Diving In: Scuba in Japan

Japan and scuba diving just don't seem to go together. After all, Japan isn't the first country that comes to mind when we think about diving destinations in Asia. But the seas here are actually a lot more rich and varied than we realize. Even the busy, bustling metropolis of Tokyo is a treasure trove of underwater secrets. Read on for my top three dive destinations that are also, funnily enough, part of Tokyo Prefecture.

Turtles cruise by regularly at Hachijojima cropped

A moray eel says Hello at Kozushima cropped

Kozushima

A tiny paradise about three hours and 45 minutes by high-speed ferry from Tokyo, Kozushima is more well known for its white sandy beaches, but a range of dive sites are also on offer, from the huge boulders and rocks of Hiradan Arch that are caked in colorful sea slugs and nudibranchs, to beaches such as Akasaki, with a sandy and rocky bottom that is perfect for beginners and macro lovers. Here you can enjoy the warm, clear waters and get up close to creatures such as crabs and starfish, making the site a great spot for photography buffs. Night dive fans will enjoy Tsumari, a site at the bottom of a cliff with flat seas, great visibility and a sandy bottom. Depending on season, you might just spot the odd octopus or two. Don’t forget to rest on the sand and wave your flashlight around from time to time to enjoy a beautiful planktonic light show.

Dive School: Nangoku

Address: 668-2 Kozushima-mura, Tokyo

Tel: 04992-8-0604

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Oshima

An easy overnight ferry journey from Tokyo with Tokai Kisen ferries takes you to one of the summer’s most popular dive spots. Oshima, with its rugged coastlines, black sand beaches, and clear seas, is about 100 kilometers south of the capital, and its close proximity to the mainland makes it a hugely popular weekend getaway. Depending on how tired you are, it’s possible to start diving pretty much upon arrival. One of the main sites is Akinohama, which you quite literally jump into to explore the rocks and find creatures such as boxfish, shellfish, spider crabs, soft coral and the odd cuttlefish too if luck is on your side. Other dive spots include Nodahama, a reasonably shallow area that is popular for a large arch known as Fish TV because it often looks like it’s full of fish. You can hover and watch from afar, while on the rest of your journey you might just com across a few rays, crabs, lobsters and clownfish.

Dive School: Global Sports Club

Address: Kitano 1-74, Motomachi, Oshima, Tokyo

Tel: 04992-2-1966

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Hachijojima

If turtles or rare fish are your thing, Hachijojima is the place to go. Twelve hours by boat from Tokyo, green sea and loggerhead turtles swarm above the rocks at the dive site Nazumado, where the first thing you see is a huge rocky ledge with an arch in the middle. The turtles are often seen swimming around here accompanied by red soldier fish and lionfish. You can also swim through the arch into an area of crevices, cracks and wall formations built up over centuries. Here, moray eels swim in and out of the many holes in the rocks looking for food, while yellow trumpet fish hover close by. Hachijojima is also famous for the yuzen, or Wrought Iron Butterfly Fish, which is only found here and off the islands further south. With its metallic black color and yellow fin tips, it’s a special moment when you spot a school of these fish.

Dive School: Regulus Diving

Address: 1364-1 Mitsune, Hachijo-machi, Hachijo-jima, Tokyo

Tel: 04996-2-3539

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Further Training

For those wishing to gain more dive certifications or meet other divers in the Tokyo area, Discover Divers Tokyo (DDT) can meet your needs. This group follows the NAUI (National Association of Underwater Instructors) pathway (PADI is also available) and offers all courses from Open Water and Advanced to Rescue, Nitrox, Dive Master, Dive Instructor and technical diving. Socials are held in Tokyo’s Shibuya area once a month, and during the summer trips are organized to the Izu Islands and parts of Shizuoka prefecture. Note that DDT also organizes trips to Oshima and Hachijojima with the above dive schools. See the group’s website for further information.