Japan
More commonly known as Oarai-machi in Japanese, Oarai is situated in Higashiibaraki District in Ibaraki Prefecture. Located in the northern portion of the Kanto region, the town has a total area of 23.74 square kilometers. It had an estimated population of 16,823 as of September in the year 2015. As a result, the town had a population density of 709 persons per square kilometer.
A research center operated by the Japan Atomic Energy Agency can be found in Oarai, along with a few nuclear research reactors such as the Joyo and HTTR facilities. Bordered by the Pacific Ocean on the east side, the town is situated on the coast of the central portion of Ibaraki Prefecture. The beaches in Oarai, namely, Oarai Beach and Oarai Sun Beach, were the first beaches in the country to introduce themselves as barrier-free for the disabled.
Due to the establishment of the municipalities system on the 1st of April in the year 1889, the village of Natsumi located in Kashima District and the villages of Onuki and Isohama located in Higashiibaraki District were created. The status of the village of Onuki was elevated to town status on the 26th of January in the year 1894. On the 3rd of November in the year 1954, Isohama and Onuki merged and became the town of Oarai. However, a certain part of Natsumi was removed by Oarai on the 23rd of July in the year 1955.
The basis of the local economy in Oarai is formed by the nuclear industry as well as the government largess. The town also produces agricultural products such as rice, Japanese radish, and sweet potatoes. Aside from agricultural products, the town also produces fishery products such as whitebait, flounder, sardines, and clams. Oarai also processes marine food such as salted and dried horse mackerel, boiled octopus, and smelt and sardines.
The town experiences all four seasons. The KANBAI season begins at the end of February where locals are able to enjoy plum blossoms. The end of March signifies the blooming of the beautiful cherry trees. It is also during this season that visitors flock the area of Oarai for them to be able to participate in parties under the flowering, soft pink cherry blossoms.
The temperature in Oarai begins to warm up through the months of April and May. The fields in the area begin to get that lush green color, signifying the time to plant rice. As June enters, the rainy season, also known as the TSUYU season, begins. After some time, the rainy season comes to a conclusion, which signifies the arrival of the summer season in Oarai.
Summer season in Oarai is typically hot with the temperature being more than 30 degrees Celsius. With the weather so humid during this season, it can be rather difficult for people who are not used to it. However, it is also a great time for people to go swimming in the morning or afternoon as well as to enjoy fireworks in the evening.
However, the rainy or typhoon season gradually begins from late August to early October. The heat of the summer season begins to decrease during the latter half of the month of September. It is also during this time that the moon can be clearly seen in the sky in the evening. With this, the autumn season gradually enters. The moon is rather spectacular during the months of October and November with it being called the bright moon of mid-autumn, which is called “chusu no meigetsu” in Japanese. With the fall season, locals are able to enjoy the vibrant leaves as it changes hues. It is also during this time that the rice crop of the year is harvested.
The winter season in Oarai begins in the month of December. Although the weather can be very cold, the locals are still able to experience clear, sunny days. The average temperature in the area during winter is 4 degrees Celsius. The first signs of the spring season emerge in mid-February. During this time, plum blossoms begin to bloom, much to the enjoyment of the locals.
Swimming in Oarai Sun Beach
The most popular beach in Oarai is the Oarai Sun Beach. Because of the shallowness of this beach, Oarai Sun Beach can be quite crowded with visitors. During the summer season, the beach is flocked by swimmers of all ages. Because of its popularity, the beach often holds beach volleyball games as well as surfing races. Visitors can also enjoy a cruise by availing the high-speed pleasure boat from Oarai Harbor.
Aside from being the most popular, Oarai Sun Beach is also the largest beach located in the area of Kanto. Its enormity also contributes to its popularity. Covering a huge area of the coastline, Oarai Sun Beach stretches from the bluffs situated at the edge of the town to the Oarai fishing port in the south. Even though it is popular as a shallow beach, its actual depth is actually near the size of its width.
Typically, a small parking area lies near the access road during the off-season. However, when the summer season begins in mid-July, this parking lot is used for business to take advantage of the traffic that it gets during that season. This is because visitors would really have to cross this area in order for them to reach the actual beach area. With a wide stretch of sand, the beach is filled with beach blankets and umbrellas during the summer season.
Though the shoreline, as well as most sandy parts of the area, are near flat level, they are covered in white sand, which adds to the beauty of the beach. The sand is composed of very fine particles, which lets visitors enjoy its feel on their skin. This also adds to the fact that they would not have to worry about any sharp stones that may hurt their skin.
The beach also features active waves, though these are not as vigorous as those seen in its sister beach known as Oarai Beach, which is located to its north. Because there are not rock outcroppings in Oarai Sun Beach, visitors are also able to enjoy a smooth water surface that is perfect for swimming as well as other water sports.
Changing stations or bathrooms in Oarai Sun Beach are aplenty. Showers are also available for guests to remove seawater and sand from their bodies after swimming or sunbathing. Vendors with their huge stalls can be found at the edge of the beach village for anyone needing any supplies such as toiletries, foods, and drinks. A permanent “beach restaurant” can also be found in the area.
If visitors plan on visiting the beach on a weekend, it is highly recommended to go early. This is because as the time gets late, the amount of people increases. One should also bring lots of liquids before heading off to the beach because vendors typically sell their liquids at a steep price. Having to hike back to one’s car just to get water may also prove to be tedious and tiring.
One of the things that make Oarai Sun Beach extra special is that it is designed to be completely barrier-free, which means that the beach is also accessible to handicapped people or people in a wheelchair. In fact, free rentals of wheelchairs are also available, which can even be used to go into the ocean. In Oarai Sun Beach, everyone can enjoy the ocean.
A Guide to Aqua World, Formerly Known as Oarai Aquarium
Another popular local attraction in Oarai is Aqua World. Previously known as Ibaraki Prefectural Oarai Aquarium, Aqua World is perfect for families and even just adults who wish to explore the beauty of the underwater world. With 68,000 aquatic animals kept in the facility, there are around 580 different species that visitors may get to see in Aqua World.
Shows by dolphins and sea lions are also available to the delight of the visitors. These shows also incorporate a feeding program, wherein guests are able to watch aquatic animals accomplish tricks so they could get treats from their trainers. Standing at 60 meters high, the Oarai Marine Tower lets visitors enjoy their meals while being provided with a spectacular view from 50 meters above ground level.
As one of the biggest aquariums in the country, Aqua World has a total floor area of around 19,800 square meters. It is located in an area that faces the Pacific Ocean. It features various exhibits that are definitely must-sees for guests who are already in the area. One of these spots is the corner for sharks. This spot houses the biggest number of species that are kept in the country. This corner is located in the Seas of the World Zone, which is the only place in the country wherein visitors are able to view 48 species of shark.
Another must-see spot is a tank that was primarily developed for ocean sunfish. A popular fish in Japan, the ocean sunfish features a distinct shape as well as a winsome expression. The slow and peaceful swimming of the ocean sunfish can have a tendency to calm its viewers. Another area that is quite popular is the Museum Zone. This spot incorporates various exhibition methods that are utilized in museums. Several forms of marine life with the use of images, as well as stuffed specimens, can be found here.
For children, the best place to go to is Kids Land. It is the biggest facility that can be found in the aquarium. In this spot, children are able to actually touch the fish. A play equipment that looks like a big dish can also be found in this area. As the name suggests, Kids Land is the place where kids would probably have the most fun in.
The aquarium consists of 60 tanks. The total tank volume in the aquarium is 4,100 cubic meters, which is equivalent to a whopping 1,100,000 US gallons. The biggest tank in the aquarium houses 20,000 marine animals consisting of around 80 species. Two species of sharks live in the shark tank, which also features a tunnel wherein visitors are able to walk under the marine animals swimming above.
The sunfish tank contains a volume of 270 cubic meters, which is equivalent to 71,000 US gallons. It houses 8 individual ocean sunfish. The aquarium houses various marine mammals including sea otters, spotted seals, and California sea lions. Some of the seabirds in the aquarium include Humboldt penguins and tufted puffins.
Other attractions in the aquarium include “Ocean Live,” which is a seal and dolphin show that is features four times every operating day. Visitors can also check out mealtime for penguins. Meeting certain strange marine creatures can also be done in the Deep Sea Zone.
Other Local Attractions in the Town of Oarai
There are also other places to check out in Oarai aside from the beaches and the aquarium. For a more hands-on attraction, head on over to “Waku-Waku” Science Museum. Aside from this, one may also try the Learning Plaza and Culture and Environment Learning Program, also known as Umi no Daigaku in Japanese. Opened in April of the year 2004, this program features various accessible courses that visitors can use to experience the rich, natural attractions of Oarai.
For people who love fishes, check out the Fishing Park located at Oarai Port. For a more relaxed experience, one may check out Yukkura Kenkou-Kan, which features a hot spring, sauna, a pool, and training gym. This would be perfect for people who just wish to relax after a long day to going to various places. For a spiritual journey, one may also look into the Shrine Gate, more commonly known as Kamiiso-no-Torii in Japanese. It is best visited during sunrise.