scuba diving japan
Known as the “Land of the Rising Sun”, Japan is one of the world’s most visited tourist destinations. This is partly due to the vast array of tourist attractions – from natural, to cultural, and culinary. Japan has so much to offer its visitors but there is one thing that not many know about this country – it is a secret diving paradise.
Japan is not popular as a diving condition – and many of the divers who come here to pursue their passion like it that way. It definitely offers unique diving conditions and is a great destination for those looking for something new to try.
Japan is often overlooked when it comes to scuba diving due to its proximity of a few other known diving destinations in Asia, namely Philippines and Thailand. But for those who dare to explore the underwater world of Japan, you’ll be surprised – and in for quite a treat.
Japan’s diving conditions are as diverse as the country itself. You will be able to explore a wide range of diving options – from tropical diving, ice diving, drift diving, wreck diving, and an abundance of marine life. Since it is an archipelago, it is made up of islands that cover over 3,000 kilometers in size. The north and south portion of the country vary significantly in terms of water temperature.
Northern Japan (Hokkaido) tends to be cold for the most part of the year. Meanwhile, the southern islands of Japan such as Okinawa and Kyushu have warmer temperature all year round. Southern Japan is made up of islands and islets with an average temperature of 3 degrees Celsius in the summer (or 20 degrees Celsius in the winter).
Since Japan is a volcanic island, you can also expect fascinating topography underwater that would make for great photography subjects. From amazing rock formations to steep vertical walls, you can find them all.
BEST DIVE SITES
In Okinawa alone, there are about 80 dive sites to explore and you can find hundreds of islands nearby suitable for snorkeling. It is a wealth of diving opportunities for dive enthusiasts, which gives you more incentive to visit Okinawa.
The subtropical climate and the currents from South China Sea contribute to making the water temperature constantly warm. It also boasts of a rich biodiversity and very good visibility. There are also drift diving sites here, which is suitable for advanced divers looking for a challenge.
This dive site is best known for the congregation of manta rays at a point known as Manta Scramble. Aside from spotting manta rays, there is also a garden of rocks approximately 10 meters below the water surface. The spectacular sight of manta rays gliding over each other is a sight to behold.
Explore a world of limestone caves and rock formations as this dive site is a must for divers who seek out these diving features. You will also be enthralled by the array of coral formations at this dive site. You will be able to explore other diving features such as short passageways, swim-through tunnels, and pitch-black domes.
This diving site is located on Hokkaido Island, particularly the eastern portion of the island. During winter, this is sought after by ice diving enthusiasts. If you come here from January to March, holes will be drilled through the ice to allow the divers to enter into the water. The dives reach below freezing point at up to -4 degrees Celsius.
Another popular dive destination in the area is Lake Shikotsu. This is a caldera lake famous for having the clearest water in Japan.
This dive site is about an hour away from Okinawa. If you are fine with a potential rough crossing, it is well worth traveling for. It is known for offering the most prolific marine life, such as stunning coral formations and a wide range of damselfish, boxfish, and crustaceans. It is usually calm so this is also a great spot for beginners to dive.
Unlike Kerama Islands, this one is best suited for experienced or advanced divers as the dive is quite a challenge. You will be dealing with strong and unpredictable currents. This is also a great dive to experience if you want to spot the resident turtle that features an unusual mountain-like shell. There are also massive monoliths that can be seen during this dive.
If you are a fan of macro diving, this diving site is one that should be added to your list. It is accessible from Tokyo about 6 hours on an overnight ferry. Known for its white sandy beaches, the true beauty of Kozushima lies underneath the water surface.
It offers shore diving and night diving experiences for the dive enthusiasts. Among the marine life that you will encounter include starfishes, crabs, nudibranches, lobsters, sea snakes, and octopuses.
If you are based in Tokyo and you are looking for a dive site nearby, this is one to go to. This is a deep dive but also suited for dive training. There are over 1,000 known creatures that can be spotted during your dive, which includes sea bass and moray eels.
BEST TIME TO DIVE
The peak season for diving in Japan takes place by the end of the rainy season. This means that diving enthusiasts flock to Japan around mid-July until mid-September. The offseason for diving in Japan is from December to March or April.
The diving conditions will also vary from one site to another. For example, summer is the best time to go diving in Honshu Island. On the other hand, Okinawa offers suitable diving conditions all year round except during storm seasons (from July to October).
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COMMON TRAVEL QUESTIONS
A dive trip in Japan should be on your bucket list if you want to experience something unique and exciting. Here are some of the questions that you might find yourself asking as you plan your trip.
Which is the best dive site in Japan?
There is no right or wrong answer to this as it will depend on the type of diving experience you want to enjoy. The northern diving sites are great for ice diving, while the tropical climate at the south makes it a more suitable dive for shipwreck dives or drift dives. There are also many shore diving sites for those who prefer that.
How to dive in Japan?
If you want to go diving in Japan, you must look for dive centers in the area where you want to go diving. They can provide you with boats to get to your dive destination. Some are also accessible from the shore.
What are the diving conditions in Japan?
As mentioned above, the diving conditions will vary according to the location. But in terms of the general conditions in Japan, you can dive all year round as the waters are calm (except for a few dive sites) and the temperature is warm. During storm season, though, diving is not allowed as it can significantly reduce water visibility.
What can you expect to see during your dive?
There is an abundance of marine species that you are likely to encounter for each dive. Depending on the specific site you are diving, you can spot firefly squids, anemones, sharks, angelfishes, marine mammals, humpback whales, and more.
Japan is located in East Asia and known as the “Land of the Rising Sun”. It has a total area of 377,915km² and an estimated population of 126,672,000. Mount Fuji the highest peak is one of the most famous landmarks in Japan. The terrain also is mostly mountainous. Not only will the nature of Japan enthrall you, Tokyo with its skyscrapers, shopping centers, and pop culture will lure you.
Capital city of Japan: Tokyo
Best times to visit Japan: Late spring (March-May) and late autumn (September-November) are the best times to visit Japan where the skies are clear, less rainfall, and the temperatures are pleasant. You will love the cherry blossoms of spring and the radiant hues of the autumn leaves falling.
How to get to Japan: Japan has many airports where international and domestic flights are served. There are direct flights.
Visa requirements for Japan: Visa is not required for US citizens visiting Japan for 90 days. A passport and a return ticket must be obtained.
Currency of Japan: Yen (¥, JPY) is the currency of Japan.
Official Language of Japan: Japanese is the official language of Japan.
UNESCO World Heritage sites in Japan
There are 21 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Japan and 9 on their tentative list.
- Buddhist Monuments in the Horyu-ji Area (1993)
- Fujisan, sacred place and source of artistic inspiration (2013)
- Gusuku Sites and Related Properties of the Kingdom of Ryukyu (2000)
- Himeji-jo (1993)
- Hiraizumi – Temples, Gardens and Archaeological Sites Representing the Buddhist Pure Land (2011)
- Hiroshima Peace Memorial (Genbaku Dome) (1996)
- Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto (Kyoto, Uji and Otsu Cities) (1994)
- Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara (1998)
- Historic Villages of Shirakawa-go and Gokayama (1995)
- Itsukushima Shinto Shrine (1996)
- Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine and its Cultural Landscape (2007)
- Sacred Island of Okinoshima and Associated Sites in the Munakata Region (2017)
- Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range (2004)
- Shrines and Temples of Nikko (1999)
- Sites of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution: Iron and Steel, Shipbuilding and Coal Mining (2015)
- The Architectural Work of Le Corbusier, an Outstanding Contribution to the Modern Movement (2016)
- Tomioka Silk Mill and Related Sites (2014)
- Ogasawara Islands (2011)
- Shirakami-Sanchi (1993)
- Shiretoko (2005)
- Yakushima (1993)
WHERE TO STAY