Searching For Sea Glass – Discovering A Whole Lot More

It was a gorgeous summer day in June.  Bright sun, a cool breeze and my friend Christine and I decided on a whim to drive out of Tokyo to an area in Chiba to hunt for sea glass.  She was in limbo, waiting for the US government to assign her husband his next posting and I was also in my own sort of limbo.  School had ended and our summer holiday had not yet begun.  Three of my four kids were out of Japan. Sophie was attending summer school for long days out in Chofu and I had hours to kill and no good reason to do anything.  Our destination was an area we had been before for hiking called Nokogiriyama (Sawtooth Mountain).  While waiting for our ferry to take us back to Tokyo, we killed some time and found a concrete beach – basically Japan’s coastline that has been concreted over to make safer for tsunamis which was littered with sea glass.  So this was our destination.  We had a navigation number for a 7-11 not far from the mountain’s base and off we went.  We took the aqua-line which is a bridge-tunnel combination that is a total of 14 kilometers long (about 9 miles) the tunnel part being the 4th longest underwater tunnel in the world.  It actually cost 11 billion USD to construct but it cuts about 1.15 minutes from your trip from Tokyo to Chiba – unless of course you sit in the underground tunnel part for 45 minutes in traffic which is what happened to us.  And this was only about 12 weeks post the 3/11 earthquake and we were still having nice-sized aftershocks.  So, it wasn’t the smartest decision of our journey.  Once in Chiba we got lost trying to listen to our navigation while chatting and tried to follow the farm roads winding around rice paddys and long strips of nothingness until two hours later we “arrived at our destination”, the 7-11 we were heading for.  So then what?  It had been over a year since we’d been there and at that time we were with a guide which means we didn’t pay that much attention to what we were doing.  So we parked the car at the train station and started walking in the direction we thought we walked before.  That was unsuccessful.  So we got back in the car and drove north for a few miles seeking and searching for our mystery beach. Nothing.  Turned around and headed in the other direction – back to where we had come from hoping we’d missed something.  It’s like the place didn’t exist.  But we had the bounty of beautiful sea glass to prove that it did so we kept looking.  Taking roads my car had no business going down, we meandered by the coast – sometimes way too close to it – until we found another beach that we hoped would be just as littered with the small pieces of smooth blue and green glass and pottery we found the last time we were in the area.  We reasoned the coast was the coast and if things washed up on one beach nearby then they would most certainly wash up on a beach a few miles away.  We pulled right into the small parking lot – not another car in sight and started beach combing.  Walking onto the sand we were thrilled to find the place to ourselves – the best way to find treasure.  There was one man sitting way back on the cement steps by the parking lot but besides him the beach was deserted.  We walked down to the line in the sand that separates the wet sand from the dry, where most of the debris had collected and started our quest.  At first we walked together showing each other what we found – nothing like the other beach but good enough.  And then, while walking and staring down at the sand, we naturally separated, Christine going in one direction and myself in another.  I walked the beach, searching for treasure, occasionally finding something I thought interesting enough to keep and adding it to my plastic bag inside my purse.  This continued for about a half hour and every now and then, I would look up and see Christine down the beach bending down to pick something up.  The day was gorgeous, the breeze refreshing and the activity relaxing and quite peaceful.  And then, as I plopped another piece of glass in my bag, I found I had company.  It was the man who had been sitting on the cement steps.  He was about my height and seemed friendly enough.  In Japanese, he asked me what I was collecting and I took out my bag and showed him, saying “it’s beautiful, no?” and then in Japanese he said that I was beautiful.  And that was when things got interesting.  I laughed him off and showed him my wedding band and walked away, down towards the water and continued to look for more glass.  Now, if I had been in America, I’m pretty sure Christine and I would have stayed together.  But it was Japan, and my guard was way down.  It’s the safest place on earth, right?  But still, I thought he would just walk away and leave me alone.  That is not what happened.  I felt his presence near me and when I looked up again, he had pulled his pants down and was showing me HIS treasure.  Well, I have to admit this New York girl was NOT PREPARED!  I sort of laughed and screamed at the same time and took off running down the beach to Christine who seemed miles away.  My arms were flailing and I was still screaming when I got close to her.  I must have looked like a maniac because her guard was also down and she didn’t know what was going on.  When I breathlessly explained what happened and how we had to get out of there immediately she asked how big he was and then determined that we could “take him”.  Christine is probably 5’10 and I’m 5’8 and together she thought why leave the beach – she had just found a good spot with nice glass!  I convinced her that we had to make an immediate exit which we did and she grabbed a big stick from the sand and we both had our plastic bags filled with glass and shells as our protectors.  Walking down the deserted road back to our car, there was a small truck idling which we thought might have been the flasher’s but we kept walking determined to get back to the car as soon as possible.  Once we were safely back and buckled in, we burst out laughing.  It was so unexpected it was almost like it hadn’t happened.  But it was a good lesson and one I told my daughter when we returned home.  Japan is the safest place on earth but there are still crazy people everywhere.  From now on, no more solo treasure hunting in Japan for me.

Having a well earned beer after our adventure by the sea!
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2 thoughts on “Searching For Sea Glass – Discovering A Whole Lot More

  1. Great story! The gals did exactly what they should have – moved to safely (and then enjoyed a beer)! I do recommend that if anyone reading this story were to have a similar encounter – report it! Japanese women almost never report this kind of thing, so police/the government really underestimate how often it really happens. Take mental notes or have a cell phone camera ready (of him, of his clothes, of his shoes, of his hands (rings, watch), of his license plate,…). On the other hand, as the guide who took Lisa to Nokogiriyama in the first place, trying to report the incident in this dinky, practically deserted fishing village would have been an article in itself!!

  2. As usual,, great writng and a great adventure!!!

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