5 great reasons to go diving in Japan

by   Profile Kathryn   When 9th May 2024
Okinawa Reef photo by Hiroko Yoshii on Unsplash
Okinawa Reef photo by Hiroko Yoshii on Unsplash
Mount Fuji photo by David Edelstein on Unsplash
Mount Fuji photo by David Edelstein on Unsplash
Octopus photo by Qijin Xu on Unsplash
Octopus photo by Qijin Xu on Unsplash
Whale shark photo by Sebastian Pena Lambarri on Unsplash
Whale shark photo by Sebastian Pena Lambarri on Unsplash
Okinawa photo by Ryo Yoshitake on Unsplash
Okinawa photo by Ryo Yoshitake on Unsplash

With its rich culture, stunning landscapes, and diverse underwater ecosystems, Japan offers an unparalleled diving experience that beckons adventurers from around the globe. While most tourists travel to Japan for its ancient heritage and iconic sites on land, the surrounding seas are just as intriguing. Being surrounded by the Pacific Ocean, Sea of Okhotsk, Sea of Japan, and the East China Sea makes Japan an excellent location to explore underwater. In fact, Japan has a total of nearly 30,000 kilometers (over 18,000 miles) of coastline to discover.

What is diving in Japan like?

Japan's rich biodiversity, marine life encounters, and beautiful, unique underwater sights offer many reasons to go diving in Japan. This country offers what few other destinations on the planet can—nearly all the different ocean ecosystems within a single country. From drift ice diving in the cold north to kelp forests in the Sea of Japan, various beach diving locations, and tropical reefs in the south, Japan has it all.

Here are our top 5 reasons Japan needs to be on your diving wish list:

1. Drift Ice Diving

From January to March of every year, you can experience one of the most unique diving experiences in the world. As sea ice flows south from Siberia into the Sea of Okhotsk, those adventurous enough to brave the frigid waters can dive amongst majestic blocks of ice.

Not only will you witness something rarely seen elsewhere in the world, but you will also descend into an ecosystem rich in biodiversity. The Sea of Okhotsk's nutrient-dense waters attract many small and large cold-water species. You can see jellyfish, colorful nudibranchs, seals, whales, and dolphins. Earning your drysuit diving certification is essential to comfortably explore these famous ice floes.

2. The Elusive Sea Angel

Unlike any sea slug species you've seen before, the mystical sea angel moves beautifully and gracefully through the cold waters of Japan's Sea of Okhotsk. Every year, these elusive, transparent creatures ascend from the depths to congregate around Japan's famous drift ice along the north coast of Hokkaido. You can dive amongst these delicate creatures during the year's colder months, particularly from November through April.

As with drift ice diving, going diving with sea angels is not for the faint-hearted. You will need to be certified as a drysuit diver to withstand the cold waters of Japan's northern region. We also highly recommend you complete an underwater photography course so you can capture these unique, tiny sea slugs in action.

3. Sharks Galore

Although not globally known for shark diving, Japan has no shortage of adrenaline-pumping dive options with these top predators. From November through June, you can witness hammerhead sharks forming large schools in the warm waters off Yonaguni Island daily.

Further north, off the Chiba Peninsula, you will find the banded hound shark for which this area is famous. You can dive into swarms of these unique, curious sharks straight from the beginning of your dive. If you're lucky, Chiba also offers visits from the beautiful Japanese angel shark.

True adventure seekers can take the overnight ferry to the remote Ogasawara Islands to night dive amongst dozens of sand tiger sharks that congregate there. On the more tranquil side, you can dive with the enormous whale shark in Japan's most southern islands like Okinawa and Yonaguni Island. Every year, from May to June, these massive fish are found feeding throughout the waters surrounding Okinawa.

4. Pristine Coral Reefs

Depending on where you choose to dive, you can see anywhere from 100 to over 300 different coral species, with the most species occurring within the reefs that are furthest south. These thriving underwater ecosystems are home to a wide variety of fish species, sea turtles, nudibranchs, sharks, and so much more!

Throughout Japan's southern regions, divers of all certification levels will enjoy the pristine, colorful coral reefs that fill the clear, warm waters of the East China and Philippine Seas. From Japan's most western island, Yonaguni, to its most eastern archipelago, the Ogasawara Islands, you can find world-class dive sites boasting well-developed coral reefs with high species diversity. The SSI Coral Diver specialty will help you identify all the fascinating coral you will see.

5. The Giant Pacific Octopus

Seeing an octopus is not usually what draws someone to a diving destination, but in this case, it should! If you have ever been privileged enough to see the giant Pacific octopus in person, then you know why diving with this remarkable species is such a thrill! Getting to witness this highly intelligent and elusive cephalopod in its natural habitat will quickly become one of your most memorable dives.

The giant Pacific octopus is found primarily in the cold waters of coastal Hokkaido. It can reach lengths of over 5 meters (16 feet) and has an average weight of 50 kilograms (100 pounds). They like to hunt at night, so being night diving certified is essential to increasing your chances of seeing this magnificent creature.

Kathryn Curzon, a shark conservationist and dive travel writer for SSI (Scuba Schools International), wrote this article.

Written by
Profile Kathryn
When 9th May 2024
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