30 August 2008

Beach House Happiness

Last night I went to maybe the coolest place I've been in Japan. My friend Yoko took me to the Blue Moon Cafe, a beach house out on the beach in Hayama, near Kamakura.

Beach house means it's not a real structure: it's a roof over the sand. In the case of the Blue Moon, it's actually done with bamboo for both the uprights and the roof (the more commercial beach houses near Kamakura are tin over a steel frame). Hayama is in general a lot less crowded and a lot less tacky than the more accessible beaches. I was there in the evening and it was raining, at some points intensely; but we just hung out underneath the bamboo roof.

Like the tourist season in Shonan in general, things are only happening during the summer. Blue Moon takes this to the full extent: it's only open in July and August, and the night we went was the next-to-last night for the year. It is seriously right on the beach, 20 yards from the surf. In addition to the bar/kitchen area and the stage, Blue Moon has a set of booths across the back of the beach house that range from selling hand-made locally-designed clothing, to promoting sustainable conservation measures, to a really good Chinese tea house.

Blue Moon has live music, dance, or other performances almost every night. Last night it was three guys who play traditional Okinawan music, with the lead musician and singer on sanshin, one guitarist (not visible in photo), and a multi-instrumentalist on the right who at various points played mandolin, violin, and even trombone! I really enjoyed hearing them, although I'm sure Okinawan folk music isn't for everybody.

The crowd at Blue Moon was great. For one thing, although it doesn't show in the pictures, in Japan there's effectively no drinking age and there are no laws about separating children from adults having a good time, so there were all sort of kids at Blue Moon running back and forth through the crowd and playing on the beach. And, the crowd was extremely friendly and mellow, lots of people said hi and we met a number of folks. There were a surprisingly large number of foreigners, which appears to be kind of true of Hayama and Shonan in general. However, they weren't the obnoxious foreigners that you sometimes find in Roppongi; it was more foreigners who seem to have settled into Japan for a bit and are comfortable there.

Blue Moon was a great experience and I hope to be able to get there for the 2009 version!

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