Japan may not be at the top of your snorkeling destinations list, but can you imagine what its 6800 islands, from the chilly north to the tropical south, have to offer? Japan is home to thousands of snorkeling spots, especially in the subtropical Okinawan islands, where you will come face to face with manta rays, clownfish, sea turtles, reef sharks, angelfish, sea snakes, and a whole range of other marine species. Japan just might be the snorkeling world's best-kept secret!

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The most popular snorkeling destinations on Japanese main islands are Hokkaido (especially the Shiretoko Peninsula, famous for ice diving) and Honshū (in particular the Izu Peninsula and the Izu Islands, just a few hours drive from Tokyo, and the Kii Peninsula, further southwest on the island).

If you want to get off the beaten track, head for the Ogasawara Islands. Located more than 600 miles (1 000km) south of Tokyo, they were designated a UNESCO World Natural Heritage in 2011. Also known as the "Galapagos of the Orient", the Ogasawara Islands are famous for their rich biodiversity and high endemism. Under the surface of the sea, you’ll come face to face with sea turtles and sharks, but be sure to keep an eye out for the wrought iron butterflyfish, and endemic specie which can only be found in the Izu and Ogasawara Islands.

Snorkeling Report Japan
Furuzamami Beach, latticed butterflyfish at Aharen Beach, and green sea turtle at Ama Beach

But for the best snorkeling in Japan, reach the south part of this island country and the Okinawan Islands, the ‘Hawaii’ of Japan. In this subtropical paradise, you will find the best reef snorkeling of the region. On Okinawa main island, many spots are accessible from the shore (like Cape Maeda) and represents some of the easiest options. Nevertheless, you’ll have to head for the Kerama Islands (Tokashiki, Zamami), the Miyako Islands or the Ryukyu Islands (Ishigaki) to live the best experience in the archipelago.
When to go to Japan?

Climate on mainland Japan in temperate, with cold winters and hot summers, from June to September. Outside these months, snorkeling is limited by cooler water temperatures. 

Okinawa archipelago is the only place in Japan where you can go snorkeling all year around. It has a humid subtropical weather, with no dry season. Summers (May to October) are hot and wet, and temperature rarely goes above 86°F/30°C. The rest of the year, the climate is drier and still remains warm and comfortable, at above 68°F/20°C during daytime. The temperature of Okinawa's costal waters range from around 65°F/18°C  in winter to about 84°F/29°C in the summer.

Where to spot them?

Green sea turtle

You can't miss them at Ama Beach

Tomato clownfish

On all spots, particularly at Furuzamami and Aharen

Clark anemonefish

On all spots, particularly at Furuzamami

Pink skunk clownfish

On all spots, particularly at Furuzamami

Blue-lipped sea krait

Common at Furuzamami

Threadfin butterflyfish

On all spots

Giant clam

On all spots

Sixbar wrasse

On all spots

Staghorn Damselfish

On all spots