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Natural beauty is not something that immediately springs to mind for most people when they think of Japan. Rather it is images of sprawling huge mega-cities, high rise towers and the latest electronic wizardry. However, with nearly 80% of the Japanese land-mass being uninhabited, Japan is a haven for wildlife and has spectacular scenery to match that which you will find any where in the world.

We encourage all our guests to head out into the countryside to see a little bit of the countryís outstanding natural beauty and to make the choices a little easier we have collected together some of the very best in nature experiences. In this section you will find bear watching in the Japanese Alps, the chance to see the majestic whales which are abundant in Japanese waters, places to view some of Japanís rarest birdlife and much more besides.


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Scuba Diving in Japan

Overview

Japan has dive sites to rival some of the most famous in the world.

A thousand miles south from the Tokyo Metropolis lies the sub-tropical Okinawan islands with white sand beaches, crystal clear tropical waters and hugely diverse marine life comparable to the Great Barrier Reef.

The islands here have a vast array of dive sites from beautiful soft coral beds, pinnacles and walls to huge drop-offs and ship wrecks. Experience manta ray up close and discover the mysterious 'lost city' of the iseki stones.

Each island has something very different to offer and this area makes for a perfect island hopping adventure.  

 


Ishigaki Island
Ishigaki is the hub in the Yaeyama island chain, a short flight 250 miles south of Okinawa mainland. As well as being the gateway to the rest of the island chain the island has some first class diving to offer of its own. Away from the white sand beaches and the mountainous interior, the tropical waters are home to the world's richest colonies of blue coral. Like all waters in this region, visibility is extremely clear and there is a vast variety of marine life, but what makes Ishigaki special is the majestic Manta Ray that populate the area. These beautiful creatures can be seen all year round but can be seen in greater numbers from late Spring through to the Autumn months when they come to feed on plankton. These creatures spanning approximately 5 metres across are immense and will happily glide around Manta Scramble between 5 to 30 metres as divers sit below to watch this amazing spectacle.

Yonaguni Island
The sub-tropical island of Yonaguni is a rugged lump of rock 67 miles off the coast of Taiwan and a 30 minute flight from Ishigaki. This tiny 15sq mile island is truly remote.

There is one big reason for heading to Yonaguni as a diver - an ancient and mysterious underwater monument called the 'Iseki'. Discovered in the 1980's by local diver Kihachiro Aratake-san, these strange formations are thought to be an ancient monument modified by man in the last ice-age around 10,000years ago. If they are manmade, the stones would be the oldest manmade monument on earth predating the Egyptian Pyramids.

The Iseki consists of several monuments with the main terrace area consisting of a single platform 100 metres by 50 metres and more than 25 metres tall. The structure is seemingly carved out of rock and consists of perfect right angles, huge steps and deep corridors. There is debate between those that believe that it is an ancient manmade structure and those that believe that it is merely a geological phenomenon continues. There are also those that the stones are an extension of the lost continent of Mu and those that believe that this is the work of aliens. Either way, this dive site is truly stunning even for the most experienced diver.

When:

Japan's southern islands are sub-tropical and the waters rarely dip below 20C even in the winter.

Be advised that September into early October is considered typhoon season. This does not mean that the islands will have a typhoon everyday, but there may be a threat of heavy wind and rain if a typhoon approaches.

July through August is high season in Okinawa and Ishigaki which may have an impact on prices of accommodation, availability and flights.



Where:

The Kerama Islands
A couple of hours ferry journey off the Okinawa main island, the laid back islands of Zamami and Aka are home to some of the most beautiful tropical coastline in Japan with white sand beaches, primeval forests, quiet island life and a huge array of coral and marine life.

These islands are part of the 22 island chain which has more than 70 dive sites within easy reach from Zamami or Aka-jima. The waters around the island are very calm offering easy diving and snorkelling sites with visibility often exceeding 30 metres plus. The variety of dive sites around the islands offer fantastic diving for all levels with reasonably shallow coral rich sites for the beginner, superb drift diving, caves and pinnacles for the more adventurous. As well as colourful nudibranchs seen making their way across the corals, reef sharks and turtles can be seen all year round.

Izu Peninsula
Just south of Tokyo, the Izu Peninsula provides some of mainland Japan's best diving opportunities. The waters are a lot cooler, but there is a wealth of marine life. Some sites offer soft coral and intricate marine life and others of migrating schools of hammerheads. Izu is a good option during the warmer months. Only a few hours south of Tokyo, the Izu Peninsula is easily accessed by train.

Ogasawara Islands
1000km from Tokyo and accessed only by 25 hour ferry, these islands are remote to say the least but have some stunning diving to offer. Offer the coast of the main island, Chichi-jima there are coral covered sunken warships and marine life a-plenty. Dolphins are found here all year round with Humpback Whales and migrating from February to April and Sperm Whales from July to September.


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Inside Japan Tours - Independent British Travel Awards 2011 - Best Tour Operator To East and Central Asia
The Guardian, The Observer - Travel Awards 2010 Winner - Best tour operator (small)
Inside Japan Tours - Silver at the British Travel Awards 2009