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Christmas diving in Japan

Mizuka and Joi at Izu Ocean Park Christmas tree

Mizuka and me at the IOP Christmas tree - photo by Hana

Mizuka and I just returned from a 2 day dive trip in Izu, Japan with Hana from TrueNorth as our guide. She blogged about day one and day two on their blog. My photoset from the trip is on Flickr. We went to the Izu Ocean Park (IOP) and Futo, two of the most popular dive sites on the East Coast of the Izu peninsula  The IOP was established in 1964 and is one of the oldest and most established dive sites in Japan.

This was our second trip to the IPO. I wrote about the first trip two months ago. It was much warmer back in October.

The air temperature was 9ºC and the water temperature was 16ºC this trip so it was perfect for Mizuka to do her drysuit certfication in her new drysuit. I think she nailed her buoyancy for the first time this trip and she seemed to do very well in the drysuit - probably much better than my first dive in my drysuit.

It was a weekday and it was cold so we almost had the whole place to ourselves. The visibility was an amazing 20 meters and nearly no waves considering the strong winds in parts of Izu.

Both IPO and Futo have hot baths for divers, which I haven’t experienced in any dives sites outside of Japan. The bath at Futo is real natural hot spring water and they use it to fill a boat and also stream it down some twigs to let the steam blow off of the hot water. It’s called 温泉丸 Onsenmaru or “Hot Spring boat”.

Sitting in a hot bath with a drysuit isn’t nearly as rewarding as a wetsuit or a bathing suit, but it still feels nice on the face and hands. On the other hand, the area has lots and lots of Onsen 旅館 (inns) and we stayed at one where they had a wonderful public bath and great food.

Post box at Izu Ocean Park

The IOP Postbox

Both dive sites have very strict start times and end times coordinated with the local fishermen. They have very organized processes for tank distribution, numbered drying areas, special spots for gearing up, boxed Japanese lunch service, etc. They also have lots of events like the Christmas tree and New Years. The IOP has a post box at 18 meters where you can send postcards. There is a dive site in Chiba that that has a Japanese shrine at 18 meters where divers can do their Japanese Hatsumode New Year’s ritual under water.

Diving has a long history in Japan and is exactly what you’d expect from the Japanese. Well organized, slightly over-produced, lots of rituals and rules and very much a group oriented activity. It really is interesting comparing it to the hardcore night dive I did in Copenhagen, the tech diving oriented Chicago wreck divers, the wild wreck diving in Lebanon, the "what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger" training with Grant in California, the remote and extreme diving in Musandam, the Liveaboard with a Thai chef to Tioman and the relaxed boat diving in Aqaba.

The last dive in Futo was my 77th dive since July and probably the last dive this year. It’s been an amazing journey and one that I look forward to continuing. Thanks to everyone who’s been there to help me.