Many people who come to Japan for a vacation will want to experience the culture, learn about the country’s fascinating history, and eat delicious Japanese food every day. Some also come for winter sports. Activities like snorkeling and diving are not usually associated with a holiday in Japan by most, but adding these exciting water sports activities to your Japan itinerary can really make it a complete vacation that has it all; culture, cuisine, nature, and action!
Scuba Diving in Japan
Even within Japan, many people think about south-east Asian countries first when it comes to great diving spots, but the truth is, there are plenty of Japanese domestic waters that boast amazing clarity! The area with most good diving opportunities is the southern prefecture of Okinawa, but there is also plenty to see in the waters around Honshu and even northern Hokkaido. With a bit of research and patience, ice diving, tropical diving and a huge range of marine life are all within easy reach for visitors and residents of Japan.
All the rules for safe diving that apply in your home country, can also be applied in Japan. If you don’t have extensive diving experience and certification, the only way you can go diving is to join a diving tour for non-experienced divers. Otherwise, you only need to make sure you have a diving buddy to go with you. If you are not bringing your own gear with you, you can rent it in Japan.
Diving in Okinawa
If we’re talking about the best places to dive in Japan, Okinawa certainly takes center stage. On the Main Island, the Blue Cave is the most popular diving spot, and also great for beginners. Miyako Island is one of the more remote islands of the prefecture. The water quality, which boasts some of the clearest water in the country, as well as the spectacular scenery with unique names such as “Palace of the Demon King” and “Snake Hole,” are exciting points for diving on Miyako Island.
There are flights to Miyakojima from Okinawa main island and direct flights from Tokyo, so the island is surprisingly easy to get to. The next recommended dive site is in Ishigaki Island, in Kabira Bay. This area is famous as a diving site where you can see manta rays swimming lazily in the crystal clear waters, and divers will be entertained by a series of sights that are almost like a paradise on earth, such as beautiful sand and gorgeous coral. If you want to swim with the manta rays, autumn is the best time of year to spot them here.
Now let’s move up north a bit, as there are many more diving sites in Kyushu and the Kansai region, including Kanagawa, Hyogo, Wakayama, Kagoshima, and the Goto Islands. In addition, although it is not well known, there are more diving sites scattered throughout Hokuriku, Koshinetsu, and the Tohoku regions.
Diving in Kagoshima Prefecture
Kagoshima has a unique environment and topography, such as the active volcano of Sakurajima, which is unique among Kyushu’s dive sites. You can enjoy not only the terrain but also the tropical blue of the sea and tropical fish. Bonotsu, located at the southern tip of Kyushu, is one of the most popular diving spots in Kagoshima. Its transparency is said to be the best in Kyushu, and there are many rare creatures, so it’s recommended for divers who like taking pictures and interesting creatures.
In addition, you can enjoy unique creatures and terrain such as Sakurajima, the symbol of Kagoshima; Amami Oshima Island, where a variety of creatures, from macro species to large ones, live and where you can enjoy whale-watching in winter; and Yakushima Island, where you can enjoy the tropical ocean and a chance to see sea turtles. Yakushima is also famous for the “Battle of Zero” where you can see fighter planes that crashed during the war. The coral, terrain, and abundance of creatures from large fish to macro species attract many divers.
Also in Kagoshima, the underwater aurora borealis near Iojima was discovered by a small Japanese cruise company in 2012, and is a unique sight in Japan! Autumn is the best time to see the aurora borealis when the Black Current is strong and the clarity is high. Please come and see this unique view.
Diving in Wakayama Prefecture
Kushimoto in Wakayama, located at the southern end of the Kii Peninsula, is an area where tropical and temperate creatures mix together due to the influence of the Kuroshio Current. Kushimoto is famous for the Glass World dive in Kushimoto Marine Park, where you can see a variety of colorful fish. This is a popular dive site for photo enthusiasts, just like those on the southern islands. Kii Oshima Sue, which is connected to Kushimoto by a bridge, is also dotted with many dive sites that have different marine life due to the different water temperatures.
Many divers also visit the area Shirahama known for the beautiful beaches and pandas in the famous Adventure World and Shirahama hot spring. A lot of divers from beginners to experts visit this area because of its dynamic terrain and popular nudibranchs and many other creatures. The 28m long shipwreck point that even beginners can enjoy is also popular.
Diving in Izu Peninsula
Shikinejima, one of the Izu Islands, is a small island with a population of only 600 people. The crystal-clear emerald green waters of Shikinejima will take your breath away. Shikinejima is unique in that there are underwater hot springs that spring into the sea, allowing visitors to experience a relaxing time in a hot spring while being in the sea.
It’s also a spot where sea turtles gather in the winter for the warmth of the hot springs, so you’ll want to get up close and personal to see them swim! Oshima Island, with its dynamic terrain created by a volcano and recognized as a Japan Geopark, and Hachijojima, with its tropical atmosphere, are also popular for diving.
The Izu Peninsula, with its complex terrain formed by volcanic activity, attracts divers. Numerous dive sites are scattered around the peninsula. The most famous spots are gathered in Higashi Izu. Along the Jōgasaki coastline are the Izu Marine Park, which is said to be the birthplace of leisure diving and Yokobama Beach in Ito-Futo, known for its beautiful sand and anemone fields.
Minami Izu is famous for Hirizo Beach with its crystal clear waters and tropical-like scenery. Sea turtles and hammerhead sharks sometimes appear here. On the western side of Izu you can find migratory fish, crustaceans, and popular nudibranch in the Osezaki area, and Numazu is popular for its variety of creatures such as manta rays and sunfish, which appear in early spring. Next to Osezaki, you can dive at the 200-meter-long Ita Beach in Ita, where you can enter from anywhere on the shore.
Chiba Prefecture | Boso Area
Further up north, the Chiba-Boso peninsula is especially known as a surfing mecca, but there are also many diving spots in the area. Some of the best spots are gathered around Tateyama in Minamiboso. There is an underwater shrine, said to be the only one of its kind in the world, at the Hasama Underwater Garden.
In the vicinity of the shrine, you might meet a giant saltwater fish called Yoriko and various other sea creatures such as shrimp, crabs, nudibranchs, and gobies around the roots and in the sand. Okinojima Island, located at the southern end of Tateyama Bay, is another popular spot for diving and snorkeling. The wreck here can be visited even by beginners. For schools of Houndsharks, you can go to Shark Scramble through dive shop Bommie (see map no. 22).
And lastly, the northernmost diving spot is in Hokkaido. The Shakotan Peninsula is a peninsula that juts out to the northwest on the west side of Hokkaido. From the road along the coast, you can see the dynamic topography of sheer rocky terrain and the unique blue sea known as the Shakotan Blue. The sea in the Shakotan Peninsula, about an hour and a half from Sapporo by car, changes drastically throughout the year with a minimum water temperature of 3 degrees Celsius and a maximum of 24 degrees Celsius, and a variety of creatures that come to the peninsula depending on the season.
The spots named above are by far not the only diving spots in Japan that are worth checking out. If you want to see a much more comprehensive database of diving spots in Japan so you can start thinking about your trip’s itinerary, you can check out this site.
Your Japan Tour
As seasoned Japan experts, we can help you create your perfect Japan tour including destinations like Okinawa, Kyushu, and Hokkaido where scuba diving is an option. Contact us to start planning your unforgettable holiday to this fascinating country full of once-in-a-lifetime experiences, culture, history, nature, and delicious food!