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!
One of the best things about snorkeling is that you don’t need much equipment before you are ready to go and that equipment doesn’t need to be expensive. If you have enough space in your suitcase you can bring your own gear, but you can also opt to buy it once in Japan and to only use it while there, or if you are only planning to snorkel once during your Japan trip you can choose to book a tour as equipment will always be included. So which items do you need to make your snorkeling experience perfect?
- A snorkeling full face mask or a mask plus snorkel; there are two types of snorkeling masks, the newest type is a full face mask that makes it possible to breathe through your nose while you are underwater making for a more comfortable experience. The downside is that it is harder to dive underwater because the pressure will become high as you go deeper. So which snorkel type is best for you will depend on personal preference.
- Fins; while not strictly necessary, fins will make it a lot easier to move around. Especially if you want to cover some longer distances, fins are indispensable to swim quickly without getting too tired.
- A life jacket; even if you are a confident swimmer, I strongly recommend you to wear a life jacket while snorkeling for two reasons. First of all, you are a lot less likely to drown if you are wearing a life jacket, and if you do get in trouble it is easier to locate you because of the usually colorful vest. Second, it is incredibly relaxing to snorkel with a life jacket on. It is easy to keep going for longer periods of time because you get a lot less tired, and you can take little breaks. You can’t dive down while wearing a life jacket, but if you really want to do that you can always take your life vest off for just a little bit in very calm waters.
- A wetsuit; while not strictly necessary during summer, a wetsuit will make your snorkeling trip much more enjoyable if you are not traveling during summer, if you want to stay in the water for a longer period of time, or if you want to protect yourself from sharp objects in shallow water.
- Protective swimming wear; If you don’t wear a wetsuit, it is, of course, important not to forget to bring your swimming wear. I wouldn’t recommend only wearing a bikini or swimming pants, as it is very easy to get a sunburn while you are in the water, and using sunscreen when you go into the ocean is a no-no as it is not good for the life in the sea. Wearing a rash guard and longer swimming pants is therefore strongly recommended
- Marine shoes; these are easily forgotten, but they are a real life-saver if you go snorkeling in areas with a lot of coral. It makes the walk to the (deeper) water and back again that much more comfortable, and they protect you from getting wounds on your feet in shallower water and sunburn on your feet. Diving gloves are also an option if you have sensitive hands.
- An underwater phone pouch; if you want to take pictures or videos while in the water, a (waterproof) phone pouch that you can hang around your neck will be a very handy item to bring. This way you will also have your hands free if you are not using your phone.
- Fish feed; fish are always hungry, and once they stop being scared of your presence they come to you easily if you have some tasty snacks with you. You can keep a little bit of bread or surimi sticks in a little plastic bag and slowly release the food in front of you. It is an awesome little show to watch the many colorful fish eat right in front of your eyes! Please don’t forget to keep the plastic bag with you after it is empty and throw it away in the garbage can. I always find wearing a rash guard with zippers handy for this purpose.
If you don’t want to use the valuable space in your suitcase to bring snorkeling gear but still want to go snorkeling a few times or if you want to go snorkeling by yourself in a spot that doesn’t have rental shops, instead of renting your gear you can buy good quality snorkeling stuff at very decent prices at any Donki shop which branches you can find throughout Japan.
Snorkeling in Japan
One way to go snorkeling in Japan is to visit a designated beach that has lifeguards on duty, usually, you will find these beaches near resort areas and only during the high season in summer. The waters near these beaches are usually not very deep, so these locations are especially good for kids and people who can’t swim that well.
Going on an organized snorkeling tour is another way to be sure to have a safe snorkeling experience and see areas that are good for snorkeling. One of the major pluses besides safety is that tour companies have boats that will bring you to areas that you would not easily be able to reach on your own. Another upside of going snorkeling with a guide is the wonderful warm shower that you can take at the clubhouse after you are done, and other facilities that will make you comfortable afterward.
For families and people without much experience joining a tour is probably the best way to enjoy snorkeling in Japan. The downside is that you are bound by the time that is set by the tour company, so if the experience lasts for 1.5 or 2 hours, you will usually be in the water for around 30-45 minutes max.
But what if you are a confident swimmer, have snorkeled often, and want to stay in the water for a lot longer than that? Are there any places in Japan that you can safely go without being told to get out of the water by authorities that you can reach without having to use a boat? There most definitely are, but it is best to stay away from the areas near popular spots near hotels and other areas that are supervised by lifeguards.
Places to Snorkel By Yourself in Japan
First of all, please note that snorkeling in areas without a lifeguard on duty and without a tour guide will always be 100% at your own risk. You have to realize that there might not be anyone to help you if you get in trouble, which is why it is always a good idea to not go completely by yourself but at least go with a few other people.
Which spots in Japan are great for snorkeling independently? You want to be looking for a beach that has a large semi-shallow area with corals and little to no waves. If you see any surfers out there, it is highly likely not a good place for snorkeling. In which areas of Japan can you find this kind of beach? Let us give you a few of our favorite places to go snorkeling in Japan, some of which are quite off the beaten path!
- Jodogahama Beach, Iwate: located in the Sanriku Reconstruction National Park and Sanriku Geopark, Jodogahama is a scenic spot that Iwate Prefecture is proud of. The contrast between the green of the pines, the white of the rocks, and the blue of the sea creates a vast and spectacular view. The scenery changes from season to season, so there is no shortage of tourists throughout the year! The sea is surrounded by rocks and has quiet waves and winds, so it is recommended for swimming and snorkeling. The beach is well-equipped with a rest house and a marine house, etc. You can either rent equipment for snorkeling or bring your own. The area is also dotted with various sightseeing spots such as a cruise ship, an observatory, and a science museum, so you can enjoy a full day of sightseeing.
- Toushiki Beach, Oshima Tokyo: this beach is located in Tokyo city, even though it feels a lot more like a tropical island than the world’s largest metropolis. Oshima island is part of the 7 Izu islands, which are in turn a part of the municipality of Tokyo. And indeed, it is easy to reach the island by high-speed ferry from Takeshiba port located near central Tokyo. The climate is a bit cooler than in Okinawa, so it is recommended to go between May and October if you want to go snorkeling. For those who want to go snorkeling by themselves, Toushiki Beach is one of the best spots to go on the island. The water is clear here and there are many rocks that house plenty of cute marine life forms. Make sure to stay around the natural pool as you won’t be bothered by dangerous waves that crash nearby. It is also a nice spot to jump into the water without your snorkeling gear, as the water is deep but not super deep, and you can still see the bottom.
- Hirizo Beach, Shizuoka: this rocky beach is only a 3-hour trip away from Tokyo on the Izu Peninsula in Shizuoka, but the water is so beautiful that it is said to be the clearest in the country, and in recent years the popularity of the beach has exploded by word of mouth. The water is so clear that even the pebbles at the bottom of 5m are clearly visible! Because of the unique terrain, it can only be reached by boat, and it feels like an untouched natural area. Snorkeling is a great way to enjoy watching the colorful fish of the southern seas. If you are planning to visit Hirizo please note that there are no facilities such as toilets or shower rooms. Also, note that boats only operate in season and that it is best to avoid weekends and public holidays as it will be too crowded to really enjoy snorkeling without too many people around you. The best time to go would be a weekday early in the season when it is cool for Japanese understandings (under 27 degrees Celsius). Of course, we are happy to help you arrange a trip to Hirizo Beach if you book an individual tour with us.
- Hitotsuku Beach, Nagasaki: this Kyushu beach boasts a beauty that rivals the stunning beaches of south-east Asian countries. The crystal clear cobalt blue ocean is one of the bluest in Japan. It’s a gorgeous place that will make you feel like you’re in a tropical country. Snorkeling here is more about experiencing the clarity of the ocean than looking at the fish. Dubbed as the best in Japan, the clear underwater world will take your breath away! You can also enjoy a beautiful sunset where the sky turns red at sunset. It’s a little-known spot where you can spend a relaxing time. The Neshiko Kaisuiyokujo Beach right next to Hitotsuku Beach is also recommended, so be sure to stop by!
- Minna Island Beach, Okinawa Main: a day trip to one of the small islands near the main island is a great idea if you want to go snorkeling by yourself. Tiny Minna Island in Okinawa can be reached within 15 minutes by boat from Toguchi Port. Minna Island Beach, located right next to the harbor, is simply beautiful with its exceptionally clear water and white sandy beach, and the sea is full of colorful coral and tropical fish that are unique to Okinawa. In addition to snorkeling, there are plenty of other marine activities such as banana boats and diving, so you can have a full day of water fun here. Click here for the boat’s schedule.
- Gorilla Chop, Okinawa Main: for most tourists Gorilla Chop, named after the shapely rock, is a bit of a drive. But it is 100% worth the drive up north, as this is one of the safest and most beautiful spots to snorkel on the island. There is a parking lot right next to the stairs and beach that give access to the sea. Off-season it’s not hard to park here, but in the busy season, there might be a wait. The sea here is very clear and partly protected from high waves by sea walls. There are large rocks of coral with many tropical fishes. Afterward, you can take a shower in the facility on the parking lot. Parking is free, the shower is 100 yen per 3 minutes.
- Hoshizuna Beach, Okinawa Iriomote: One of the pictures you see above and the video below were taken on a snorkeling trip to Hoshizuna beach in Iriomote in March. The beach was a pleasant bicycle ride away from our hotel, Hoshino Resort, and we went there by ourselves. There is a little restaurant upstairs that serves simple but tasty lunch dishes. When we got there, there were only a few other people in the water as the water was a bit chilly for Japanese understandings, but being from a northern European country the water temperature was no problem for me. Please note that there are no shower facilities here. The great thing about Hoshizuna beach is that there is quite a large area of semi-shallow water that is perfect for snorkeling. There is a bit of a current, but because the area is large you can just let yourself be pulled by the current and get back to the beach to walk back again and repeat in a slightly different area. Very relaxing! There are many fish, some of which are quite large but harmless. If you stick out your fingers, they will come to take a nip after they overcome their shyness.
As you can see, there are many spots where you can go snorkeling by yourself in Japan that are easily accessible without having to use a tour company’s boat. You can see where in Japan all 6 beaches are located on the map below.
Your Japan Tour
As seasoned Japan experts, we can help you create your perfect Japan tour including destinations like Okinawa and other places with great options for snorkeling and diving. 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!