Like a pair of Shisars to Okinawa, the guardian of Shirahama, Engetsu welcomes you upon arrival to the pristine beaches and bids farewell after a weekend of sand and surf. The snorkeling around this area is pretty good- better than Sumoto, but not quite as good as the Oita coastline in Kamae-machi.
If you ever are in Oita, I highly recommend visiting Kamae (here’s a link to info Southern Oita). Not only are there some pretty cool cultural heritage sites, but the snorkeling and diving in front of the Marine Culture Center are awesome. They keep pens of yellowtails here (there is a successful aquaculture operation right out front), and you can swim among the escapees. I just wish I had brought a spear along, because they were schooling all around me.
The best thing about the Marine Culture Center is that you can swim with ocean Sunfish in their 100 M. salt water swimming pool during the spring. I didn’t get to do this, but it sounds really cool. I don’t remember the prices (and didn’t pay because I went with my elementary school as a counselor on a school trip), but lodging is cheap. Also, you won’t find any foreigners around here, as word hasn’t gotten around yet (hopefully it stays that way).
Up here in Kansai, we don’t have the luxury of being close to such wonderful beaches as Yonozu (in Oita), Ashikita and Amakusa (in Kumamoto), or the great spots along the Miyazaki and Kagoshima coast. There is Suma beach, but the water is the color of Oolong tea, and no one goes in it. The only reason people go to the local beach is to nampa.
As I said earlier, Shirahama is a nice beach, but it doesn’t compare to the natural beaches of Kyushu. The sand is imported from Australia, so although nicely groomed, it isn’t really natural, and it gets crowded at times. I like having a beach all to myself, but if you like nampa, this is the place.
Ironically, no one will go in the water before Umi no hi (Sea Day), so even if it is crowded, if you choose to go into the water you will have the ocean all to yourself. Why will no one go in the water before July 20th? I don’t think even they know the reason themselves, but I am satisfied to know that, even if the sand is taken, the Sea is mine and mine alone before this day!