surfing in Chiba
Japanese are very keen on outdoor and adventure sports. For more information and lists of companies involved with the activities listed below contact the Japan National Tourism Organization. Websites: Outdoor Japan Outdoor Japan

Beaches: See Swimming.

Cruises: Not so many cruise ships stop in Japan and those that do are often on long round-the-world type cruises. You google “Cruises Japan” and see where it takes you.

Diving and Snorkeling

Diving and Snorkeling in Japan waters is good but not on the level of the Caribbean or Fiji. The water is sometimes cold and the visibility in many places at best is around to 30 to 50 feet. What makes diving in Japan interesting though is you can see sea life and natural wonders found nowhere else in the world.

There are PADI-member dive outfitters located in many places in Japan. They offer air filing, gear rentals, instruction and transportation to the diving areas. Snorkeling is usually offered on the same boat trips that take scuba divers out but snorkelers often see a lot less.

PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) has more than 10,000 affiliated dive center, resorts and individual instructors worldwide.

For more information about diving contact PADI International (Website: PADI ) 1251 East Dyer Road #100, Santa Ana, CA 92705-5605, ☎ 714-540-7234). In Japan, you can buy diving and snorkeling guides.

Dive Sites : The Japanese are enthusiastic divers and will dive pretty much anywhere. Japan has 6000 mile of coastline and the dive sites include reefs, freshwater pools, caves, wrecks, kelp forests, unique fjords and abalone beds.

The main dive sites are in Okinawa and the islands between Okinawa and Taiwan. Okinawa contain some of the world’s northernmost tropical coral reefs and a great variety of coral. Thus far 370 different species of coral and 1,000 species of reef fish have been counted. Coral bleaching has become a problem in some places.

On the Main Island some visitors take glass bottom bota trips and walk on the bottom of the ocean in weighted boots with headgear connected to an oxygen hose. Some of the best snorkeling and diving os on the nearby small islands of Iheya-jima, Izena-jima. Kume-jima and the Keram-retto Islands.

The best coral reefs are off Ishigakjima and Iriomotejima. Three-kilometer-long Shiraho reef off Ishigaki Island contains at least two thirds of the number of species found in Australia's Great Barrier Reef and some world's largest, oldest and finest colonies of blue coral.

manta ray in Okinawa
Sabiura (near the southern point of Wakayama Prefecture near Osaka) is the home of the northernmost colony of table coral. It is nourished by warm waters carried north from the Kurshiro Current. Kushimoto Marine Park contains 120 species of coral and a great variety of fish normally associated with more southern seas. In seas off Tanabe, Wakayama Prefecture, scuba divers flock to see fluorescent seas anemone in water 40 meter below the surface that at their most intense when waters are fairly clear in the winter time. The sea anemones belong to a new species discovered in 2004.

Suruga Bay (70 miles southwest of Tokyo) is an extraordinary body of water. Bordered by Mt. Fuji to the north and the mountainous Izu Peninsula to east, this 40-mile-wide bay drops to a depth of 8,000 feet a few miles from shore. On the weekends the shore near the reefs are overrun with Japanese scuba divers in bright-colored wet suits. Futo (on the Izu Peninsula) is a popular spot with scuba divers. Divers see lionfish, large squid and sea anemones. Some 25,000 divers visit the spot every year. The Kuroshio currents keeps the waters warm and clear.

Hachijo-jima Island (175 miles south of Tokyo) is the second largest and southernmost of the Izu islands. Scuba divers here can observe underwater lava formation, spot turtles dolphins and see schools of tuna. The lack of beaches doesn’t keep surfers away.

Websites: Dive Japan Dive Japan ; Dive Centers in Japan Dive ; Diving Liks Japan

dolphins in Izu islands
Dolphins can be seen in waters all around Japan. By one count there are 569 cape and bottlenose dolphins living in Kinko Bay off Kagoshima. Several water parks and aquariums sponsor dolphin shows. Chichijima in the Ogasawara Islands (500 miles south of Tokyo) sponsors swimming with dolphins trips. Website: Dolphin Club Miyakejima Dolphin Club Miyakejima

Fishing in Japan

Deep-sea fisherman go after swordfish, blue, black and Pacific marlin, mako, thresher and hammerhead sharks, and yellow tail and yellowfin tuna. Sport fishermen can enjoy surf casting, night fishing and long line fishing and slow or fast trolling. Deep sea fishing is usually organized through charter boat companies in the major seaside resorts and is expensive. Many fishermen fish from beaches, piers, rocks and breakwaters and catch a variety of fish.

For more information contact Japan National Tourism Organization. Websites: Fishing Japan Fishing Japan ;Fishing Japan top sites Fishing Japan top sites

Sailing is expensive in Japan, which is a pity because it has some of the world's best sailing conditions: clear waters, deep coves, dramatic headlands, sandy shores, and winds and a climate that allow year-round sailing. Websites: Sail Japan Sail-Japan ; Outdoor Japan Outdoor Japan ; Boating links tspsJapan

Scuba Diving: See Diving

Swimming and Beaches in Japan

crowded beach in Okinawa
Japan has many wonderful places to go swimming but the water is sometimes cold. Beaches on the Pacific Ocean may have rough seas, large waves and tricky currents that are potentially dangerous. The water is much calmer on the Japan Sea side of Japan.

The best places to swim are in the calm waters in bays, coves and inlets. But these are often developed . The main swimming season is from June to October. The beaches on the eastern side of the country are sunnier and have less rain than those on the west side.

It is also possible to swim in the rivers and lakes but they also tend to be cold. Most cities and resort areas have public pools in addition to the private pools at fancy hotels and resorts. Some resort hotels have heated pools which are open in the winter.

Boso Peninsula (east of Tokyo in Chiba Prefecture) is a region in the Kanto area known for its scenic seascapes and, beaches Tateyama (reached by train from Tokyo Station) makes a good base for exploring the Boso Peninsula. Nearby are empty Pacific beaches. Shirahama (southern part of the Boso Peninsula) has good surfing wave and some of the last “ama” (female divers) in Japan.

Kamakura (45 minutes south of Tokyo by train) is a small historically-rich coastal town that attracts surfers with its beaches. Shimoda (near southern tip of the Izu Peninsula) boasts white sand surfing beaches and great seafood restaurants. There are beautiful beaches at Yumigahama.

Shirahama (2¼ hours by train from Osaka) is a developed hot-spring-beach resort on the west coast of Wakayama and the Kii Peninsula. The white sand beach, with sand brought in from Australia, draws huge crowds in the summer. The other main attraction is Sakino-yu hot springs, with bath built in some rocks on a point, offering great views of the sea.

empty beach in Izu ilsands
Tottori Sand Dunes (near Tottori) extend along the Sea of Japan for 16 kilometers north of Tottori and extend inland for about two kilometers. The dunes are whipped up by winds into conical piles, crescent-shaped hollows and various other patterns. The highest dune is a bout 300 feet high. The dunes turn a spectacular crimson red at sunset. Amonohashidate (near Tottori) contains a sandspit that is regarded as one of Japan's "Three Best Views."

On the Pacific side of Shikoku and the Kii Peninsula east of Osaka there are some good surfing beaches. On Kyushu there are some nice beaches near Miyazaki. Ibusuki (30 miles south of Kagoshima) is noted for its white sand beaches and natural hot sand baths which can be taken right on the beach. Altogether a 16-mile stretch of beach is heated by subterranean volcanic activity. There are lots of nice beaches with clear water on Okinawa and other islands south of the main Japanese islands. The northern part of the main island of Okinawa is relatively unspoiled. There are nice beaches at Sesoko-jima Island, Minna-jima Island and Okuma beach. The Miyako Islands (190 miles southwest of Okinawa) contains nice beaches and snorkeling and diving reefs.

Websites: Good list of Beaches 100 Best Beaches in Japan ; 7 Good Beaches Traveljab blog . See Surfing

Surfing: Websites: Japan Surf Japan Surf ; Global Surfer Report on Japan Global Surfer ;

Turtle Watching in Japan

Yakushima and Tanegashima islands in Kagoshima Prefecture off the southern coast of Kyushu are the two main turtle egg-laying areas in Japan. Yakushima is the largest nesting site for loggerhead turtle in the North Pacific and the northernmost landfall in Japan for green turtles. About 4,000 loggerheads came ashore in 2005.

The primarily egg-laying areas around the town of Kami-Yaku on Yakushima. The loggerhead nest primarily on three beaches — Maehama, Inakahaa and Yotsusehama, which are collectively known as Nagatahama on the northwest part of the island . Some 5,051 turtles came ashore here in 2004. The second main area is around Nakatane on Tanegashima island. A total of 338 turtles came ashore here.

The egg-laying season for the sea turtles from late April to July with hatchlings making their way to the sea from July to September. About 100 people show up every night to observe the females come ashore and lay their eggs. Sometimes they create a disturbance with car lights and noise. There have been cases of turtles coming ashore and not laying any eggs and baby turtles not being able to emerge from their holes because the sand had been disturbed. The Yakushima Umigame Kan is non-prot organization run by volunteers that is dedicated to helping the turtles.

Maeham and Inakahama (northwest side of Yakushima, north of Nagata) is one of the world's most important nesting sites for loggerhead turtles. The nesting season is from mid-May through the end of July. The sites are often fill with tourists who surround the turtles with flashlight and cameras and can’t suppress their desire to touch the turtles shell and flippers.

Yoronto Island (23 kilometers from Okinawa) is small island know for its sea turtles. The best turtle spotting place is a five minute boat ride from Chaban Port. It is not uncommon to a dozen different turtle in one dive. The turtles like t to come to this spot to sleep.

Chichijima in the Ogasawara Islands (500 miles south of Tokyo) is home to Japan’s only aquarium dedicated to turtles, particularly green turtles, and most of the hotels in the Ogasawara Islands. Activities on the island include swimming with dolphins and whale watching and turtle watching. The number of green turtles coming ashore to lay their eggs is increasing at a rate faster than anywhere else in the world.

Whale Watching in Japan

Whale Watching Tours are enjoyed by about 100,000 people every year in Japan. In Naha and Zamami in Okinawa, they are organized by several groups including the Zamami Whale Watching Association. A two-hour tour costs about ¥5,000 person and leaves from Zamamai on the Keram islands, which is reached by a one-hour high-speed ferry that leaves from Tomari Port in Naha at 9:00am and cost about ¥5,000 for a round-trip ticket.

Every year between January and April, hundreds of humpback whales migrate through the area. The humpbacks have only been seen in the area since the mid 1990s but about 270 of them have been counted in the peak season.

The trips involve going to a spot where whales are usually seen and waiting. When a whale is spotted the boat races off for a closer look, but always maintains a distance of greater 100 meters. The whales rarely dive for more than 15 minutes so when one dive the guides does his best to predict where it will show up next.

Sperm whales are often seen at a site about one hour from Chichijima in the Ogasawara Islands (500 miles south of Tokyo) . In the late autumn mothers are spotted with their calves. Humpback whales breed in waters off the island from December to May, peaking in February and March. According to Ogasawara Whale Watching Association about 20 whales a day can be seen from the Chichijima island observation tower if the conditions are good. The waters off the island are 200 meters of shallower with gentle waves, providing good breeding conditions.

Websites: whale watching Inland Sea whale ;Ogasawara whale watching Ogasawara whale watching ; whale watching in Okinawa Kerama Islands whale watching

Image Sources: 1) Chiba Tourism 2) 3) 5) 7) Okinawa Convention and Vistors Bureau 4) 6) Tokyo Islands

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Daily Yomiuri, Times of London, Japan National Tourist Organization (JNTO), National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

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