Watersports

Information on the facilities available for windsurfing, surfing, kitesurfing, diving, canoeing, kayaking and rafting in Japan...

Japan's coastline makes water sports popular in the country; there are sandy beaches, estuaries and rock reefs to explore. The nature of the coast and the water is very different in the Japan Sea to the Pacific Ocean.

Surfing and windsurfing

Japan's coastline offers a lot of surfing, particularly along the east coast. Iberaki, just north of Chiba, is easy to get to from Tokyo and has good swell all year round. Care is needed in the north of the region between Futasujima and Oarai as it is a region of strong currents. The coast between Kashima and Hasaki offers great waves in north-easterly or south-westerly swells. Chiba is home to the most consistent surf in Japan. Iioka has a good swell and is an easy day trip from Tokyo. Onjuku is a good beach for beginners. The Hebara area is popular with experienced surfers and it has been home to big wave competitions in the past. Ichinomiya is very popular and is where some of the country's professional surfers live; it can get very crowded.

For people living in Tokyo, the Izu Islands are a popular weekend surfing trip. The islands have warm, crystal clear water and beaches with waves for everyone from beginners to very experienced boarders. Niijima is the most popular Tokyo island for surfing and is a frequent location for both local and international competitions.

The Shonan area of Kanagawa is said to be the home of Japanese surfing and it is very popular. It is easily accessible from both Tokyo and Yokahama. Most of the surfing can be found between Zushi and Enoshima.

Most of the popular beaches have surf shops offering equipment to buy or rent, and lessons.

  • To find out more about surfing in Japan, including beach cameras and surf reports: Click here

Windsurfing is also very popular in Japan and there are windsurfing schools around the country. Many of the popular surfing beaches are also used by windsurfers and kitesurfers. Omaezaki is the best-known windsurfing location in Japan; it has hosted many international competitions.

The Japan Windsurfing Association oversees the sport in the country and organises training and competitions.

  • To find out more about the Japan Windsurfing Association: Click here (in Japanese and some English)

Diving

Quality diving sites can be found all along the Japanese coastline. Two of the best-known destinations are the Kerama Islands and the Ogasawara Islands. The Kerama Islands in Okinawa have crystal clear water which is popular for diving and for whale watching. The area is a mix of small islands and coral reefs with waters which are generally calm outside of the typhoon season. The waters are home to many species of fish, rare gobies and sea slugs. There are around 100 dive sites in the Kerama Islands, most of which can be reached by a short boat trip from Zamami port. The area's subtropical climate means that diving is possible all year round.

  • For more information on diving in the Okinawa region, including a list of diving shops for English speakers: Click here

The Bonin or Ogasawara Islands are renowned amongst divers; they have been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. They are a group of about 30 islands of different sizes, 1,000 Km south of Tokyo. Most of the islands are uninhabited. Diving is possible here all year but the water is warmer between April and September. The area around Mukojima Island (also known as Kater Island) offers particularly good diving; dogtooth tuna can be seen at a famous tuna hole (Maguro-ana) in summer and autumn. The waters are rich in tropical fish and are home to the rarely seen wrought iron butterflyfish. The Ogasawara Islands are the main breeding ground of green turtles in Japan; they can usually be seen between February and August. As well as diving, it is possible to swim with dolphins and go whale watching; between January and April it is possible to see humpback whales that come to the area to breed.

Most popular diving sites have dive schools offering tuition for all levels; some instructors speak English.

  • For more information on diving in Japan with links to diving centres: Click here

Canoeing

Japan's seas, rivers and lakes offer a wide range of canoeing opportunities. The Minakami area is home to the Namato and Okutone Lakes which are the result of damming of the Tone River. The waters are perfect for canoeing, with some of the best white water in the country. There are a number of canoeing tour operators working in the Minakami area, some of which have English-speaking guides and instructors. The Yoshino River in Shikoku Island is another popular paddling location, as is Lake Aokiko which is 15 minutes south of Hakuba and has beautiful views of the Japan Alps. The Ogasawara Islands are popular for sea kayaking; many of the beaches can only be reached by boat.

The Japan Canoe Federation is the official governing body for the sport in the country. They organise competitions and training in many canoe and kayaking disciplines.

  • For more information on the Japan Canoe Federation: Click here (in Japanese)