Shonan may only be an hour from central Tokyo by train, but it is not how you imagine Japan to be. The towns that clutter the land between the hills and vast Sagami bay are lazy, sunswept and full of palm trees; the smell of the sea is everywhere. Surfers cycle through town with their boards strapped to their bikes; teenage boys skip school and ride the coastal highway on their mopeds with the girlfriends clinging on behind; the bars are full of men in Hawaiian shirts and women in bikinis; everybody wears flip-flops, even the postal workers. This is more like St. Ives or Santa Monica than what you might think of when you hear the words "near Tokyo".
But beneath the chic, beachside resort town surfer vibe, you sense something altogether different here. Dark shrines in hidden bamboo groves. Mysterious men in big gold-framed sunglasses on street corners talking Korean into mobile phones. Wind chimes making soft sounds in unknown locations in the middle of the night. Fortune-telling stalls outside train stations which never have any customers. 1000 yen bills floating by on the breeze in the early morning. You have a profound sense that under the surface here there are deep, unknown and unseen currents moving. Though what they are and what they mean, you have no clear idea.