The Yomiuri ShimbunYOKOHAMA — Yuigahama beach in Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture, is opening an “adaptive beach” in July that will allow people with disabilities to fully enjoy the seaside, such as by providing ways to move around on wheelchairs and accessible showers.
This is the first attempt in the country to create a swimming beach that is almost entirely accessible for people with disabilities, according to the Nippon Surfing Association.
Yuigahama already has the required facilities for people with disabilities. Efforts to make beaches more accessible began in the late 1990s at beaches in Europe and the United States, such as Miami Beach in Florida.
In past summers, Yuigahama has rented out wheelchairs and mats that can go on both land and in the water. It is now installing special military-grade rubber mats that can keep tanks from sinking into sand. The mats will form a pathway that goes for about 500 meters, connecting the water’s edge to several seaside cottages.
Other improvements include ramps that are being installed at cottages and showers that can be used while sitting in a wheelchair.
The project is spearheaded by Kazune Uchida, 47, a professional surfer from Kamakura who is based in the Shonan district.
Born with a congenital dislocation of the hips that makes it difficult for her to walk, Uchida began surfing at age 17, eventually obtaining the same professional license people without disabilities get. She has done well in regular tournaments and won two consecutive world championships for disabled surfers a couple years ago.
In December, she witnessed facilities for people with disabilities at a beach in California where the world championships were being held.
After coming home, she decided to undertake the beach improvement project, thinking, “I want to spread this throughout the country, starting with my hometown beach.”
The project cost more than ¥100 million, which was provided by the Kamakura city government, local organization Yuigahama Chatei Kumiai, Uchida’s sponsors, and others.