While it may not be the obvious choice, Japan is quickly becoming one of the hottest surf destinations in 2019.
With the sixth longest coastline in the world spanning over 3000 km and amazing surf conditions, it is easy to see why Japan is getting attention. If the famous image of “The Great Wave off Kanagawa” by Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai is any indication of the conditions, Japan has plenty of spots for amateur surfers and pros.
Recently Tourist Japan has seen a rise in surf tourism in Japan, most specifically in Shikoku, regarded as one of the best spots in Japan to catch a wave. Easily accessible with optimal beach conditions, Shikoku is most popular during June and November.
Additionally, in Japan typhoon season hits during August to October which creates some epic swells. For travellers interested in spending time in Tokyo, the Sakawa River located just a few kilometers from the bustling city offers surprisingly ideal waves. There are also plenty of options in the islands of Okinawa notable for the tropical climate situated along the East China Sea and found between the mainland of Japan and nearby Taiwan.
Here is a closer look at some of the best places to catch a wave in Japan, surf’s up.
Situated on the eastern limits of Tokyo, the Chiba prefecture offers surfers 60km of Pacific shoreline in Kujūkuri Beach found in the northeastern part of the region. Additionally, in the south, the Island peaks into the Boso Peninsula creating plenty of great surf spots across the prefecture. South Chiba attracts many surfers and is a hub for surf tourism, given the plethora of options. In Chiba, surfers should look out for Chikura, Kamogawa, Heisaura, Tateyama, and Wada beach areas. The southern Chiba area offers stunning sandy beaches and clear blue water. In southern Chiba, sandbars and sand covered rocky reefs produce good waves. Part of what makes Chiba so appealing is the close proximity to Tokyo and the excellent conditions.
Insider tip: During the summer months Chiba can be very crowded as many locals from Tokyo buy summer homes in the area. Summer surfers can expect plenty of beach parties and warm, sunny days. During the winter months, the wind and water are much cooler but still offer great waves.
Found off the southern-central part of Honshū island, Kansai refers to several prefectures including Kyoto, Osaka, Wakayama, Mie, and Nara. The coastline in the Kansai region runs east to west which creates swells from the North Pacific wind. Another highlight of this region is the famous Mount Fuji. Again, there are many areas to choose from, but some of the most popular are the beaches situated on the coast of Wakayama prefecture, given the close proximity to Osaka. Travelers in Osaka can head to Isonoura beach, a haven for local and international surfers. There also happens to be an airport in Kansai Osaka (KIX) making it easy to access.
Insider tip: Check out Kotohiki Beach in Kyotango City, Kyoto which offers immaculate natural beauty including rocky hot springs and a laid back vibe.
One of the hottest surf spots in Japan, Shikoku is considered by some the best surfing destination in Japan. Given the southwest location of Shikoku Island, it creates ideal conditions. Of all the major Japanese Islands, Shikoku is actually the smallest and beyond offering ideal surf conditions, the island is mountainous, filled with beautiful trails for hiking, hot spring spas known as onsens, and whitewater rapids from frequent rainfall. Along the southeast coastline, the Tokushima and Kochi provinces offer excellent conditions as the rivers flow into the sea. In turn, sandbanks are formed and typhoon generated swells are created.
Insider tip: In the winter months, Shikoku can be very cold and conversely in the summer it tends to be extremely hot. Ideal times to go are actually during the end of summer, early fall season when it is the prime swell season.
Known for the tropical climate, Okinawa refers to the southern Japanese Islands that tend to be the warmest in Japan. Due to the warmer temperatures, surfers can enjoy Okinawa year round. Okinawa is actually closer to Taiwan than to Tokyo and the region boasts some of the most breathtaking landscapes in all of Japan. Picturesque sandy beaches tucked away coves, crystal water, and a very relaxed vibe, Okinawa also offers some of the best breaks.
It is important to keep watch for tropical storms which do tend to occur in the region. There is a vibrant surf community in Okinawa, and one of the most popular spots is Sunabe Seawall. Additionally, the water has some coral reefs that can create dangerous obstacles even for the most seasoned surfer.
Insider Tip: During tropical storms and typhoons, the waves in Okinawa can become overwhelming and dangerous creating a risk of collision with the shallow coral reefs. Speaking with the local surfers in the region is the best way to avoid injuries and pick up a few tips.
As if there weren’t already enough reasons to visit Japan in 2019, surfing is another reason Japan should be on travellers bucket list this year.
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