You’re Beautiful: the story of a novel, part two

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So to follow on from the previous post about the Japan background to my novel You’re Beautiful, and in the interests of being completist, this is the beach that my weekend cottage overlooked, as viewed from the garden. But this is not the beach on which the beach in the novel was based. That one, much livelier and trendier, was a little further up the coast, and will feature in an upcoming post. This one, as you can see, is quiet and peaceful, although it gets very busy in the height of summer.

I’m guessing this photo was taken in about June, judging by the flourishing lilies, and the construction, up near the top left corner of the photo, of the umi no ie, literally “sea house,” a cafe that opens for the duration of official Japanese beach-going season which is from 1st July to 31st August. I remember on my first visits to Japan in the late eighties and early nineties being astonished at the rigidity with which the Japanese adhered to beach-going season. A beach that was packed on 31st August would be completely deserted on 1st September, despite the still searing heat. On my very first visit to Japan back in 1988, in a hot and steamy September, my friend and I, knowing nothing about Japanese traditions, went to the beach where we laid on our towels in our swimsuits and swam in the sea, relishing the fact that we had the beach to ourselves. But we soon fled when a crowd of people gathered on the promenade to point and laugh at the crazy foreigners.

These days, the Japanese are less rigid about these dates when it comes to hanging out on the beach, but summer beach bars still tend to close on the last day of August. A lot of the action in You’re Beautiful takes place in a Japanese beach bar. Lisa, the novel’s female protagonist, ends up getting a job there as a kind of refuge when her relationship with her boyfriend breaks down, but the fact that her job and the bar will literally vanish on the first day of September add dramatic tension to her story as she struggles to make the right decision about her future.

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