Schooling fish can be found in most diving areas across the Japanese archipelago, but some dive sites with specific exposure to currents and migration routes offer better chances of seeing big schools, larger pelagics and predatory action…
The Tōhoku regions offers a good range of migratory pelagics and schooling fish, including schools of Pacific bluefin tuna (Thunnus orientalis) which are often seen in summer months at Shonai (Yamagata Prefecture), juvenile Japanese amberjacks (Seriola quinqueradiata) (July to September in Shonai and October to December on Sado Island, Niigata Prefecture) along with schooling barracudas (Sphyraenidae) in the summer months.
Large schools migratory fish and pelagics, including dogtooth tuna (Gymnosarda unicolor), bluefin trevally (Caranx melampygus), big-eye trevallies greater amberjacks (Seriola dumerili) Japanese amberjack (Seriola quinqueradiata) and rainbow runners (Elagatis bipinnulata) and various types of larger pelagic sharks can be seen seasonally in the Kantō area.
This is especially true in the more remote islands of the Nanpō archipelago, from Hachijō-jima in the Izu Islands to the Ogasawara/Bonin Islands.
The Ogasawara islands are famous for their massive schools of dogtooth tuna (Gymnosarda unicolor), Japanese Spanish mackerel (Scomberomorus niphonius) greater amberjacks (Seriola dumerili), and also trevallies and barracudas.
Schooling fish and large pelagics can bee seen seasonally around the Izu peninsula, especially on more exposed sites including the Mikomoto islet, Nakagi, Osezaki, Futo, Numazu, Ita, Atagawa and Arari.
Schooling pelagics, including yellowtail and Japanese amberjack (Seriola quinqueradiata) are commonly seen on the Sea of Japan sites, both in the Oki islands or in Tottori dive sites in the summer months.
Schooling pelagics, including yellowtail and Japanese amberjack (Seriola quinqueradiata) are commonly seen on the Sea of Japan sites, both in the Oki islands or on Tottori prefecture dive sites in the summer months.
Yamaguchi Prefecture’s Mishima island, opening up to the Sea of Japan, can only be dived between July and September because of sea conditions. When it is possible to dive there, the island offers good visibility, strong currents and dynamic conditions, and high chances of seeing schooling pelagics such as skipjack tuna (Katsuwonus pelamis), mackerels, other types of tunas and barracudas
In the summer to autumn months, dive sites of the Kōchi prefecture offer the chance to see migratory fish such as rainbow runners (Elagatis bipinnulata), especially in Tatsukushi, or Japanese amberjacks (Seriola quinqueradiata) that congregate in large schools.
The more remote Uguru Island area, or more exposed Pacific coast sites of Okitsu and Muroto (Kōchi Pref.) all offer good chances of seeing turtles and also large migratory fish in season, including bluefin, dogtooth and yellowfin tuna, various mackerels, yellowtail and bigeye trevallies, as well as the occasional manta ray, mola-molas or hammerhead sharks.
Schooling fish and predatory action is a common feature of quite a few Kyūshū dive sites, especially current-exposed offshore sites, and remote islands, the main predators found in the area being different types of amberjacks, tuna, trevallies and mackerels.
On Shikanoshima island in northern Kyūshū (Fukuoka Pref.) large migratory fish such as greater amberjacks (Seriola dumerili) prey on big schools of Japanese horse mackerel (Trachurus japonicus).
Big schools and predatory action can also be seen on the remote island of Okinoshima (Fukuoka Pref.), which is a sacred Shinto island, off-limits to women to this day (diving is done around the island, which is reached by a two-hour boat ride, and organised by city-based operators).
Schools of fish are also one of the highlights of Miyazaki and Kagoshima Prefecture’s numerous dive sites (especially areas exposed to currents at Kagoshima Prefecture’s Sakurajima or Bonotsu, famous for its schools of amberjacks, tunas or rainbow runners.
Current and big fish (but also sharks and rays) are also a strong feature of southern Satsunan Islands (Kagoshima Pref.), such as Amami Ōshima or the Tokara islands (Kuchinoshima) famous for their schools of bigeye trevally (Caranx sexfasciatus), giant trevallies (Caranx ignobilis) and dogtooth tuna (Gymnosarda unicolor) and other large migratory species, all the way down to the neighbouring Okinawa islands.
Still in the Satsunan Islands’ Amami archipelago, Okinoerabujima is famous for its big ball of bigeye trevally (Caranx sexfasciatus), which is seen all year round.
The Okinawa region offers chances to see big schools fish and predatory action – mostly involving trevallies (giant, bluefin, yellowtail, big-eye trevallies) tunas (dogtooth tuna, skipacks) barracudas and rainbow runners, which are commonly found across all Nansei islands, but particularly in the current-swept sites of the Kerama islands (Sakurabu,
Shimozone) or Kume island, where current conditions bring large pelagic predators closer to the reefs.
The region also has healthy populations of reef sharks (white tips and black tips), and other usual reef inhabitants such as cuttlefish, eels, etc.
Aguni Island, roughly 60 km west of Okinawa Main Island, is famous for its large ball of bigeye trevally (Caranx sexfasciatus).
Along with trevallies and tunes, “tornados” of barracudas are often spotted around Yonaguni island (Yaeyama Islands), along with the odd sail-fish!
Iriomote’s current-swept sites of Higashi No Ne or Sakiyama Oki No Ne, Tokakin No Ne are all famous for their schooling pelagic action, and the San No Ne site can see aggregations of over 1,000 bluefin trevallies if current conditions are just right..
Kume island’s Tombara and Imazuni areas are also famous for current swept schooling action with dogtooth tunas, bigeye trevallies, manta rays, spotted eagle rays, and even the odd whale sharks.
Large schools of cownose rays (Rhinoptera bonasus) and/or mobulids have also been spotted in the Kerama islands (Aka-jima area) in the spring months.