Japan is not particularly known for scuba diving, and that’s good for local divers! Yet, the most interesting thing about Japan is its vertical geographical diving position.
Indeed, this makes the marine conditions of the North very different from those in the South. Specifically, diving is done in dry-suit in the North, while the South offers subtropical diving all year round!
This page is a detailed guide to diving in Japan.
The best scuba diving sites
Japan has about 2000 scuba diving sites, not counting all those unknown to foreign divers! All these sites are spread over the country and include 3 different ecosystems.
First, cold water diving is mainly around the island of Hokkaido. The dive sites are influenced by the Oyashio sea current, which brings the cold waters of the Arctic to the South.
Divers who venture into the ocean’s cold waters will be able to meet the giant crab’s “kings.” The more adventurous can also try diving under the ice!
Then the islands of Honshu and Shikoku have temperate conditions. The waters in the region are influenced by sea currents from the China Sea and the Yellow Sea.
Thus, you will encounter a variety of marine life between the warmer water species and those of cold water.
The strength of the Oyashio and Kuroshio currents varies with the seasons and places on the islands. So, ideally, you should dive with the local guides or inquire with them.
In a third step, we head south, towards the archipelago of the Ryukyu Islands. It includes about 160 islands, of which only 49 are inhabited.
The archipelago extends over 1000 kilometers/620 miles from East to West and 400km/250mi from North to South. It’s worth a visit for a great scuba diving experience in Japan!
Besides, the island of Okinawa is located in this archipelago. The diving conditions around the island are that of any Indo-Pacific destination. So they are excellent. You can go tropical diving all year round!
Here are some of the most beautiful scuba diving sites in Japan:
The Shiretoko Peninsula on the eastern part of the island of Hokkaido faces the strait that separates Japan from Russia. In winter, ice diving opportunities are many. In fact, between January and March, holes are cut into the ice near the shores so divers can enter them. These are dives limited to about 10 meters deep for about 30 minutes in water at freezing. Some offshore dives are possible, as well as Lake Shikotsu, which does not freeze. The lake is known for having the clearest water in the country.
Izu Ocean Park
The “Izu Ocean Park” is located on the Izu Peninsula, on the island of Honshu, some 100 kilometers from Tokyo. The peninsula is mountainous and well known for its coastal hotels and resorts. The marine park is an ideal destination for divers from Tokyo.
The island of Okinawa
The island of Okinawa includes about 80 scuba diving sites on its own. also to a hundred on the small islands next door. Besides being in the tropics, Okinawa is seeing the water temperature rise thanks to warm sea currents from the China Sea. Visibility is generally good, and marine life is abundant and diverse. Also, some sites have a lot of currents and will appeal to lovers of drift dives.
Japan Scuba Diving Reviews
Scuba diving in Japan is mostly done from dive centers and hotels affiliated with an operator. You will find many boats that will explore every day. Also, you can often dive directly from the shore on some destinations, such as the island of Okinawa.
Otherwise, Japan is not a liveaboard destination, just like South Korea. So for a diving cruise, you have to look to southeast Asia.
Prices of dives in Japan
Rates for diving in Japan varies depending on the region or island, especially the type of dive. Here is still an overview of the average price of dives for Japan:
|A snorkeling excursion
|Price Course level 1 / Open Water:
|Price Course Level 2 / Padi Open Water Advanced:
|Price Course Level 3 / Rescue Diver
We advise you not to look only for the lowest rate but choose your dive center according to where you feel best. Sometimes it makes sense to pay a little more and be in better conditions!
Best time to dive in Japan
Technically, diving all year round in Japan is possible, depending on the 4 seasons. Indeed, in the North, we dive there in winter, and normally dry follows no matter the time of year.
In summer, Honshu Island is superb for diving and can be done with a regular combination. On the other hand, in winter, you need a dry suit to dive on Honshu.
As for Okinawa, we dive there all year round in a regular wet suit. Since the island is in the tropics, it is sometimes affected by tropical storms. The dive is canceled after a storm, but conditions improve quickly afterward.
The scuba diving courses offered in Japan are many and varied. Between the Open Water certifications and those for dry suit diving, you will find them all over the country. Also, to be able to access a most of the sites on Okinawa, a drift diving course would be a good option!
Scuba diving conditions
Diving conditions in Japan will vary a lot from place to place. Most international divers will travel to Okinawa. There the diving conditions are very good throughout the year.
Visibility is good, and the water temperature remains warm. But, some dive sites have significant sea currents. So it is advisable to dive with local operators or at least inquire with them.
Snorkeling in Japan
Several sites are very suitable for snorkeling, snorkeling in the Okinawa area. Otherwise, snorkeling opportunities are limited in other regions since the water is too cold and/or the coasts are rocky.
Underwater fauna: Fish and Coral
The subtropical island of Okinawa includes interesting marine biodiversity. That can be compared to that of the Great Barrier Reef. For example, several species of rays and sharks will migrate to the surrounding area.
Honshu Island offers less diversity but more large species living in cold water.
If you are planning to go on a trip to Japan, I advise you to invest in good travel insurance that also covers scuba diving.
You never know what can happen, and good insurance can get you out of difficult situations. I recommend good travel insurance as they offer global coverage and cover many risky sports like scuba diving.
Japan is all in contrast, and this extends to scuba diving. Indeed, it is a beautiful destination for its culture and dives into cold water, hot water, or both!