Have an unforgettable surfing experience in the waters of Japan
The Japanese archipelago is surrounded by the sea and dotted with plenty of great surfing spots. Surfers rave about how the sport makes you feel at one with the wind and waves, and united with nature.
Surfing has been added as a new event for the Tokyo 2020 Games. This has delighted surfing enthusiasts arounds the country, who hope that the inclusion will further promote surfing culture. They also hope that surfing will inspire people to cherish the natural environment and preserve it for future generations.
Surfers tend to flock to most beaches in Japan from July to August, but you can surf even in the winter in spots that have a mild climate and warm water, like the southern part of Kyushu and Okinawa.
Some experienced surfers like to hit the waves after typhoons through summer and autumn, taking advantage of the strong swell and high waves. Others enjoy surfing in winter when onshore winds blow from the continent toward the Sea of Japan, creating great waves. Take appropriate precautions and be aware of the risks before surfing in unfamiliar waters. Conditions can change drastically depending on the weather and tides, so be sure to assess the situation carefully. If you’re a novice, note that various spots around Japan offer lessons as well as rental surfboards and wetsuits.
If you’re planning to bring your surfboard with you, check with your airline beforehand. You may need to pay an excess baggage fee or apply in advance. Some sizes may not be permitted on board. If you have a short and light board, you may be allowed to bring it in as hand luggage with no extra charge.
The Sotobo area, located on the Pacific side of the Boso Peninsula in Chiba Prefecture, is about a two-hour drive from central Tokyo. With strong waves coming in from the open sea, it’s filled with plenty of surfing spots.
The Tsurigasaki Beach (also known as Shidashita Beach) in Ichinomiya* was selected to host the Tokyo 2020 surfing games, a new addition to the Olympic games lineup. With great waves for intermediate to advanced surfers, Ichinomiya is one of the leading surf towns in Japan—some avid surfers even buy houses in the area. To the north of Ichinomiya is the Kujukuri Beach. It has surf schools, which even day-trippers can attend, and summer tours complete with BBQs. You can rent surfboards and wetsuits, so you can participate during your visit as long as you bring your own swimsuit, beach sandals, and towel.
The Minamiboso area has a mild climate and relatively warm waters, so it’s also popular in winter. Chikura and Heisaura are particularly great for beginners—they have shallow beaches, sightseeing spots, and plenty of eateries nearby, so there’s much to do after an exhilarating day of surfing.
Miyazaki is located at the southern tip of the Japanese archipelago. It’s a spot where you can enjoy surfing even in the winter thanks to long hours of sunlight and the warm Kuroshio Current that flows from the south. Miyazaki Prefecture’s vast coastline stretches about 400 km from north to south, and its popularity rivals Chiba Prefecture, the venue for the Tokyo Olympic surf events. What makes it great is that it’s not as crowded.
Kisakihama Beach is one of the leading surf spots in Miyazaki. Located just 10 minutes from Miyazaki Airport, the beach hosted the qualifying rounds for the Tokyo Olympic surfing competitions. The beach itself is 2 km long, sandwiched between two rivers, and divided into three sections: Longboarding in the south, shortboarding in the center, and SUP in the north.
Further south is Aoshima, a spot with lush palm trees and tropical vibes—the calm waves are perfect for newbies. Set in the north part of the prefecture is Okuragahama Beach, a 4-km long beach known for its beginner-friendly, smooth waves. Kanegahama Beach, located south of Okuragahama, is recommended for intermediate to advanced surfers for its relatively big waves.
Amami Oshima is located between Kyushu and Okinawa, and is Japan’s second-largest island. It’s a popular surfing destination known for clear, pristine waters and big waves. Observe the coral reefs as you wait for the waves to come in. If you’re lucky, you might even encounter a sea turtle. Since the area has a subtropical climate, the water stays at a pleasant temperature of 20°C and above even in winter. Note that the Amami Oshima receives plenty of rainfall, especially in June, and is often hit by typhoons in autumn.
The area is home to plenty of fantastic surfing spots. Tebiro(Video) and Gusuku on the Pacific side are great for beginners while Gamo and Hatohama on the East China Sea side are best for intermediate to advanced surfers. Seasoned surfers can also opt to paddle out to the open sea at Kohama or Ohama.
The island offers plenty of other activities—you can go whale watching, stand-up paddle boarding, or kayaking in a mangrove forest(Video). After a fun day outdoors, treat yourself to local specialties like brown sugar shochu liquor or learn about cultural gems like Oshima tsumigi weaving(Video).
The Shikoku area is nestled between the tranquil Seto Inland Sea and the Pacific Ocean. Tokushima Prefecture, at the eastern end, is home to a number of popular surfing spots. You can even drive there from Osaka or Kobe using the expressway.
The best season for surfing in this region is from April to November. The Komatsu Coast, located in the north, is a convenient spot thanks to its proximity to the city. You’ll see many bathers in the summer and can find lessons for beginners. Shishikui on the Pacific coast has an expansive beach where you can use a longboard. There’s also a surf store that sells indigo-dyed products, a traditional local craft also used for the Japanese national surfing team’s uniform. It’s the perfect place to pick up some unique souvenirs.
Kochi Prefecture is also a renowned surfing paradise where you can surf all year round. It has 700 km of coastline on the Pacific side. Ikumi Beach is located on the border with Tokushima Prefecture and has hosted many surfing competitions including the All Japan Surfing Grand Champion Games. The left side facing the waters receives big waves and is for experienced surfers, while the surfing lessons for beginners are held on the right side.
The Minami-Izu and Shimoda area stretches from the eastern part of the Izu Peninsula to its tip. Surrounded by beautiful clear seas, it’s easily accessible from Tokyo and a great option for a short jaunt.
Since it’s a popular tourist destination, you’ll find that most of the beaches have parking space, showers, and restrooms. Surfing newbies can head to Shirahama Beach, a spot with calm waves and no rocky areas, while seasoned surfers can make their way to Tatadohama. Selected as the venue for several surfing competitions, Tatadohama is located further south along the Izu Peninsula and popular for its great waves. There are guest houses and hotels in the vicinity. In summer, the attractive sandy beach attracts plenty of bathers, so there are separate areas for surfing and recreation.
Also popular are Iridahama and Yoshisami Ohama Beach. Nearby you’ll find promenades for nature walks, a suspension bridge, and recreational beaches—there’s plenty to do for those who do not wish to surf.
The Enshu Sea has long been known as a tough spot for ships due to its fast tides and strong winds. The Atsumi Peninsula juts out to this notorious sea and its tip is home to the Irago area, one of the most popular surf spots in the Chubu region.
There are plenty of surf spots along the coast, but the Pacific Long Beach offers a variety of environments for surfers of all levels. The palm-tree lined roads give the area a tropical vibe, and in summer, the beach hosts surfing competitions. You’ll find a large parking space that accommodates more than a hundred cars and restrooms. There’s a constant stream of waves, but note that the strong winds can easily sweep surfers towards the rocks. Pay particular attention to the weather and wave conditions.
Loco Beach is also a convenient spot with parking space, and great for beginners and longboarders. Further towards the tip of the peninsula are spots that are suited only for intermediate and advanced surfers. Watch out for off-shore winds and strong currents near the banks as you enjoy the area’s unique waves.
Stand-up paddle boarding (SUP) is a fun and easy alternative to surfing. It’s becoming more and more popular in Japan in recent years. SUP boards are highly buoyant and stable, and do not require as much physical strength or technique as surfing, so even beginners can easily get up on their feet and enjoy the water.
Paddle along a lake or river and enjoy the scenery along the shore—try it during sunrise or sunset for breathtaking views. If you have some SUP experience, carry your bag with you on board so you can enjoy a picnic or try fishing on a rock along the way. You can bring your dog along for the ride or even try yoga on the water.
There are SUP tours offered in the Tokyo area—it’s a fun activity to try during your visit. You can take in views of the city skyline and Tokyo Skytree as you paddle.
Since SUP involves a lot of time outdoors, be sure to take precautions against sunburn. You can also rent a board, or take a one-day lesson or tour at various locations in Japan, so look for one that best fits your itinerary and experience Japan’s beautiful waters at your own pace.
Surfing culture is deeply rooted in the Shonan area in Kanagawa Prefecture. Located about an hour from Tokyo, the area overlooks the Sagami Bay and includes spots such as Kamakura, Hayama, Chigasaki, and Oiso. It has been developed as a summer resort since the 19th century, and has the oldest history of Western European-style marine leisure activities like surfing and yachting in Japan. Some residents’ families have been surfers since their grandparents’ generation.
There are plenty of surf spots such as Yuigahama and Inamura-Gasaki Beach, as well as unique surf stores and local artisans who maintain surfboards. Many people move to the area for the surfing-friendly environment.
The locale retains the historical architecture of the Kamakura Shogunate, a regime founded by samurai warriors in the 12th century. This rich history coexists alongside an unpretentious seaside lifestyle punctuated by surfboards and flip-flops. In summer weekends, Shonan’s recreational activities attract visitors of all ages.