Japan’s southern islands in the Okinawa group are known for their subtropical climate; the warm temperatures allow for diving year-round. Not only that, but with all of the islands that Okinawa includes, there are many different types of dives that you can do. For that reason, Okinawa is the best place to dive in Japan.
Throughout the year, there are many opportunities to see many different wildlife, should they be curious and confident enough to come and say hi.
There are opportunities to see eagle rays, green turtles, hawksbill turtles, manatees, reef sharks, sea horses and white tip reef sharks all year. Naturally they may appear in certain dive spots more often than others, but you never really know – the ocean is a wild and mysterious place, after all.
During the first three months of the year, there is the chance to see Humpback whales, and also Hammerhead sharks. The best dive spots are dive sites just off of Tokashiki Island, and Ishigaki Island respectively.
Ishigaki Island is also the best place to dive for the Manta rays. There is a dive spot known as ‘Manta Scramble’, where during the months of July-October, you can see vast numbers of manta rays feeding.
There are other various wildlife you have the chance to see in many of the dive sites around Okinawa, such as the blue ringed octopus, clown fish, and lionfish etc.
If you’re really lucky, you may even have the opportunity to see a whale shark, because although unpredictable, they are occasionally seen around the Kerama Islands.
If you’re interested in diving around wrecks, Okinawa also caters to that thrill.
The main attraction is the American submarine USS Emmons, which lies at a depth of 45 m, off Okinawa’s Kouri Island. The submarine was hit by five kamikaze pilots, and was then sunk by the Americans, to prevent the Japanese from taking it.
Another ‘wreck’ – although whether it can be classed as a wreck is up for debate – is the Yonaguni Monument. It is considered to be Japan’s Atlantis, a mysterious structure that could be man-made, or made by Mother Nature herself – we don’t know!
There are many other places where you can drift dive, and deep dive, as well as great areas to take photos. Not to mention quaint little areas, that will really get your adrenalin rushing, such as dive sites like the “Dream Hole” where you descend through a hole in the coral, before swimming through a veil of fish.
However, there is more to discover of Japan’s marine life than just Okinawa. But unlike Okinawa, the rest of Japan does not have subtropical climates, and so the diving season runs from mid-July to early/mid-September.
Nagasaki and Kagoshima boast some good sites underwater. Both Nagasaki and Kagoshima have a wreck that can be seen, as well as various other marine life. As Nagasaki is on the Japanese Sea, there may even be the opportunity to see a Nomura Jellyfish… but with their size, I don’t think they will be hard to miss if they were in the same area as you anyway!
Technically part of the Tokyo administrative region but actually a 24-hour ferry journey to the south (almost halfway to Guam) is Chichijima, the largest island in the Ogasawara group. Wild, remote and unspoilt, the island – known as “The Galapagos of the Orient”, is a World Heritage site. At dive sites around Chichijima and the surrounding small islands, various whales, dolphins and rays can be seen.
And last, but by far not the least…
With Hokkaido being the colder part of Japan, ice diving is possible. The best time for this is February to March, when the ice is just beginning to break up, and ice flows appear off the coast. The Shiretoko Peninsula is another World Heritage Site. It would be a fantastic new experience, seeing the water after the sun shines through the ice that you are under – imagine the patterns that could form. But temperatures are usually lower than 3˚ – so a dry suit is really essential!
Another dive spot in Hokkaido is Lake Shikotsu, known to be the clearest lake in Japan, and as it never freezes over, dives are possible all through the year – but the best time is during the Salmon season, when you can watch them swim upstream in close proximity, instead of on your television screen from a documentary.
Clown fish among the coral, Okinawa
Manta ray, Ishigaki, Okinawa
Contact us for more information about including diving – at any level, from novice to experienced and qualified – in your Japan trip.