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Thread: Japanese diving: a closely-held secret

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    Nicholas Smith Abbo has a reputation beyond repute Abbo has a reputation beyond repute Abbo has a reputation beyond repute Abbo has a reputation beyond repute Abbo has a reputation beyond repute Abbo has a reputation beyond repute Abbo has a reputation beyond repute Abbo has a reputation beyond repute Abbo has a reputation beyond repute Abbo has a reputation beyond repute Abbo has a reputation beyond repute Abbo's Avatar
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    Japanese diving: a closely-held secret

    Like many of the guides at Izu, near Tokyo, this man was a real professional, who had discovered new species, and had thousands of his photos in hundreds of publications. He is, however, a certifiable lunatic. We were doing a short fizz-stop, decompressing in the shallows, and I spotted him playing with a small octopus, putting it through a little obstacle course in his fingers. By this stage, the blue rings on the beastie were clear, which meant it was getting to the end of the limited patience of its microscopic brain. I signed to him ‘isn’t that kind of....dangerous?’. He grinned and scribbled two characters on his slate: ‘moh-doku’ – deadly poisonous. He waved his hand to say ‘you want a go?’ I passed on that. The Blue Ring Octopus has the same neurotoxin in its bite that makes Fugu pufferfish so lethal – tetrodotoxin. They’re both made by the same bacteria, which this octopus has in its beak. I’d seen this creature on the Barrier Reef, but hadn’t known it could be found this far north.

    The warm waters of the Kuro-shio current bring in hammerheads to Izu at the end of the summer and a host of other tropical fish. Clearly, it brings in a lot else. Nowhere in the world can coral be found further from the equator. The number and diversity of life under the waves there is simply eye-popping. But the potential that excites me far more is the fact that, as an island nation that has been embroiled in its fair share of wars, it has quite a few ships parked on the sand at diveable depths. And because almost no Japanese divers go deeper than 30m, that makes these waters a cornucopia of virgin wrecks.

    Diving in Japan seems to be a closely-held secret. Huge coriolis forces power the Kuro-shio black current that brings warm water and tropical fish on a conveyor belt from the Philippines. This is the Pacific’s equivalent of the Gulf Stream, motoring along at 4 knots. From the north, the cold Oya-shio brings highly nutrient-rich waters down from Kamchatka. The fishing is rich enough off the Kurils for the Russian navy to gun down Japanese fishermen over. The two northerly and southerly currents clash off Tokyo. That makes for a large variation in water temperatures but incredible biodiversity in the marine life.

    If I had hair I’d probably be pulling it out over the Tokyo market, but I haven’t, so I decided to take Friday off and go diving. After sending my child off to school I scooped up my dive gear and tottered off to the station: you don’t even have to get up early to dive out of Tokyo. A bullet train had me at my dive site in 40 minutes from central Tokyo.

    Atami used to be a classy resort where people went for honeymoons in the 70s, but it got pretty sleazy after the 80s Bubble – better known for a massage with a happy ending than the prize-winning literature that used to be written about it at the turn of the twentieth century. There’s a popular wreck there: 80m long with stacks of penetration potential. Officially, you’re not allowed inside: it’s the same kind of Nanny State thing that causes Mt. Fuji to be ‘closed’ apart from 2 months in the summer. It reminds you of the battered sign that says ‘do not throw stones at this notice’: it’s begging to be ignored. And it is, routinely.

    In 70 minutes you can get round a lot of the wreck. It’s so heavily encrusted in coral that I’d assumed it had been there at least since the war. I asked the guide:
    “no, actually it only went down in ‘87”. He had pictures of it before it went down – rather suspicious photos, as they clearly show the precise reason for it going down. The ship was being used to haul sand to make a white sandy beach for the tourists. The sand was piled to a sharp point in the middle.
    “Yes, the ship was right at the end of its life and was due to be broken up immediately that job was over. They piled the sand in its middle and it broke in two”. I guess that kind of insurance scam happens all over the world and presents divers with some of their most treasured wrecks.

    I tried questioning him on an altogether more thorny subject.
    “I saw some videos on a foreign website of fishermen killing dolphins. I thought I recognized the site as just down the road from here, in Futo, but had heard that they stopped that practice many years ago?”
    “Yes, the main reason is tourism: the tourist industry probably makes more money for this area than fishing now, and stories about such hunts damage business. Still, you can understand why the fishermen want to do it: dolphins – and whales too – come through this area intermittently through the year. When the dolphins come through the sea around here is empty of fish for a week after. The fishermen are poor, and can’t afford to miss a week’s pay”.
    “The fishermen cut the dolphins’ throats in the video, but I thought that had been outlawed many years ago?”
    “Sure, I suppose it seems pretty savage to you foreigners. You’re right: a law was brought in some years back. Dolphins are related to cattle, and in the same way as with cattle, they taste bad if you don’t drain the blood. Now, by law, that has to be done after the animal is killed humanely”.

    In the afternoon, we did a Pretty Fish Dive. By July, the water will be 25 degrees and gin-clear. Right now it’s 19 degrees and thick enough with plankton to take visibility down to 6-8m at times. The water was thick with fish and hundreds, if not thousands, of squid – their eggs were everywhere, in pods dangling from every twig of coral. We saw an eagle ray and a cute little shark called a Japanese Bullhead in English. In Japanese, they call it Nekozame: the cat shark. Somehow that seemed more appropriate.

    I was back in Tokyo by 5:30. To get to the better wrecks I’ll need trimix. That’s hard to get here, and officially you’re forbidden to mix gases yourself. Rather than a ‘rule of law’ Japan seems run off a ‘rule of man’: it seems to have a patchwork quilt of laws and ordinances, many of which are treated with scant regard. The Japanese are probably the most law-abiding people in the world, but some of its rules are plain silly. The police are not people to make enemies of, but as long as you’re not harming anybody else they’ll turn a blind eye to a lot. That seems to show a lot more common sense than the marionette PC Plods back home. The wrecks aren’t going anywhere. The switch to closed circuit clipped my wings a little, but I hope to be back on diving deep mix by the end of the year – after all, all those wrecks are a pretty enticing carrot.
    Last edited by Abbo; 12th June 2007 at 23:09.

  2. #2
    RBW Member Drmike has a reputation beyond repute Drmike has a reputation beyond repute Drmike has a reputation beyond repute Drmike has a reputation beyond repute Drmike has a reputation beyond repute Drmike has a reputation beyond repute Drmike has a reputation beyond repute Drmike has a reputation beyond repute Drmike has a reputation beyond repute Drmike has a reputation beyond repute Drmike has a reputation beyond repute Drmike's Avatar
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    Re: Japanese diving: a closely-held secret

    Hi Abbo,

    Im in Tokyo often with business. Never done any diving there yet but been thinking about it. Thanks for the write up.

    cheers
    m

  3. #3
    Dave Tomblin wedivebc has a reputation beyond repute wedivebc has a reputation beyond repute wedivebc has a reputation beyond repute wedivebc has a reputation beyond repute wedivebc has a reputation beyond repute wedivebc has a reputation beyond repute wedivebc has a reputation beyond repute wedivebc has a reputation beyond repute wedivebc has a reputation beyond repute wedivebc has a reputation beyond repute wedivebc has a reputation beyond repute wedivebc's Avatar
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    Re: Japanese diving: a closely-held secret

    Nice writeup. Thanks.
    Cheers,

    Dave....

    www.wedivebc.com

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    Re: Japanese diving: a closely-held secret

    Excelent write up , you have a lovley narative way with the report.

    Warm blue water full of shipwrecks. Heaven on earth :D

    ATB

    Mark CHase

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    Re: Japanese diving: a closely-held secret

    Who knew? Nice write up Abbo, thanks for it and the clarifction regarding the current Dolphin culling. Sounds like this area is sort of like an even better version of North Carolina's outer banks in high summer-some tropicals and lots of shipwrecks. -Andy

  6. #6
    Nicholas Smith Abbo has a reputation beyond repute Abbo has a reputation beyond repute Abbo has a reputation beyond repute Abbo has a reputation beyond repute Abbo has a reputation beyond repute Abbo has a reputation beyond repute Abbo has a reputation beyond repute Abbo has a reputation beyond repute Abbo has a reputation beyond repute Abbo has a reputation beyond repute Abbo has a reputation beyond repute Abbo's Avatar
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    Re: Japanese diving: a closely-held secret

    Thanks for the kind words. If you're over in Tokyo on business, bring your 'breather. The biggest problem for most people is the language: if you need help with that or just need a dive buddy, PM me. The pool's open!

  7. #7
    RBW Member tecdivertraining is a name known to all tecdivertraining is a name known to all tecdivertraining is a name known to all tecdivertraining is a name known to all tecdivertraining is a name known to all tecdivertraining is a name known to all tecdivertraining is a name known to all tecdivertraining is a name known to all tecdivertraining is a name known to all tecdivertraining is a name known to all tecdivertraining is a name known to all tecdivertraining's Avatar
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    Re: Japanese diving: a closely-held secret

    hi Nick

    Good Job. Looking forward to my visit, looks like i may be able to come end september should be fun.

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    Re: Japanese diving: a closely-held secret

    Quote Originally Posted by silent running  View Original Post
    Who knew? Nice write up Abbo, thanks for it and the clarifction regarding the current Dolphin culling. Sounds like this area is sort of like an even better version of North Carolina's outer banks in high summer-some tropicals and lots of shipwrecks. -Andy
    Yeah, but the real question is.... Do you get the happy endings in North Carolina?

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    Re: Japanese diving: a closely-held secret

    Great Write Up!

    Thanks

  10. #10
    RBW Member ntokyo is an unknown quantity at this point ntokyo's Avatar
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    Re: Japanese diving: a closely-held secret

    Great article Nick !

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