All of us enjoy sea bathing with friends and family during Summer vacations. The best beaches for swimming in Fukuoka that come to mind are Nokonoshima, Ikinomatsubara, and Obaru in Nishi Ward, and Shikanoshima and Katsuma in Higashi Ward.
When did beach swimming become a popular recreation? The practice is said to have originated in Great Britain in the 18th century when a doctor established a seaside resort as a method for treating illness. In Japan, the records show that sites for sea bathing were created for medical treatment in Okayama Prefecture and Suma in Hyogo Prefecture.
According to the Fukuoka Nichi Nichi Shimbun, the forerunner of today’s Nishinippon Shimbun, the first site for sea bathing in Fukuoka City was opened in what is now Sawara Ward. Tennis courts, a sumo ring, and a ring toss are were set up on the beach next to the Matsubara pine forest, and floating tubs, rafts, and a lifesaving boat were placed offshore. In short, it took about 30 years for sea bathing to change from a form of medical treatment to a recreational activity. The newspaper conducted a campaign over several days to explain the effectiveness of sea bathing and encourage women to give it a try.
Incidentally, that first site for sea bathing in Fukuoka City’s Sawara Ward was in Nishijin-machi, the birthplace of the Sazae-san cartoon. Machiko Hasegawa, who created the comic, was evacuated there from Tokyo. The local Yukan Fukunichi newspaper was the first to run her four-panel comic strip when she lived in that district.
The story goes that she would often think about the characters who appeared in her strip while walking along the beach at Momochi near her house in Nishijin. The seashore in those days was beautiful, with green pines and white sand. Praise of that scenery was included in the lyrics of the Momochi Junior High School song, which was composed in 1948.
Nothing makes me happier to know that the members of Sazae-san’s famous family that everyone in Japan knows–Isono Namihei, Fune, Sazae, Katsuo, Wakame, and Masuo—were created at the Momochi seashore in Nishijin-machi, Sawara Ward, here in Fukuoka City.
Originally published in Fukuoka Now magazine (fn128, Aug. 2009)