Photo/Illutration A ceremony to celebrate the opening of Katase Nishihama Kugenuma beach is held on July 3 in Fujisawa, Kanagawa Prefecture. (Tadahiro Hata)

FUJISAWA, Kanagawa Prefecture--Popular beaches in the Enoshima area are welcoming back sunbathers for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic hit and forced their closure last summer. 

Katase Nishihama Kugenuma beach as well as Katase Higashihama beach in Fujisawa, Kanagawa Prefecture, opened their swimming areas to the public on July 3.

Due to the surge in novel coronavirus infections, 25 beaches in the prefecture that are typically packed remained closed to the public last summer.

But this year, 15 beaches, including the two, have decided to open.

The chief priest of Enoshima Shrine and others attended an opening ceremony held at Katase Nishihama Kugenuma beach on July 3 to conduct rituals and pray for safety.

“We will keep the ocean safe and secure by having each seaside hut to implement thorough infection prevention measures,” said Hiroyuki Morii, who heads an association that manages the beach.

According to the city government, an estimated 256,300 beachgoers visited the Enoshima area last summer even though the beaches were closed and seaside huts were prohibited from opening.

This summer, local associations that manage area beaches are implementing their own rules and urging beachgoers to follow designated health protocols.

At Tsujido beach, for example, drinking alcohol will be prohibited except at beachside huts. Pitching a large tent without permission will also be banned.

Morii said his association has asked a private security company to patrol Katase Nishihama Kugenuma beach, and members of the association will join the effort on weekends.

Morii is confident that the beach “will not be a lawless zone” by making sure that the huts tell customers to follow the rules and security guards make the rounds to maintain order.