The seawater by Tokyo's Kasai Rinkai Park is only slightly cooler than body temperature, and its beach contains a mix of tiny gravel and seashell fragments instead of fine white sand.

The beach is far from a perfect summer getaway. The skyline of the metropolis is visible in the distance, and no palm trees are in sight. But for Yuzo Sekiguchi, opening the small strip on Tokyo Bay for swimmers was a dream five decades in the making.

"For the first time in 51 years, beginning this year one can enjoy and swim at the beach without having to leave Tokyo," Sekiguchi, 65, who played a key role in opening the Kasai Rinkai Park beach, said in a recent interview with The Japan Times.