Join hammerhead sharks and lionfish as you investigate the reefs and wrecks of the Izu Peninsula, a thickly forested outcrop of land not far from Tokyo. For a bit of adventure, make the long journey to the Ogasawara Islands to explore World War Two wrecks and meet rare marine life in the “Galapagos of the Orient”.
The jewel in Japan’s diving crown, however, is Okinawa. With white sandy beaches, mangrove swamps, dense jungle and a rich and distinctive local culture, Japan’s southernmost prefecture is a true island paradise.
Under the waves of this stunning archipelago you’ll experience some of the best diving conditions in the world as you visit kaleidoscopic coral reefs, explore caves and pinnacles, and come face to face with sea turtles, manta rays and perhaps even migrating humpback whales. To top it all off, at the remote island of Yonaguni you can even visit the remains of what some believe to be a real-life Atlantis.
Japan is spectacular in all seasons. The absolute best time to visit Japan is in late spring (March-May), when the cherry blossoms come out and the country celebrates with picnics and parties in the parks.
But there are other spectacular times to visit Japan too
For many divers, a visit to the Red Sea is an opportunity to see some of the underwater world’s most charismatic species. During the warm summer months (May – July), plankton blooms in the northern Red Sea attract filter-feeding behemoths, including the whale shark, renowned as the world’s largest fish; and the balletic manta ray. Summer is also a good time for spotting schools of the endangered scalloped hammerhead shark.
For shark-lovers, southerly reefs like Brothers, Daedalus and Elphinstone offer the best chance for swimming with the elusive oceanic whitetip. These magnificent sharks have a reputation for unpredictable behavior, but with the guidance of a knowledgeable operator, it is possible to safely encounter them in their own environment. Other megafauna highlights include the dugongs of Abu Dabbab lagoon near Marsa Alam and the friendly spinner dolphins of Samadai Reef.
Discover some of the best diving in the world during your stay in Japan.
The diving in Japan is amongst the very best available anywhere in the world – just very few people are in the know and this makes it all the more appealing. Even if you are just stopping a few days in Tokyo you can head a couple of hours down to the Izu Peninsula where there are some great spots for shore dives. But the jewels in the crown of Japan’s dive spots are to be found in the southern islands of the Okinawan archipelago – a dream destination for any dive enthusiast.
Home to beautiful secluded beaches, extensive limestone caves, forested mountains with great vistas, fantastic scuba diving and one of Japan’s top three views at Kabira Bay, Ishigaki is a place worth visiting. Divers will certainly not be disappointed, with some incredible sites including Manta Scramble – where even beginners can have the chance to dive among majestic manta rays.
Sparsely populated, thickly forested Iriomote Island is an idyllic base for a diving adventure in the Yaeyama Islands.
Located just off the coast of Okinawa Main Island, Zamami is a beautiful base for a diving holiday. Dives accessible from here include sites throughout the closely-spaced Kerama Islands, where you might even spot a deer or two swimming amongst the sea creatures!
Okinawa Main Island is often overlooked in favour of prettier locales, such as Ishigaki or Zamami – but for divers it is an underwater paradise. One of our favourite dive sites, the Manza “Dream Hole”, offers divers the chance to swim through a living curtain of fish – while in the north of the island there are some excellent cave dives and even a couple of WWII wreck sites to explore.
A tiny island in the Kerama Island group, just off the coast of Okinawa Island, Akajima boasts a wide variety of dive sites within easy reach. Sheltered by Zamami, Tokashiki, and Akajima islands, the Kerama chain has allowed around 248 species of coral to flourish, and along with them a dazzling array of sea creatures – from manta rays and hammerhead sharks to sea turtles and the occasional Kerama deer making its way from island to island!
For those who would like to incorporate a spot of diving into their Japan holiday, but would rather not travel as far as Okinawa or the Ogasawara Islands – the Izu Peninsula is a great option. Just a couple of hours south of Tokyo, the waters surrounding this peninsula teem with coral and marine life more commonly associated with tropical waters – from conger eels to butterfly fish, wrasses, seahorses, dragon morays and more.
There’s not much above the waves on Yonaguni besides horses and giant Atlas moths, but for divers it is a veritable Atlantis. The island’s notorious underwater “ruins”, the iseki stones, are the main attraction – and will have you scratching your head long after your trip!
Most international flights are concentrated on 2 airports, in Tokyo (Narita) and Osaka (Kansai International).
Since October 2010, the other airport in Tokyo hosts a new international terminal, located less than 30 minutes from the capital.