If you are a diver, you’ll want to explore every water within your reach, even if it’s not world-renowned. At least that’s why I went on a dive trip to Izu.
Non-Japanese speakers may find the familiar problem when searching for a dive shop or tour operator: not many provide service in English. My research on Tokyo dive shops led me to find East Dive, Dive Zone, and Discovery Divers Tokyo. East Dive seems to be the biggest English-speaking dive tour operator in Tokyo, which facilitates trips to Izu Peninsula in Shizuoka Prefecture (Atami, Hatsushima, Kumomi, etc.) and overseas. They also offer PADI dive courses for you who just made the right life-changing decision of taking a dive license. Discovery Divers and Dive Zone accommodate smaller groups to various spots in Tokyo and Chiba Prefecture (Ooshima, Kozushima, etc.), Shizuoka (Atami, Koganezaki, etc.), Yamanashi, and Okinawa.
Okinawa has the country’s top dive spots but Izu Peninsula offers a lot too: clear waters, tranquillity, and rich underwater life, within only 2 hours drive away from Tokyo. I went with East Dive to West and East Izu for a weekend trip this summer. The tour package included van transport, 4 beach dives, full gear rental, and accommodation.
Courtesy of East Dive
Our group of 11 divers left Shinjuku station at 6:30 AM and reached our first dive spot at around 9:00 AM. The shore of Ida did not really stretch long and the underwater biodiversity was limited, but the waters were good for easy dives and speciality courses. The facility was filled with bigger groups and families with their tents and benches. Our first dive went smoothly, our instructors were very patient while we tried to refresh our memory on how to swim like a fish.
We continued with our second dive after lunch. Cold mugicha and hot water for cup noodles were available for free, but I didn’t see a place where we could buy food. As diving can really work up an appetite, make sure to bring plenty of food!
In the evening we travelled by train to East Izu and stayed at a pension near Futo Station. It had around 10 rooms, hot baths, showers, and a barbecue set. We had lots of fun at the barbecue thanks to our fellow diver’s excellent grilling skills in full swing!
On the second day we had two more beach dives at the exquisite Izu Oceanic Park (IOP) in East Izu. We were lucky the weather was good, although we had to “battle” the strong wind and waves at entry point. I was most surprised by the harmless huge green-spotted black eel . We visited a clown fish family; parents and tiny kids chilling at their pink anemone home. My favourite were the big packs of schooling fishes, they always form beautiful shapes. There were also plenty of red and yellow goat fish and Moorish idols.
Photo by East Dive
Photo by East Dive
The coolest thing about IOP is that you can mail a postcard from an underwater mailbox, which will be picked up and actually sent by post to its destination (JPY 110 for mail within Japan). So if you go here, don’t forget to bring the address of your family or friends!
Photo by East Dive
It was simply refreshing to see palm trees which we don’t usually find in Tokyo or Kanagawa. Group tour and barbecue added to the summer diving fun. But diving is not exclusive to this season and there are dive spots that open all year long. The trick is as simple as wearing warmer wetsuit (or dry suit). You can swim with stingrays, kobudai (Asian sheepshead wrasse), and even sharks in Japan, but that’s for the next article!
Average cost: 40,000-50,000 yen for 2-days, 1-night dive trip, 4 dives, all included (may not include lunch)
Links to dive shops in Tokyo:
Open daily: 9:00 - 17:00 (Mar-Oct.) (9:00-16:00, Nov-Feb)