Surf in Japan is a lesser-known yet thriving activity with an interesting history and flourishing community.
The origins of the sport in Japan can be traced back to the mid-20th century when it was introduced by American servicemen stationed in Japan post-World War II. These enthusiastic wave riders brought their surfboards and began riding the waves along the Japanese coastlines. However, it was in the 1960s and 1970s that surfing started gaining significant popularity among the Japanese population.
Today, Japan is home to a growing surfing community, with many local and international events and competitions taking place throughout the year. In 2020, surfing even debuted at the Summer Olympic Games held in Tokyo, a massive milestone for the local surfing community.
Surf schools and rental shops are popping up in coastal towns that offer surfing conditions. In addition, many of Japan’s major professional surfers are engaging in efforts to promote the sport. Names like Kanoa Igarashi, Hiroto Ohhara or Masatoshi Ohno, among others, have taken Japan’s flag to another level and are considered a reference in the sport.
Best places to go surf in Japan
If you’re planning a surf trip to Japan, consider visiting some of these popular spots:
Located just a short drive from Tokyo, Chiba is an excellent choice for beginner and advanced surfers. Chiba’s most famous surf spots include Katsuura, a beach and reef break that comes alive when typhoon swells make their way in from the South, or Tsurigasaki, which hosted the 2020 Olympics surf event.
In the Kanagawa Prefecture, Shonan is one of Japan’s most famous surf spots. It’s home to numerous surf shops, rental outlets, and schools, making it an excellent spot for beginners. Zushi Beach is known for its consistent waves, and it’s where the Tsukiji Cup, Japan’s largest surf competition, is held.
Okinawa is a tropical paradise located in the southernmost part of Japan, and it’s where you can find some of the most beautiful and unique surf spots in the country. For example, Sunabe, a sought-after reef break destination, or Aha Port, a right-hander that works with wind swells.
On the east coast of Japan, Ibaraki is another popular surf spot in the country. The coastline has good surf breaks, such as Oarai Beach and Onuki Beach. But be aware that the wind is almost always present here.
Wakayama is a hidden gem located on the west coast of Japan. You’ll find some of the most beautiful and untouched surf spots here. Among them, Gobo shines when a typhoon approaches and Isonoura is the perfect choice for beginners.
In addition to these surf spots, many other hidden gems along Japan’s long coastline are waiting to be explored by surfers of all skill levels.
How are the waves formed in Japan?
Situated along the Pacific Ring of Fire, Japan is characterized by its elongated shape, with the Pacific Ocean to the east and the Sea of Japan to the west. This configuration allows the country to receive swells from various directions, resulting in a consistent wave environment.
In addition, the prevailing winter winds, such as the Siberian High and the Aleutian Low, generate powerful storms in the North Pacific, producing larger swells that reach the Japanese coast.
The interaction between these weather patterns, ocean currents, and the complex coastal topography creates an ideal environment for forming and maintaining surfable waves in the country.
Going to Japan? Check out these tips.
With the increasing popularity of surfing in Japan, it’s no wonder that the local surf community is actively working to develop the sport. For that, some believe that Japan will soon become one of the world’s top surfing destinations.
It’s exciting to think about all the new surf spots that will be discovered in the future. Who knows, maybe by you!
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