April 2015: The Marine Diving Fair, Ikebukuro, Tokyo, Japan

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Friday April 3rd to Sunday April 5th 2015 

Tokyo’s annual Marine Diving Fair is a unique point of access for divers to get discounts on dive gear, listen to talks from invited guests, catch up with one another and discover new dive sites in Japan and elsewhere.  Organised by Japan’s first scuba diving magazine Marine Diving which began in 1969, the event is mostly for promotional purposes but high on the agenda this year was travel to destinations outside Japan and plenty of information for the increasing tide of divers dedicated to creating images underwater as those in the underwater photo and video business shared their expertise through talks, one-to-one advice and special displays of top images.

As I headed to the event this weekend I was a diver on a mission, tasked with spreading the word on Green Fins.  Internationally coordinated by UK charity Reef World, Green Fins is a set of environmental standards for the diving industry that provides guidance and support to business owners, dive shops and national authorities to promote best practice underwater.  I was extremely impressed at the high level of enthusiasm towards Green Fins expressed by Japanese divers, dive shops and even PADI Japan.  Everyone was keen to know more and to do their part, so here’s hoping Green Fins will have a role to play one day soon in the Japanese diving industry.  Here are some photos taken while I handed out a few Green Fins leaflets:

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Another highlight of the event was catching up with Hiroshi Sato who established Sanriku Volunteer Divers, a group that’s been working to restore areas hit by the March 11th 2011 earthquake and tsunami in the Tohoku region.  Unlike previous years there was no Sanriku Volunteer Divers booth at the event.  Instead, Hiroshi was attending by himself to catch up with fellow divers and give a brief presentation on the Tohoku Salmon Swim.  Thanks to Hiroshi’s negotiations with local fishermen, people visiting his local area can don a mask and snorkel to observe the salmon return and run upstream after 4 years’ migration through the open ocean.  Today the salmon are coming back and Hiroshi offered an insight into the latest conditions as well as some tips on taking photos while observing the fast-moving fish.

Heading towards other booths nearby, I could see that the Okinawa region was out in full force.  One dive shop from Miyakojima Island had returned this year to promote the island’s diving and introduce the famous underwater limestone caves, tunnels and arches which I had the pleasure of seeing just last month.  Thanks to a new airport and more direct flights from Tokyo, tourism in Ishigaki Island is thriving and chances are that the diving industry there is going to get stronger.  The Ishigaki booth featured a host of dive shops operating across the island.  It was also great to see the lesser-known Amami region, particularly the islands of Okinoerabu and Yoron (one of my favourite diving spots in Japan!).  Both appear to be upcoming hotbeds of diving activity, with barrier and fringing reefs on Yoron and a range of marine life off Okinoerabu such as sea cucumbers, coral crabs and fish of all shapes and resilient colours.

Once again the Marine Diving Fair drew a huge audience from across Japan and even from abroad as special guest Laurent Ballesta, a French underwater photographer and marine biologist, gave a talk on 40 days of deep water diving and meeting the coelacanth, a legendary bottom-dwelling sea creature.  I spoke to some fellow divers who were also struck by how many people there were, and with such a big interest in Japan’s diving scene, perhaps there will be new and improved products, services and publications in the years to come.   It will be interesting to see just how much of a foreign input there will be too, as more individuals and organisations from abroad start to focus their attention on diving in Japan.

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