Japan’s top unexpected surf breaks

As an island nation with great beaches, Japan offers plenty of exciting spots where you can hit the waves and Japan has a thriving surfing scene that grows in popularity every year. With four main islands of immense diversity and countless smaller ones of varying shapes and sizes, there are plenty of opportunities for intrepid overseas surfers.

The underrated island of Shikoku features some of the best river mouth waves in the world, as well as beautiful landscapes that remain mostly unknown to overseas visitors.

On the southern island of Kyushu, you should check out the beaches of Miyazaki Prefecture.  The Nichinan Coast, which stretches for some 90 kilometres and offers sea stacks up to 70 meters in height, is one of the highlights of the region.

Uchiumi Point might be the single best place in Japan to surf, thanks to the typhoon swell and rippable walls. In the Kansai region, you will find Wakayama Prefecture’s Isonoura Beach, which attracts surfers from all over Japan, especially during the long summer months.

No matter your skill level or board style, Japan has something special for everyone. Here’s a guide to some of the top surf spots across the country.

Take a surf adventure down south in warm, uncrowded waves in Miyazaki

Japan, Miyazaki, man surfing in the Pacific Ocean

Along with Chiba, Miyazaki is one of Japan’s most renowned surf destinations. With a coastline that stretches over 300 kilometres, Miyazaki attracts swell from the east, south and north. An abundance of surf schools have opened shop along the coast and, during typhoon season especially, you can find some world-class surf breaks to rival any surf location.

Miyazaki’s surf spots are broken into three geographical areas— Hyuga in the north, Miyazaki City in the centre and Nichinan in the south. All three areas offer fun waves for beginners and more challenging waves for skilled surfers. The most famous beach in the Hyuga area is Okuragahama. It’s home to numerous international surfing events each year and was the location for the ISA World Junior Surf Championships in 2017. Okuragahama is a sand-bottom beach, but it breaks very consistently.

Making Olympian waves in Chiba Prefecture

Japan sunset.

Shidashita Beach in Chiba Prefecture  was chosen as a Tokyo 2020 contest site due to its renowned waves and easy accessibility from Tokyo, with a clubhouse and changing rooms open to the public. The local community is actively involved in the surfing scene and following the Games it’s ready to accommodate travellers from afar.

Other acclaimed beaches in Chiba include Ichinomiya, which is known for its strong currents, and Onjuku, which has some of the warmest water in the prefecture thanks to currents from the south. Near the southern tip of Chiba, you’ll find Wadaura Beach, which has gained a reputation as a place for experienced surfers to test their mettle.

Deep forests, volcanic hot springs and ocean sports on Tokyo’s little-known archipelago

The Izu Islands make for the perfect Japanese surfing holiday. Boasting crystal clear waters, gorgeous forests, hot springs, water sports, fresh seafood, and more, these unique islands have something for everyone.

Niijima Island offers a well-preserved natural landscape that is a paradise for surfers, divers and nature lovers alike. With a yearly spot on the professional surf calendar, the waves at Habushiura Beach, on the east coast of the island, are well worth seeking out. From Takeshiba Pier in Tokyo, you can take an Express Jetboat (two hours and 50 minutes) or a larger passenger boat overnight (10 hours) to Niijima.

A dedicated sun, surf and sand getaway in Shimoda

Shimoda is a resort town situated at the southeastern end of the Izu Peninsula. The beach town’s easy-going nature belies the fact that when U.S. diplomat Townsend Harris negotiated a trade treaty here in 1858, he effectively ended Japan’s centuries of self-imposed isolation from the West and opened it to trade, which led to the end of samurai rule.

What people come to Shimoda for now, though, is fun and sun. Surfers flock here to ride waves at the long stretches of beach at Shirahama, Kisami Ohama, and Iritahama, as well as to more secluded coves like Tatadohama. The sand is soft, white, and beautifully clean, and the waves range from steady breaks to challenging swells. Shimoda is excellent for family outings as well. Veteran divers should look to Mikimoto, an island near Shimoda, for colourful coral and lots of larger creatures, including sharks, tuna, and rays.

Preparing yourself and your gear

If you feel you need to brush up on your skills, there are quite a few surfing schools across the country. Many will offer lessons in board usage, wetsuit usage, and lectures on how to improve your mastery of the waves. Some will even provide live demonstrations so you can see how experienced professionals handle themselves.

There are dedicated surfing shops close to popular beach destinations all over Japan where you’ll be able to buy or rent any essential equipment.  There’s even a street in the Ochanomizu area of Tokyo with a large number of dedicated surf retailers.

Japanese weather changes dramatically based on the seasons, which affects surfing conditions. A popular time of year for surfers to assemble is during typhoon season, from August to October, though in many areas, it’s possible to surf at any time of the year. The subtropical climate of Okinawa ensures you’ll be able to take your board out any time, even in December.

There is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new sun. This is Where Wild Things Roam.