The nation of Japan is a stratovolcanic archipelago of over 2,400 islands. Most of Japan is mountainous, some 70% or more of the land is steep and hilly. The major city of Tokyo is famous for its flashy nightlife, big city traffic and high-speed trains, restaurants, earthquakes and Godzilla. Japan is not often thought of as a scuba diving destination but the long chain of islands offers some amazing and mysterious dive sites.
There are many regions in Japan where there is great scuba diving. Japan is a nation of islands and the ocean pervades the entire culture. Overall there are four regions where scuba diving is popular; these regions by no means cover all the exceptional scuba diving regions of Japan:
Izu Peninsula near Tokyo
The northern islands or “home islands” of Japan are mountainous and offer a cool temperate climate relative to the sub-tropical waters of Japan's southern islands. Scuba diving is most prominent and accessible south of Tokyo off the Izu Peninsula. The first dive sites in the nation are off Izu. Diving near Tokyo almost requires a wetsuit or even a dry suit, depending on the season. The resorts and dive shops are abundant near the busy metropolitan areas of the home islands. There are also hot springs and amazing aquariums and museums to explore.
Ryukyu Islands, Okinawa & Yonaguni
There are 47 prefectures or provinces in Japan, the southernmost prefecture is called Okinawa, and collectively the islands are known as the Ryukyu Islands. This most southern realm of Japan is literally another world from the busy cities of the mainland. The island of Okinawa itself is a popular dive destination, offering warm, clear waters, and famous for its sea turtles. The island of Okinawa is the hot spot for scuba diving in Japan. Okinawa conjures up images of the Pacific stage during WWII. The very southern tip of the islands and the farthest inhabited island of Japan is Yonaguni. Yonaguni is home to Yonaguni Monument, where divers passionately explore the famous underwater ruins that lie off its shore. Japan's southernmost chain of islands enjoys a sub-tropical climate ideal for scuba diving with waters reaching 31 degrees C (88 degrees F) during summer months.
The island of Tsushima is out in the Korea Strait between mainland Japan and the Korean peninsula. Tsushima is the location of the most northern and coldest tolerate coral reef in the world. Scuba diving is a new sport on Tsushima and the enterprise is an adventure in cold water diving in a historic location. The nearby island of Iki is just off the Japanese mainland near Fukuoka and is another new dive destination.
Bonin Islands, Ogasawara Group
The Ogasawara group of islands lies far out in the Pacific, and includes the famous island of Iwojima. The long island chain is north of the Mariana Trench and trails off the Izu Peninsula near Tokyo. This chain of islands is the tip of huge submarine Pacific mountains. The islands are famous for whale migration. The trip to these islands requires that you take a ferry from Tokyo Bay. It takes a minimum of 24 hours in good weather to arrive on the main island of Chichijima. This dive destination is not for the faint of heart or weak of stomach, but once you get there the clear, warm blue Pacific waters and marine life will not disappoint.
The two most popular and accessible locations for scuba diving in Japan are the southernmost Ryukyu Islands and Tokyo's Izu Peninsula. Tsushima Island in the Korean Strait and the Ogasawara Islands out in the Pacific offer great dive sites as well but are less accessible.
The Ryukyu Islands are the southern most islands of Japan making up Okinawa Prefecture. Diving off the island of Okinawa offers warm, sub-tropical, clear waters. The sea turtles of Okinawa are famous and abundant. One of the most popular and accessible dive sites to begin exploring underwater Okinawa is the Sunabe Seawall. The dive site is just offshore from the cement seawall and is an ideal dive site for beginners. The offshore line of coral reef makes a relatively easy, shallow dive, and offers clear, warm waters.
Yonaguni Monument is probably the most famous dive site in Japan ever since the mysterious underwater ruins were discovered in 1986. The 70 plus dive sites of Yonaguni's southern coast boasts the megalithic structures that many believe to be manmade ancient structures. The area is famous for the schools of Hammerhead sharks that swarm about in the swift waters. Currents and open water around the monuments make the dives suitable only for experienced scuba divers. Warming up your scuba skills in Okinawa's sheltered reefs would be an ideal way to prepare for Yonaguni.
The Izu Peninsula offers easy access to dive sites off both of its coasts. The peninsula is less than an hour's train ride from Tokyo. Many resorts and hot springs make Izu Peninsula the getaway from Tokyo and ideal for tourists visiting Japan to get a dive or two in while touring the country. Japan's first dive site known as Izu Ocean Park (IOP) was established back in 1965 near the town of Atami. This is a busy dive destination and an interesting experience as you line up to experience classic Japanese discipline and order. The facilities cater to scuba diving families. Off Izu Peninsula southeast coast, there is the small Bay of Toba and the offshore island of Mikimoto. This is the site of Japan's first commercial pearl divers. You can watch the traditionally female pearl divers dive for their treasure and also go to the area's pearl diving museum. Mikimoto is also accessible for those who want to scuba dive this historic site for themselves.
The western Japanese island of Tsushima sits out in the relatively cold- for diving standards- Korean Strait. Off the island is the location of the coldest, most northern latitude coral reef in the world. The coral species are new to science, having been discovered only in the summer of 2012. The Tsushima reef dive site offers a historic dive site for those scuba divers with eclectic and extreme bucket lists.
The remote Ogasawara Islands out into the Pacific are a challenge to access, but once there, it is a scuba diver's paradise. The isolated island chain has some marine inhabitants that are unique only to the islands such as the colorful Japanese pygmy angelfish. The island known as Iwojima was made famous during WWII, and is still a remote, hard to access location. The main Ogasawara island of Chichijima and its surrounding small islands are the best scuba diving locations. The warm, clear waters off Chichijima host many scuba diving sites such as the wreck dive of the Daimi Maru, in just 33 meters of water in Chichijima's main harbor. The small island of Minamjima off the southwest coast of Chichijima also offers amazing dive sites near its famous arch and beautiful beaches. The islands are also famous for Humpback and Sperm whales that can be heard echoing underwater during certain seasons of the year.
Traveling to Japan usually involves flying into Tokyo. Tokyo's Narita International Airport handles most of the international flights, while Tokyo International Airport, also called Haneda Airport, handles most of the domestic flights coming in and out of Tokyo. From Tokyo there are many hop flights to the cities and islands, making up the long chain of possible destinations. The island of Okinawa far to the south of the mainland and close to Taiwan is one of the most popular dive destinations in Japan, and is accessible through hop flights from Tokyo into Okinawa's Naha Airport, one of Japan's busiest airports. Flights to the southern islands often times route through Taiwan or mainland Asia.
Getting to Japan's remote Ogasawara islands way out in the Pacific is a challenge and there are currently no airports that service them. There is a ferry from Tokyo that departs a couple times a week and takes over 24 hours to get there. In general, trains and hop flights are the way to get around Japan as well as the many ferries that constantly commute between the many islands and waterways.
Below are some of the top dive shops in Japan’s top scuba diving regions. These scuba diving shops were selected for top ratings, a strong web presence, and reputation for serving English-speaking scuba divers:
Tokyo's Mar Scuba Dive Shop is owned and operated by an English speaking American from Los Angeles, California. This shop offers tours and training for all levels of dive experience as well as trips throughout the country. This is a great shop to hook-up with when exploring your options and exploring Tokyo's nearby Izu Peninsula.
Reef Encounters is a scuba diving center on the scuba diving mecca of Okinawa. This is another great dive shop for English speakers and the web site offers a lot of information. This shop will get you prepared for diving Okinawa and the mysterious ruins off the most southern Ryuku Island of Yonaguni. The shop offers dive boat excursions that include diving on the underwater monuments in Yonaguni's warm waters. This is a good shop to center your entire Japanese vacation around. There is also a dive shop and resort called Sou-Wes Diving and Hotel Irifune on Yonaguni, if the ruins are your final and most important destination.
For scuba divers looking to experience the coldest and most northern coral reef for themselves, go with JouJou dive tours. Based in the town of Tsushima on the island of Tsushima, this dive shop can gear you up for the cold waters and provide boat excursions to the cold reef.
A chain of scuba shops known as mic21 is found throughout Japan. There are dozens of shops, several of them being in the Tokyo area alone. These shops are good for gear and questions about the local dive sites.
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Wonderful dive site. Can become crowded during high tourist season during the warmer months. Definitely a dive site that is well worth the trip, even though you don't go and see the cave. Can reach almost a 130' depending on tides
Today (18 May) I had a very bad experience with your company, agency Sunrise Tours I did the 'morning tour' in Tokyo with Kumie guide, car 11. The first stop was the Tokyo Tower, where there is no time to contemplate the view. Kumie did not use microphone and the group were large. Impossible all to hear it. She promissed free time. But that is not true, the time was exactly to run all over the place, we cannot stop. The guide also did not ask if somebody had questions and let us no time to...