Surfing In Japan | 9 of the Best Spots

As these superb surfing destinations show, there's more to Japan than neck-deep pow

With almost 30,000km of coastline, and made up of nearly 7,000 islands, we’re not sure whether wave-hunters in Japan have the easiest, or hardest, job on their hands. Either way, almost 60 years of modern surf culture – born when American servicemen based on the Atsugi military base during the Vietnam War showed locals how to ride – has carved out a map of epic breaks that’d make even the most seasoned Californian veteran sink their teeth into their knuckles.

“Japan is stuffed to the guts with a seemingly limitless amount of waterborne opportunity”

From tropical barrels to river-mouth lumps and iceberg-filled slabs, Japan is stuffed to the guts with a seemingly limitless amount of waterborne opportunity. Most of these centre around the area of Chiba, a district with 3,000km of coast to play with just 45 minutes from Tokyo. It’s also where a little worldwide sports competition in summer 2020 has decided to host its first-ever surfing event. Heard of it? Olympics, or something. Should probably tune in. Heard it’s good.

Anyway, with Japanese surfing enjoying the brightest spotlight in its history in 2020, it’s highly likely you’ll be wanting to get out there and try The Land Of The Rising Sun’s saltwater for yourself. And with that, we give you the nine Japanese surf spots that you really need to know about…

Tsurigasaki Beach

Pictured: Kujukuri Beach, just down the coast from Tsurigasaki / Shidashita

You don’t need a degree in mathematics to quickly work out that Ichinomiya is Japan’s primo surf town. Just 12,000 people call this historic coastal spot in Chiba home, whilst a whopping 600,000 wave-riders descend upon it every year to hit the Pacific swells it lures in, thanks to its peninsula location just 1hr 20mins from Tokyo. And hoo boy, is it about to get a whole lot busier, too.

“Just 12,000 people call this historic coastal spot in Chiba home, whilst a whopping 600,000 wave-riders descend upon it every year”

Its black-sand lump magnet Tsurigasaki beach (also known as Shidashita) has been chosen as the 2020 Olympic surfing venue owing to its consistent beach break, and is where the 40 male and female competitors and thousands of spectators will be praying for a typhoon to roll in through the eight-day comp window to really get it firing. But it’s not going to be Mother Nature alone that they’ll be contending with – back in July, at an Olympic test event, surfing was forced to grind to a halt after a sea turtle was spotted laying her eggs near the judge’s area overnight. Yep, we’re not at Fistral any more, Toto.

Stop at this surf shop: A 20-minute drive north of the town you’ll find The Roots, run by former JPSA pro and championship surfer Takayuki Fukuchi.

Kaifu River Mouth

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Japan’s not without its fair share of river-mouth waves, thanks to regular rainfall helping to build the estuary sandbanks needed for typhoon swells to break onto. But of the lot, Kaifu is king. Undoubtedly the crowning glory of The Land Of The Rising Sun’s river-breaks, when this wave off the sleepy fishing village surrounded by magic mountains goes, it goes. On its day it has been known to spit up heavy 12ft barrelling rights in the August-September peak season, making it a legit bucket-list break for the more experienced amongst us.

Stop at this surf shop: Between Kaifu and Shishikuiura – another super popular river-mouth break – you’ll find 303 Surf, the internationally renowned Japanese board-makers helmed by shaper-god Kohei Chiba. Go there and get ready to drool.

Curren’s Point/Uchiumi

Japan has a culture saturated in legend, and true to form, its wave-riding is no different. The story goes that in 1991, the day after paddling out at a world tour event and defiantly refusing to catch a wave in protest of its poor location selection, Tom Curren – one of the most revered watermen of all time – grabbed his outrageously undersized 6’9 and slid down the face of a monster 18-footer at Uchiumi as fellow pros, including Kelly Slater, could do nothing but look on in fearful awe. Conditions there, they say, have never been as good as the day it became known as Curren’s Point – a point break just 15km south of Miyazaki.

Stop at this surf shop: Check out Miki Recycle Shop in Miyazaki. It specialises in second-hand surf gear and is sure to be filled with affordable retro gems.


Think Hokkaido, think charging through famous ‘japow’ on your plank(s). So much so that you’d be totally forgiven for writing off this oft-frosty northernmost island as a surfless void. But for those with super-thick neoprene and/or a somewhat bonkers disposition, there’s a slew of epic, iceberg-filled, Iceland-style waves to get stuck into, which makes it a must-hit for those looking to tick off the life goal of surfing and snowboarding in one day. If the sub-zero temperatures ain’t your thing though, in the summer, when chances of going full Titanic are vastly reduced, out come the slightly saner locals to hit Shioya, which breaks left and right and works for any ability of surfer, earning it the rightful title of Hokkaido’s wave Mecca.

Stop at this surf shop: Drops Surf in nearby Sapporo (50mins drive) will deck out with all the gear and hardware you need to dive into both the icy water and mountain pow.

Tebiro Beach

Pictured: Tebiro Beach

White sandy beaches, breaching whales, tropical shells, the water clarity of dreams, and a reef break that’s good enough for international competitions, we’ll let Tebiro, the most famous surfable beach on the small and idyllic island of Amami in southwest Japan, speak for itself. Amami is a 1.5hr flight out of Tokyo, and worth every minute.

Stop at this surf shop: Doubling up as an awesome café and guesthouse, Green Hill will take care of literally everything you need on your surf trip on this island, including where to find waves when Tebiro gets crowded.

Yuigahama Beach

Pictured: Yuigahama Beach

The guidebooks will tell you that Kamakura City is “the most historically rich day trip out of Tokyo”, thanks to its Shinto shrines, Buddhist temples and very, very, cool samurai legacy. Now the streets are filled with more surfboards than swords, as cool kids point their wavesticks to Yuigahama Beach – a small and friendly break that’ll most likely require a big and floaty piece of hardware. But slow and steady is just the ticket here, as you’ll want to spend as much time as possible gazing up at the awesome view of Mt Fuji, which many beaches in the area offer. Surfing under Mt. Fuji? Doesn’t get any cooler than that.

Stop at this surf shop: Rave Surf & Sports is right across from the beach and will hook you up with board hire.

Nii-jima Island

Pictured: Nii-jima Island

Prone to ‘earthquake swarms’ (15-or-so quakes a year) and with a hectic volcanic history, the tiny island of Nii-jima sure sounds like a gnarly place to venture out to. All that will be immediately forgotten about, though, after you spy its white beaches, clear waters, and 360-degrees of swell spots, just 2.5hrs out from Tokyo by high-speed ferry.

Once the site of international surf competitions, Niijima is looking to regain its status as a world-beating wave destination. And with its picture-perfect, Insta-gold waves (Mamashita, Awiura and Secrets to name but a few), we’ll bet a buck or two that they’ll get what they want, stat. Get here before the crowds come back.

Stop at this surf shop: Kye Surf offers real good rates on gear hire (3,500yen for a shortboard), and is right next to a banging ramen spot where locals head to fuel up after a sesh.

Citywave Tokyo

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Can’t wait to get to the coast and stick your fins into some peelers? Stress not, as Tokyo is now a surfing city. The newly opened Sporu Shinagawa Oimachi sports centre, a five-minute walk from Oimachi station, is home to the Citywave Tokyo wave pool – a small but does-the-job permanent wave for those desperate to get wet. It’s got nothing on Kelly’s Pool or the all new perma-barrel in Bristol, but a little over 6,000yen (about 40 quid) will get you a 50-minute advanced session on a 4ft wave.

Stop at this surf shop: You’ll find Murasaki Sports shops right around Japan, in pretty much all the major cities and surf spots. The chain sells all the big labels – Quiksilver, Hurley, Billabong etc. There’s a good one in the Ueno area of Tokyo.



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Another icon in the famous Chiba district, every Japanese surfer knows about this consistent multi-reef beach. The main peak slap bang in the middle of the action is what’s earned Hebara its reputation, and offers a left and a right that aren’t afraid to ramp up and peel over into 8ft barrels. And when it inevitably gets over-crowded, you’ve got three other peaks to play with. All this on a bustling waterfront, and coupled with the fact it’s hosted plenty of international comps in its past, will have you thinking you’ve stumbled onto a Japanese Biarritz.

Stop at this surf shop: Despite its small size, you won’t miss Brave Surf shop – it’s a bright yellow shack dead close to the golden Hebara sand.

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