August 2011: Oshima, Japan

Sunday August 21st 2011

Despite last night’s drinking, this morning we woke up reasonably early, although a planned 5am dive had to be cancelled, not just because of a late night, but also because of bad weather.  Rough seas, some rain and winds were the main challenges we faced today.

When diving in bad weather, it’s important to understand the flow and direction of the waves, be aware of strong currents, and be prepared to descend quickly.  Divers must be 100% ready to head underwater immediately upon reaching the surface.  This means no stopping to adjust fins, masks or check other equipment (or if absolutely necessary this should be done extremely quickly).  Today we had planned on visiting a new dive site, but conditions were such that we decided to stay at Akinohama, now a familiar spot to everyone.

Visibility was miles better than yesterday.  The current had washed away the sand and sediment leaving behind some reasonably clear water, but having stupidly put on my mask without cleaning it properly at the surface, it soon began to cloud up.  With my vision becoming more and more limited, I realised there was no way I would last the entire dive, and also couldn’t remember how to clear it.  Fortunately I managed to signal to my buddy in good time, and our guide was soon with us, ready to show me what to do.  After a few attempts I was able to remove the mask from my face to let water through, tilt my head upwards and breathe out through my nose to remove the water, leaving a crystal clear mask.  The rest of the dive went well, we descended to 21.4m over a large area of rocks, while our guide pointed out various soft coral and showed me how to get some good shots by setting my flash and moving close.  These are apparently the two most important things when taking photos underwater – making sure the flash is on, and staying close to the animal or plant you want to photograph.  Our highlight was spotting a school of catfish hovering above a rock.  They weren’t swimming, they were just resting in the same position forming a medium-sized ball, watching us and staying alert.  Another fish I saw that’s often seen in Akinohama and throughout the rest of Oshima, is the sea goldie, a small orange/gold fish, up to 7cm long with a violet streak below the eye.  Males can be up to 15cm, and tend to be a more fuchsia colour.

We were back in Akinohama for our second dive, and I was fully calm and knew what to expect as we entered the water, gathered at the buoy for our descent and quickly headed downwards.  The sea was still pretty rough even a few metres down at the bottom of the rope so we swam further on, perhaps a little fast.  When my buddy developed minor ear-clearing problems at the start of the dive, I was able to stay close by as our guide helped out, and stay within sight of the 3rd diver in our group.  Today I really learned about the importance of having a buddy and being able to look out for him/her.  This can be applied to our everyday lives too – communicating clearly, developing trust and understanding others are all necessary each day.  On this dive we discovered some beautiful pink soft coral which we were able to get really close to, and we also came across a brownish orange and white scary-looking creature, a member of the starfish family.  Other highlights were more moorish idol (black, yellow and white with a long extension protruding from the dorsal fin, and long snouts), trumpet fish, box fish, and more nudibranchs.

This year’s dives have made me much more appreciative of the marine environment, and I’ve become more keen to explore other subjects on land, like exhibitions, oceanography centres and aquariums.  There’s something very thrilling and inspiring about experiencing the other part of our planet, seeing such a huge range of species up close, and comparing fragile coral reefs with rocky sandy areas.  Scuba diving offers a lot of adventure and risk, but it really makes you appreciate what is going on underwater.  Next month I’ll be joining the group for possibly their last trip this year before the weather cools down.  We’ll be even further south than Oshima, on Hachijojima, where the weather should be warmer and the waters more tropical.  The Kuroshio current should also bring with it even more interesting fish, which I’m looking forward to seeing.

Practical information:

  • Like last month, I joined Discovery Divers on their regular Oshima trip.
  • We met at Takeshiba pier near Hamamatsucho station on the Yamanote line, around 10pm, to take an overnight ferry departing at 11pm.  The group had reserved an area below deck where everyone sleeps on the floor next to each other.  The floor is extremely hard but blankets can be rented for 100yen each.  No limit to the amount of blankets you can borrow, unless they are running short!  A single ticket on the overnight is roughly 5,000yen to 7,000yen.
  • The boat is basic, but offers vending machines, a restaurant and a spacious deck where most people stay to enjoy the cool breeze and views.  It’s also possible to sleep there too, with the rented blankets.
  • Our dive school was Global Sports Club (http://www.global-ds.com/english/no-1-informatuon.html)
  • The school is about 15mins from the port by car.  It consists of a log cabin for guests to leave their bags or sit and write up their log books, a reception area, and large deck for eating, and setting up equipment.  The log cabin is filled with books and magazines on the underwater world.
  • Tea and coffee are available in the cabin and reception area.  Guests help themselves.
  • The school staff weren’t involved in our dives, but it is possible to book private dives directly with them.
  • We moved around by van, loading and unloading equipment ourselves.
  • All entries are giant stride entries or simply walking into the water carrying equipment.
  • Lunch is provided – a boxed lunch containing either meat or fish.  All lunches came with soup, rice, meat/fish (salmon) and vegetables, some pickled.
  • You are responsible for all your equipment during your stay.  The area to wash equipment in is extremely spacious – one big tub of water to wash wetsuits, boots, masks, fins and snorkels, and 2 medium-sized tubs to soak cameras in.
  • Around 6 toilets are provided, and 3 very warm and comfortable showers.
  • We stayed in a basic Japanese-style hotel/inn a few mins’ drive away from the dive school.  3 to a room, sleeping on the floor, with breakfast and dinner provided.  Dinner: rice, miso soup, cold soba noodles, some sashimi, melon, vegetables, eggs, extremely balanced and healthy.  Dinner begins at 8pm, and last orders must be in by 9pm (beers were ordered and paid for separately).  Breakfast: western-style, basic salad and ham, fried eggs, toast with jam, tea and coffee.
  • I paid a 20,000yen deposit to the group for the trip, followed by another 20,000yen on the night of departure (this covers you for 3-4 dives, accommodation, equipment rental, boat tickets, dinner and breakfast).  Extra dives cost 1,500yen.
  • We took a fast ferry back to Tokyo on Sunday.  The journey is about an hour and a half, and costs around 5,oooyen to 7,000yen for a single ticket.  This gets you a seat.  The inside is a bit like an airplane, and the boat is extremely fast.  No deck – everyone stays indoors.

August’s dives:

Dive 1: Akinohama: depth: 21.4m, dive time: 33mins, used a 10L tank, 3kg weight belt and 5mm wetsuit.  Saw striped eel catfish and sea goldies

Dive 2: Akinohama: depth: 14.2m, dive time: 48mins, used a 10L tank, 3kg weight belt and 5mm wetsuit.  Saw moorish idols, trumpet fish, box fish, soft coral, more catfish and nudibranchs

 

 

About Rising Bubbles

Based in Bristol, UK, I am a freelance writer and consultant working on Japan’s aquaculture and fisheries development. My work focuses on issues related to sustainability, research, gender, technological advancements, adaptation and resilience. I have a keen interest in the recovery of aquaculture in the Tohoku region, following the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami of March 11th, 2011, and provide news stories, features and reports from Japan for national and international seafood and fisheries media. While living in Tokyo between 2006 and 2017, I worked as a freelance writer on Japan’s aquaculture and marine-related subjects, in particular scuba diving. My blog began in 2011 as a comprehensive guide to diving in Japan. I have enjoyed exploring Japan’s waters extensively and became a certified Dive Master in August 2015. I hold an MSc in Sustainable Aquaculture from the University of St Andrews, and a BA in Japanese and French from the University of Cardiff, UK.
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