Konnichi wa divers, welcome to Japan

Nobody thinks of Japan as an interesting place for diving. Nobody. Galapagos Islands, Australia, Red Sea, Indonesia, Philippines, MexicoMaldives… these are the destinations that many divers prefer for a great diving holiday. Have you ever heard someone recommend Japan as a destination for diving? I do not.

Pacific Giant Octopus on the coast of Japan, photo by Alexander Semenov

After seeing several pictures by Alexander Semenov (Russian biologist and one of my favorite underwater photographers) of the wonders of the Sea of Japan I discovered, with great surprise, that there are more than 2,000 dive sites in this country with great biodiversity. After all, it is a vast archipelago of nearly 7,000 islands with more than 34,000 kilometers of coastline. Also, in Japan you can enjoy different underwater conditions, with some subtropical areas and some other similar to the Arctic. In Japan you can have a very exotic diving trip: both the surface and the sea bottom are unique and incomparable.

Chirolophis japonicus, picture by Alexander Semenov

But… what is hidden in Japan’s diving spots? In an archipelago of that size, bathed by both the Pacific and the Sea of Japan, the hidden secrets are almost infinite. Meda Point is one of the most popular places to dive in Japan with two main attractions: jellyfish and octopus. But we are not talking about any jellyfish or any octopus. In Japan we find the Cyanea capillata or lion’s mane jellyfish. It is the largest existing jellyfish, but also is the longest animal that inhabits the planet: its tentacles can reach 70 meters.

Young specimen of Cyanea capillata or lion’s mane jellyfish, photo by Alexander Semenov

The other big attractions of Meda Point are the giant octopuses, capable of weighing 50 kg and feed on sharks thanks to their huge beak-shaped mouth. These animals are remarkable not only for their size, but also for their intelligence and ability for mimicry.

Giant Pacific Octopus hunting a shark

Another interesting area to dive in Japan is the Izu Peninsula, due to its proximity to Tokyo and because it is surrounded by both warm and cold waters. Its location allows you to dive with fish from different latitudes. In this area you can also visit interesting wrecks such as the Shohan Maru, an 80 meter long cargo ship which sank 50 years ago and is full of corals, lionfish and the deadly stonefish. Besides that you may occasionally find whitetip sharks and some hammerhead sharks.

Japanese subtropical areas are also very interesting, because of its recent history and for its fauna and flora. The Kerama Islands are 22 islands that the U.S. military used for preparing the famous Battle of Okinawa, the battle of the Second World War with more casualties: 250,000.

Zamami Island, one of 22 islands of Kerama

These islands, which have 76 diving spots, host a great variety of corals, crustaceans, and unique tropical fish such as clownfish, clown triggerfish, mandarin fish or one of the most spectacular eels: the blue ribbon eel. You can also enjoy the views of some of the largest creatures of the ocean such as humpback whales or manta rays, gentle giants that can reach a wingspan of up to 6 meters. 

One of the biggest attractions for divers in Japan is the Yonaguni Island. There you can dive with large schools of hammerhead sharks, colorful hard and soft corals, different parrot fish or the fastest tuna of the ocean… but that’s not the most interesting thing about Yonaguni.

Yonaguni Monument: lost underwater city or rock formation?

In 1986, a local diver looking for sharks discovered a rock formation that is still under discussion whether it was created by man or nature. Known as the Yonaguni Monument, this rock formation, which can be visited from only 10 meters deep, has whimsical shapes that suggests that it was a city that was under water for thousands of years and there is no evidence whatsoever of its existence in Japanese history.

This monument can be accessed through an entrance area similar to a large hall leading to some huge 40 meter long steps perfectly sculpted that resemble pre-Columbian temples. Yonaguni has two areas particularly mysterious; first it has a space on the floor with a sculpted shape with sharp right angles that many claim to be a turtle. On the other hand you can snorkel around a formation similar to a monolithic pyramid, 25 meters high. Those who claim it to be the work of man calculated that the city sank about 12,000 years ago… contradicting those who think it is a natural formation produced by the frequent seismic activity in the area.

This is an extraordinary place for a curious diver, judge for yourself:

El misterio de Yonaguni

Perhaps after reading about the existence of this dive sites in Japan, the next time that someone brings up the conversation about your dream diving destinations, you will think about the treasures of these Japanese diving spots.

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