12 beautiful Japanese train stations by the sea

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RocketNews 24 (by Preston Phro):

Being an island nation, there is no shortages of beaches in Japan–though if you live in Tokyo, there are times when the only thing resembling the ocean to be seen is a sea of people. After a weekday morning commute spent sloshing around in a packed train car, it’s easy to find yourself wishing for a more relaxed environment like the beach. And with summer in full swing, there are plenty of beaches we’d rather be lounging on than just about anything.

But it’s a busy world and who has time to sit on the beach and just relax? Well, we sure don’t! But for those of us always on the go, there are a few train stations that at least will give you a view of the ocean on your way to whatever business you may have. Think of it like a vacation that lasts as long as the train stops!

Here are 12 of Japan’s stations on the sea–beautiful, serene, and just outside your train window!

Kitahama Station

Located on the Sea of Okhotsk in north-east Hokkaido, this is perhaps one of the coldest train stations Japan, though you couldn’t tell it from the first two photos below. However, it turns out that a train ride to Kitahama Station will provide you not only with a beautiful view of the ocean, but also of drift ice! In fact, Kitahama Station is apparently the only train station in Japan that regularly offers a glimpse of that fantastic frozen, floating phenomenon.

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北浜駅(3)

北浜駅(雪)

Todoroki Station

Heading to the mainland, this station in Aomori Prefecture is close to the Sea of Japan–extremely close! During stormy weather, waves actually wash over the track and up to the station. While we’re not sure if that’s the most practical location, it does make for beautiful photo opportunities. In fact, the station was featured in JR advertising in 2002, driving train- and station-loving fans out to Aomori. We can’t blame them–a dip in the sea sounds great right now!

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驫木駅 (2)

Nebukawa Station

Located in Kanagawa Prefecture, this is the only station on the Tokaido Main Line between Tokyo and Kobe that is unmanned, though it is apparently a popular destination during New Years. It also provides a stunning view of open waters.

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Shimonada Station

Another unmanned stop, Shimonada Station is located in Ehime Prefecture on the Shikoku Yosan Line. Having been featured in numerous posters and other JR advertisements, the station has become popular among train lovers and photographers across the country as a location for breathtaking landscape photos. It even has its own Facebook page!

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下灘駅 (3)

下灘駅 (2)

Baishinji Station

Another station in Ehime PrefectureBaishinji Station is not famous just for its location–though it certainly is beautiful. The station captured the popular imagination in 1991 thanks to the TV drama Tokyo Love Story, about three Ehime friends who eventually reunite in Tokyo. As you may have guessed from the photo below, Rika, one of the main characters of the show, ties a “bye-bye handkerchief” to the railing in a climactic scene. Fans of the show and travelers have kept up the tradition for over two decades!

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梅津寺駅

Yoroi Station

This Hyogo Prefecture station isn’t much to look at itself–it could easily be mistaken for a run-down bathroom in an interstate rest area–but the view from the platform certainly makes up for it. Not only is the station unmanned, there aren’t even any automated ticket machines! Despite its desolate appearance, the station has become a bit of an attraction for train lovers following its appearance in some TV shows. It has also appeared in JR advertisements, where it was written that “you can feel the sea breeze blowing off the ocean right under your eyes just standing on the platform.”

▼The station itself

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▼The view from the platform.

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Oobatake Station

One of the more rural areas of Japan, Yamaguchi Prefecture is also home to Oobatake Station, which sits right along the sea. An hour train ride from the Shinkansen station in Hiroshima, this station is an excellent sightseeing destination–though that’s about all you’ll have time for! In this part of the country, you can usually find only local trains.

大畠駅

Oumikawa Station

Apparently this Niigata Prefecture station is the closest to actual open waters in Japan, though judging from other entries on this list, the competition for that honor is fierce. In fact, the train line runs right along the coast for several miles, making not just this station but the entire route a beautiful destination for sight-seers. And, like many other stops on this list, the station is unmanned. We’re starting to wonder how JR gets people to pay for tickets…

Yukawa Station

Located in Wakayama Prefecture, Yukawa Station provides a magnificent view not only of the sea but also of the prefecture’s mountains. And if you’re a fan of the beach, the station is just a stone’s throw away from the Yukawa Kaisui Yokujo (Yukawa Swimming Area). Best of all, this station is also unmanned, so there won’t be any attendants to scold you for tracking sand and water all over the platform!

湯川駅

湯川駅 (2)

Umashibaura Station

Situated on Tokyo Bay in Kanagawa Prefecture, this station is probably not where you’d want to wait out a storm with large waves. It is, however, an excellent destination for sight-seeing. In addition to the view of the bay, rail riders are afforded an excellent view of the Yokohama Bay Bridge, Tsurumi Tsubasa Bridge, and fireworks launched from Yamashita Park in the summer.

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海芝浦駅 (2)

Kamakurakoko Mae Station

As you may have guessed from the name of this station, it’s located in Kamakura City, Kanagawa Prefecture near Kamakura High School. Kamakura City, in addition to its beautiful temples, shrines, and German sausages, is a popular destination for its gorgeous beaches. The station offers a beautiful view of the ocean and as well as Enoshima, Miura Peninsula, and even Mt. Fuji on clear days. That said, we’re sure it’s a horrible way to start the school day–imaging having a gorgeous beach dangled in front of you only for it to be ripped away and replaced with an hour spent conjugating English verbs!

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鎌倉高校前駅 (2)

Tagi Station

This beach-front train stop is located in Shimane Prefecture, the second least populated prefecture in Japan. Despite the lack of people around to use it, Tagi Station and the area between it and its neighbor down the line Oda Station are famous as sight-seeing destinations and have appeared in numerous magazines. Apparently there is also a sakura (cherry) tree next to the platform, providing a unique photo opportunity when the tree blossoms in the spring.

Tagi Station

Giant straw creatures once again invade Japan for the Wara [Rice Straw] Art Festival

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RocketNews 24/Bored Panda:

In Niigata Prefecture, Japan, the “wara” or rice-straw festival is held every August 31st, where local artists build elaborate straw sculptures over wooden frames.

Amy Goda, an aspiring local artist, has gained fame for her spectacular rice-straw dinosaur sculptures, and her massive creatures have made the Wara Art Festival famous online. Visitors hoping to catch a glimpse of these unique sculptures can go to Uwasekigata Park in Niigata City’s Nishikan Ward, where they will remain until the beginning of November.

Half-Japanese/half African-American beauty chosen to represent Japan at Miss Universe 2015

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RocketNews 24:

Whoever said that Niigata Prefecture is home the most beautiful women in Japan may need to think again. For the second year in the row, the Japanese representative for the Miss Universe competition hails from Nagasaki, with last year’s crown holder being Keiko Tsuji. As cool as that is, the real story of the year is that the 2015 representative, Ariana Miyamoto, is half Japanese.

It’s no surprise that Western features are considered beautiful in Japan. Heck, some women are actively seeking a foreign partner in order to produce absolutely adorable “haafu” (half-Japanese) babies. Sometimes, due to their alluring features, haafu are not always treated the same, or even as Japanese, as their native peers. Miss Nagasaki faced her fair share of race-related challenges too and although some people are against her acting as a representative for Japan due to her mixed heritage, she is also receiving a lot of support.

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The final of the 18th Miss Universe Japan contest was held in Tokyo on March 8. As you’d expect, Miss Nagasaki faced some tough competition of equally beautiful and graceful young ladies, but it’d be a stretch to say that she didn’t stick out. However, it really was only her looks that set her apart, being born and raised in Japan, she is not only a Japanese citizen, but she identifies with Japanese culture and considers herself Japanese.

Twenty-year-old Ariana was born to a Japanese mother and an African-American father in Sasebo, Nagasaki, the location of a major American naval base. After junior high graduation in Sasebo, she spent her high school years studying in the US. Upon returning to Japan as a young adult she set her sights on becoming a model.

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Working part-time as a bartender, Ariana hesitantly entered the pageant scene, feeling that with her “foreigner look,” she would never make it far. How wrong she was!

But she’s not just a 173cm (5’6″) bombshell; Ariana is described as a saishoku kenbi, “a woman blessed with both intelligence and beauty.” Growing up in Japan, she is no stranger to Japanese culture and even has a 5th degree mastery of Japanese calligraphy. She lists her hobbies as cooking and “touring,” having obtained her motorcycle license, a rare thing for a young woman in Japan.

▼ “Watashi ha watashi” (lit. “I am myself.”)

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In an interview she revealed that the most influential person in her life is American pop-star Mariah Carey.

“She went through a lot of difficulties before becoming a popular singing sensation… She faced some racial hurdles, similar to myself, but she overcame them and became a top star, so she’s been a big influence on me.”

It’s wonderful that she has such a strong woman she can look up to, as well as a lot of very supportive friends, fellow contestants and fans. But unfortunately, not all Japanese people are excited about a half-Japanese girl representing their country. Being a very homogenous society, some people still have a time considering haafu as truly Japanese.

Although this should be a joyous occasion for the young beauty, Ariana is facing challenges that no other Japanese Miss Universe contestant to date has had to face, with those opposing Ariana voicing their dissent online with statements such as “She has too much black blood in her to be Japanese.”

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As sad as it is, luckily, Ariana also has a very supportive fan base who are making an even bigger impact on social media with praise and congratulations.

“Don’t lose to discrimination and with a strong heart do your best to go win the Miss Universe prize.”
“Having a different ethnicity in you doesn’t make you ANY LESS JAPANESE!”

Ariana appreciates the support that helped her get to this point and promised, “The world competition is going to be tough, but I’ll believe in myself and continue doing me best!” 

She has a long road ahead of her before the Miss Universe pageant in January of next year. She will be trained in walking, talking, make up, style and even physical training. We would love for her to win the world competition, because who better to represent the world (and universe) than a woman with a racially diverse background? Good luck Ariana, you have our vote!

▼ Here’s an interview with Ariana (Japanese).

Video

Japanese fishermen catch live giant squid near Niigata Prefecture

Fisherman Shigenori Goto last week found a monstrous live giant squid in a fixed net used to catch Japanese amberjack fish off the coast of Sadogashima Island, Niigata Prefecture. Surprisingly, the rare giant squid was still alive when the fishermen discovered it, but unfortunately died shortly after.

Once the fishermen were back on land, the squid was taken to the Niigata prefectural government’s fishery and marine research institute. Researchers determined that the squid was male, weighing in at 163 kg (360 lbs) and measured nearly 4m (13ft) in length.