Umi-biraki is an event that marks the beginning of the swimming season at beaches in Japan. Usually led by local government officials in charge of a given beach, umi-biraki events are open to the general public and often involve a Shinto ceremony with prayers for prosperous business and prevention of sea accidents. Afterwards, participants help to clean up the beach and then go on to join in other activities.
Many beaches of Japan celebrate this event on July 1st, while Okinawa and other warmer places do so earlier. Since most of Japan’s public elementary and secondary schools have a summer off from late July through the end of August, families often visit beaches during this time. The third Monday of July is a national holiday as known as “Marine Day,” and the entire month of July has been designated the “Month of the Sea.”
To keep swimmers safe, most beaches run by local governments install lifeguards, often seated on watchtowers, from the day of umi-biraki or sometime in late July through mid-August. Following this time, schools of jellyfish frequently appear in the sea and cause difficulties for swimmers.
Updated: 31 July, 2017