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Five Great Reasons To Dive Japan

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As with many things in Japan, this enigmatic country’s rich and exciting diving is a mystery to most people who don’t live there. From the coral gardens of Okinawa in the subtropical south, to the icy water of Hokkaido 3,000 kilometres to the north, this sprawling archipelago is brimming with marine life. Much is familiar, such as schools of bigeye trevally gathering over coral reefs. Some, such as giant salamanders or grisly monkfish, seem to have escaped from a Studio Ghibli animation. Here are just five reasons why you should dive Japan!

1) The Schooling Fish of Aguni

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Bigeye trevally gather in schools near the island of Aguni

The pristine reefs of Aguni Island lie a 90-minute speedboat trip north-west of Okinawa main island in the sub-tropical south of Japan. It has recently started attracting divers to witness the impressive schools of bigeye trevally which gather in May and June each year.

2) The Giant Salamander of Gizu

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Giant salamander in the freshwater mountain streams near Gifu

To the south of Tokyo, near the city of Gifu, is a network of freshwater streams which are home to the Japanese giant salamander. They can grow up to 1.5m in length and these living fossils, which have changed little in 30 million years, make great photographic subjects. 

3) The Sharks Towers of Izu

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Banded houndsharks form swirling towers as they gather to feed

 Chiba on the main island of Japan is famous for the dive site in Ito where hundreds of banded houndsharks and hordes of red stingrays gather to be fed. Fishermen supply the food to the local dive centre in order to keep the sharks away from their nets.

4) The Macro Mecca of Izu

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The grisly visage of a monkfish - an ambush predator

A dive site called Osezaki in West Izu just north of Tokyo is one of my favourites. It is the macro mecca of the Kanto region of Honshu. Year-round you can find nudibranchs, gobies, seahorses, frogfish, anthias, squid, moray eel, and shrimps, to name just a few.

5) The Giant Octopus of Hokkaido

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A Pacific giant octopus wrestling for control of the camera

Juvenile North Pacific giant octopus are generally timid and will run away from divers, but the adults are the exact opposite. I was once photographing a small lumpfish when I was attacked from the side by an adult giant octopus. It had its arms fully spread out and lunged immediately towards my camera. They seem to think that cameras with long strobe arms are enemies, and love to wrap themselves around them and try to pull them away from you.

• This is a short extract from Martin's in-depth article on diving in Japan in the Summer 2019 edition of DIVE

from summer 2019 print

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