Surfing in Japan: The Best Places to Catch a Wave

With more than 1,800mi (3,000km) of Japanese coastline, surf expert Timothy Trahan shares his tips on his favorite places to go surfing in Chiba Prefecture.

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Two surfers have a chat before hopping in to catch a wave in Chiba Prefecture, Japan Photo © Getty Images/Kohei Hara

Travelers and locals can surf Japan year-round. If you decide go during peak surfing season, August and September, the water is so warm that you won’t need a wetsuit.

Surfing in Chiba

Chiba is a quick and easy holiday destination for Tokyoites, located just 50km east of the major city (or a 2hr drive), with plenty of resorts for a long-weekend city escape.

Chiba’s coastline south of Ichinomiya, is a popular surfing spot, with powerful beach breaks and crowded shores.

The first-ever Olympic surfing competitions will be held here in 2020.

Surfing in Torami

Similar to the rest of the Kujukuri coastline, with wide beaches and breaks that work at both low and high tide, the very fine, dark brown (sometimes black) sandy shores of Torami Beach are lapped by waves suited to surfers with all levels of experience.

For beginners, paddle out near the man-made jetties, where the angle of the jetty only lets small, clean waves through.

You’ll find that all of the locals here are surfers, including the owner of the Japanese restaurant Route 59, next door to surfing outfitter, Oasis. 

Getting there: If you take the JR Sotobo line, the beach is about a 15-minute walk from the station. If you can hire a car, driving will make it easier to navigate your way around

Accommodation: Torami Beach might not have any big hotels, but there are some great AirBnB or bed-and-breakfast options abound, as well as many good spots to dine for the evening.

Rental surf gear: You really can’t beat Oasis as they are the largest surfing outfitter in all of Chiba, with the largest selection of boards available. The store itself also has an extensive selection of new and used shortboards, longboards, and wetsuits. They even have basic accommodations available should you miss the last train. 

Surfing in Onjuku

Head a little further south to Onjuku, a beautiful wide beach stretching for almost 1km. The shores are made-up of coral and reef, washed-up from a few hundred meters past the shoreline. 

Onjuku beach has decent beach-break surf in most conditions, and on the far east and west sides of the bay there are man-made jetties that can protect or amplify wave power. If you swim out further, you’ll reach the sandbar as well.

This part of south Chiba has pristine water and if you’re out doing SUP you can go past the northern port to an area where you can see hammerhead sharks in the shallow reefs. 

While there is an element of surf culture in Onjuku, the town’s economy is dominated by fishing, and you’ll be able to find some of the best seafood in Japan at the local restaurants. There is also a fishing area frequented by ama, Japanese female freedivers, who gather abalone and spiny lobster. 

For those looking to relax in Onjuku, there’s an onsen next to surf shop, FlyingSumo, that will only cost ¥1000 for day-trippers, and the natural hot springs water is tinted by the minerals to be deep black-like bathing in coffee. 

Getting there: The beach is a 15 min walk from Onjuku station.

Accommodation: There are a few hotels in Onjuku or bed-and-breakfast arrangements. 

Rental surf gear: If you find that you’re taller than most in Japan, fitting shoes, clothes, and wetsuits may be problematic. There are only a few surf shops in Chiba that have rental wetsuits to fit anyone above 5'10". Try FlyingSumo in Onjuku. The owner is a retired investment banker from California.

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