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Yoshiji Nakamura stands on his Omanohama beach littered with waste that drifted to Toshijima island in Toba, Mie Prefecture. (Akihito Usui)

Japan - Never-ending trash forces closure of beach on isle in Ise Bay

TOBA, Mie Prefecture—For more than 20 years, Yoshiji Nakamura has often single-handedly cleared his island beach of garbage and debris, only to see more waste drift in and ruin his cleanup effort.

Finally, after all the endless toil, dwindling crowds and the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, he closed down the Omanohama beach for good just before this year’s bathing season.

“It was like Children’s Limbo in Buddhism where one has to endlessly engage in unrewarded tasks,” Nakamura said of his beach-cleaning work. “There appeared to be no end to it.”

The Omanohama bathing beach on the Toshijima islet in Toba city is located 500 meters from Wagu port. People can reach the port in 15 minutes by ferry along a regular course from the Toba Marine Terminal on the mainland.

The 80-meter-wide beach was usually open from mid-July through early September, and it was reportedly flooded with bathers in the 1980s.

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The Omanohama swimming site was a popular place in the 1980s. (Provided by Yoshiji Nakamura)

Nakamura, who manages a ryokan, initially looked after the beach with other inn operators. But after another bathing beach opened nearby, Nakamura took care of Omanohama alone for more than two decades.

He and staff from his ryokan cleared the large amount of waste from the beach when swimming season neared. The removal process took around a week.

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