Here’s To Waiting

Posted by on Oct 23, 2011 in Shizuoka, Travel Volunteer Journey | No Comments
Here’s To Waiting

When you’re down there, with the waves stampeding over the top of you, your first thought isn’t about breathing – at least it shouldn’t be. No, you should be more worried about the board, a seven-foot long, bladed piece of potential doom that’s floating somewhere above your head.

Of course if you’re actually any good at surfing, such things are less of a bother – decent riders serenely glide to shore, or voluntarily plop back into the ocean when the wave’s momentum is lost. But I’m not decent, not by a long way, so today in the waters off Shimoda in southern Shizuoka prefecture, I spent quite a lot of time fretting over the whereabouts of my board as I crashed fruitlessly into the sea again and again.

For the many others around me, it was a good day. Down here, autumn won’t really take hold for another few weeks, and until it does, the Pacific waters are still perfectly good for surfing. Occupying American forces first introduced the sport to locals just after the Second World War, and – like so many other ideas – the Japanese picked up the ball and ran. Now it’s estimated that over a million Japanese surf regularly, chasing an endless summer. I’m sure at least half of them were in the water with me today.

As happens around the world, from Hawaii to Bali, from South Africa to Peru, the surfing culture hasn’t just put people into the water, it’s transformed the entire look and feel of the area. The familiar surfing brands are everywhere; no matter how hard you try, you can’t escape listening to Jack Johnson and Bob Marley. Menus contain a disproportionate number of mango shakes and banana cakes. None of it feels very Japanese; surfing culture rarely feels native where ever it lands. But stopping the radical dudes with the t-shaped torsos from setting-up shop would be as much use as trying to flatten the waves themselves.

For its part, Shimoda is at least well-versed in foreign culture. It was here that one of the first American ports was opened in 1854, following the hard line of negotiation that Commodore Perry had taken the previous year (“Open up or we’ll blow you to smithereens”) in response to Japan’s policy of seclusion.

Over 150 years later, the entire region looks distinctly Californian, although that’s got nothing to do with the American influence. There are points on the winding coastal roads towards the bottom of the Izu peninsula that wouldn’t be out of place along the fabled Highway One. Sheer, angry looking islets rise up from the waves, where surfers risk everything in search of bigger waves. All of it is very nice to look at, but a mite distracting when it comes to negotiating the countless bends of the road.

But when you get to the end of the peninsula and see a slow sunset over a satisfyingly dramatic shore, you forget about such things, and about the countless failures in the ocean. You just stand, and look and wait – that’s what you do. You wait.




サーフィンは第二次世界大戦後、日本に駐留していたアメリカ軍によって、その他多くの事と一緒に日本人に紹介された。日本ではポピュラーな野球同様、今では多くの人がサーフィンを楽しみ、映画『Endless Summer』さながらに、波を追い求めてこの下田に足を運んでいる。


ここ下田ではその外国文化が上手く馴染んでいる。鎖国を開放するようにとマシュー率いる黒船が来航し、その後最終的に不平等条約を結んで鎖国に終止符を打った1854年後に開港した港の一つ、それが下田だった。 150年が経った今、このエリアはアメリカの影響とは全く関係なく、だがまるでカリフォルニアのような雰囲気を醸し出している。伊豆半島先端に続く海岸線の道路は美しく、その先端付近に浮かぶ小さな小島のようなものは、サーファーが大きな波を待つ穴場になっている。それらは見る分には素晴らしいが、それを縫って波に乗らなければならないとなると、非常にやっかいなものだ。