I was in Japan for two crazy weeks in September and October last year, it was mainly a holiday but I was also there to shoot a couple of projects (the main one being a portrait story on the racers at the Keirin Academy).
I’ve wanted to go to Japan since I was a teenager, growing up with an interest in martial arts and comic books and just being fascinated by the cultural differences, but for some reason it had never happened so I was absolutely frothing for this trip.
One thing I was keen to do there was sample some surf, after a lot of internet searching and itinerary negotiations with my long suffering girlfriend we plumped for a few days at the end of the trip on the Izu Peninsula, near a small town called Shimoda.
Shimoda happened to be the place where Japanese seclusion was broken by Commodore Perry and his black ships in the 1800s but the town itself is pretty dull. The surf can be world class apparently with many competitions held there over the years at Shirahama beach on the north side of Shimoda but whilst we were there it was pretty average to poor.
We were after peace and quiet and something a little more rural than Osaka , Tokyo and Kyoto where we’d spent most of the holiday and we got it, we stayed near Ohama beach and I can’t even remember the name of the town, it was tiny.
We had wild boar rolling rocks down the street
We had wild boar rolling rocks down the street outside the hostel we stayed in and the night before we turned up the whole town had woken in the middle of the night to a tsunami warning (in coastal areas they have these tannoy systems that broadcast public announcements). Thanks to the earthquake in Chile they’d all been up a hill at 3am sharing tea and cakes apparently.
The surf wasn’t amazing but the beach was beautiful and the water was absolutely lush, and this was the first time in 2015 I hadn’t worn a winter wetsuit so I was plenty stoked. The surfers there were a total mix of abilities and the vibe was my favourite thing, everyone was so friendly and excited to be in the water.
No one was trying to be cool or giving out any bad vibes and even as an obvious visitor to the beach I didn’t get any locals being pricks, everyone there was just super buzzy about being in the sea and having a good time.
So in between little sessions I decided to shoot portraits of some the folks I was exchanging shakas (Hawaiian influence is big here) and smiles with in the water.
I have no idea who these people are because they didn’t speak English and i don’t speak Japanese but they were all super friendly in the water and they were all really surprised that I wanted to take their picture. A little sign language goes a long way!
If you ever make it to this area the Hawaiian burger joint does great food and www.realsurf.jp/2174-2 is the spot for board rental etc…
Words and Images Jasper Clarke
Shimoda, located at the southern tip of the Izu Peninsula about 60 miles southwest of Tokyo.