Zushi looks to tame its unruly summer beach

by Tomohiro Osaki

Staff Writer

Fed up with what it considers deteriorating moral standards among young beachgoers, the city of Zushi, Kanagawa Prefecture, is scrambling to purge its popular beach of disorderly and intimidating visitors, typically out-of-control drunks and people with tattoos associated with yakuza.

The city will submit a proposal to a local council as early as next week calling for tighter rules regarding beach attire and demeanor, Zushi municipal official Masashi Koizumi said Wednesday.

If approved, concerts or playing music through loudspeakers will be banned, although acoustic instruments, such as guitars and harmonicas, will be exempted. Barbecuing and consuming alcohol along the shore are also subject to prohibition, as is exposing highly ornamental tattoos, considered synonymous with the yakuza.

Koizumi said people with tattoos might be asked to cover up their body art with a bath towel they can borrow for free. The rule, however, will not apply to those whose tattoos are deemed just fashion statements, he added, while acknowledging no definition of this yet exists.

If the council passes the proposal, the changes will take place this summer. Police will beef up security but rule breakers will face no penalties.

The city’s initiative was partly prompted by the fatal stabbings of two yakuza at the beach last July.

Besides the bloodshed, Koizumi said, locals have grown increasingly wary of the behavior of some beachgoers, especially young people who have drunken outbursts or dance frantically to loud music as if at a club. It wasn’t until last year that such behavior became acute because it was encouraged by some of the makeshift concessions that line the beach every summer, Koizumi said.

Among the misbehavers were a sizable number of foreigners, he added, because of the beach’s proximity to the U.S. Navy base in Yokosuka.

In compiling the proposal, city officials were inspired by a similar ordinance enacted by Kobe in 2008 that banned tattoos and loud music at its Suma Beach. Koizumi, however, said his city’s intended ordinance, described by Mayor Ryuichi Hirai as “the most stringent in Japan,” will likely be the first of its kind in that it forbids alcohol consumption as well.

“Zushi Beach has traditionally been considered family-friendly. We’d like to get it back to the way it used to be, back when anyone could enjoy it regardless of age,” Koizumi said.

In what was likely a prelude to the planned ordinance, a famous music club near the beach shut down last September after being pressured by the city to comply with its effort to suppress loud music. The venue, opened by Japanese pop duo Kimaguren in 2005, made the beach a hub of clubbing.

In 2010, Kanagawa Prefecture passed a landmark ordinance banning smoking on all of its beaches to improve public hygiene.

According to media reports, the city is planning to shorten operation hours of seaside houses by two hours to make them finish at 6:30 p.m.

  • TLD_0819

    Zushi is the most accessible by rail in the Kanto region (Shonan-Shinjuku Line, Keikyu Line and Yokosuka line) from the suburbs around Tokyo, so naturally it would be more crowded and kind of a wreck at the height of summer.

    Zushi beach does have that reputation as a not so family friendly place, however I was unaware of the stabbings

  • Steve Novosel

    I think you’re a few years behind the news here, Stephen. There’s been a huge crackdown on Yakuza activity in the past few years, and regular people cannot do any sort of business with them at all. It’s put them in quite the crunch.

    “Dancing is technically illegal in clubs”

    No, it’s banned after a certain time of night in clubs that don’t have a permit, not universally at all times.