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Surfing With Dolphins and Garbage in Chiba, Japan

I’m often surprised by the amount of sea life that I share waves with at my local surf break in Chiba. I’d always deemed the waters too unappealing to anything with gills. Especially given the area’s proximity to Tokyo Bay and all the industrial waste that is probably pumped into that. In fact, I half expect to start glowing in the dark myself at some point.  

Still, on a sunny day when the light hits an oncoming wave, you can see it’s filled with fish. Some of them like to jump out of the water, landing in an unceremonious belly flop just a few meters away.

Last summer, beaches north and south of Tokyo were closed to swimmer during peak summer when a number of rogue sharks were spotted closer to shore than usual. Actually, a Japanese surfer friend assured me that they turn up every year, it’s just that the news was a little bit light last summer so the media made the most of their appearance! Either way, it gave me the willies!  

Last October, on a brooding cloudy day in Chiba, I was sat on my board waiting for some waves, when I thought I saw the back of a very large fish (?) snake in and out of the water. I was pretty isolated so had nobody to confirm this sighting with. Since then, I’ve seen the same thing a handful of times, but always from a fair few meters away. Until today. 

There were about five of us waiting on our boards in a rough line some distance from the beach. The same fish (?) appeared. This time about 2 meters in front of me. It surprised the hell out of me and accordingly I let out an uncontrolled man yelp. Surfer to the right smiled. Surfer to the left started scanning his immediate vicinity looking rather panicked. The water was murky this morning so no one could see anything. Anyway, the back of this thing kept popping up between the three of us. I’d say it was a meter and a half in length. My first thought had been, shark. However, the way it was weaving between us made me think otherwise. It seemed playful in its nature. At one point it swam right past me less than a meter away. Finally, it came out the water head first. A bloody dolphin! No, a porpoise. I ‘Googled’ it when I got back and I’m going with porpoise. It had a very round face. I could be completely wrong though, as I’d never heard of dolphin or porpoise being in these waters.  

After the initial shock, it now takes the form of one of those encounters with nature that make you go all a bit spiritual! Like, ‘Yea, man! Me and nature are one’. Or some such waffle!

Which brings me to the second point of this post. Japan’s beaches are filthy. Really. OK, there may be some that are kept in good nick (although I’ve yet to see them), but in this surfer’s experience, too few of the locals give a toss about the state of their beaches. Even the surfers. There’s litter/garbage everywhere. By far and away the biggest culprits are fireworks and cigarette butts (it’s the remit of many a Japanese surfer to change into the wetsuit, wax the board and then have a smoke before paddling out).

Don’t get me wrong, litter can easily get out of control on the beach. It only takes a gust of wind. The quantity of crap on many of Japan’s beaches though, suggests that the locals simply don’t give toss. Maybe it’s the lack of garbage cans/bins (an ever present in the cities). Maybe the prospect of having to separate it all once they get home is too much to bear. I honestly couldn’t care the reason, just sort it out people. Pick up your sh#$t! If not, should today’s dolphin/porpoise (unconfirmed) be brave enough to come back, it might be wearing a plastic bag on its head accessorised with a used condom.

If you're interested in getting started with surfing in Japan, you can see my earlier post; An Introduction To Surfing In Japan

It covers some of the basics of how much money you need to buy surf gear, some of the rules and customs surrounding surfing in Japan, and has links to other useful surf resources.  Hope it helps.

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This is nothing. When i used to do a lot of scuba diving around Japan like in Atami and around Oshima Island, what was astonishing was the garbage littering the floor of the ocean. All kinds of s**t including fishing paraphernalia, cans, plastic friggin' everywhere, tires, shoes, chucks of steel, fishing lines wtf is going on here anyway? Like a dumping ground for waste...out of site out of mind.


@TCWest Ha! Are those 'sights' listed in the dive itineraries?
I've always felt that the majority of locals kind of turn their back on the ocean. There's very little in the may of development that embraces the view, if you see what I mean. I lot of the places I surf at have a sort of waste land/dumping ground feel to them. Also, large strips of coastline are wrapped up in a concrete straight jacket with all the sea walls and tetrapods, although this is understandable, I guess.


@Tomuu Yeah, out around Oshima Island the dive itinerary was advertised as: "Diving with plastic and fishing hooks."

You would be amused by my blogs on the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) which I've renamed to the Liberal Concrete Party (LCP) re: concrete and Tetrapods. First, with this one...

Japan’s "Great Wall" and the renamed Liberal Democratic Party to the Liberal Concrete Party

And second, with this one...

My Number and Taro Aso's connections – new sign above train stations: "Arbeit macht frei"

Have a wonderful concrete day...


@TCWest Cheers. I'll give them a read.

"Diving with plastic and fishing hooks." - Where do I sign up?!


@TCWest Thanks for putting me onto those posts. Really interesting reads.

50% of Japan's coastline covered in tetrapods and seawalls? I can believe it. I see them all over the place. Real eyesores. Still, it's nice to know that someone is profiting from them!!! Should have known it was Aso. These people will do anything to turn a profit, and screw everyone else in the process. This is a good one for them though, I guess. They can wrap it up arguments about protecting the people. I suppose the tetrapod thing does fit nicely into the very prevention-based nature of society over here.

As for the My Number thing, well that has 'suspicious' written all over it, and it's nice to see that unscrupulous twats were quick off the mark in using the delivery of these 'numbers' to bribe people. You just can't win, can you?

I will say this about Aso, though; he creates amusing headlines (if a little worrying).

As for the Royals being Prussian. I hear you, but you'll be banging your head against a brick wall with that one. People who like that sort of thing, like that sort of thing. Where ever it's from.

Enjoyed reading those. Ta!



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