Surfing in Japan… Say what? That’s right! The land of manga, temples, sumo, and ramen is also the land of a vibrant surfing culture. Bordered by the waters of the Pacific Ocean, Japan has an extensive list of surf spots to choose from with some locations even offering world-class waves. Luckily for those visiting or living in Tokyo, a mecca of surfing in Japan can be found in Chiba Prefecture. Though not as famous internationally as a tourist destination within Japan, the Boso Peninsula is the place to be when looking to hit the waves and at the same time enjoy some beautiful scenery and lively small beach-town atmosphere.
The surfing bug bit me a while ago, but only recently did I decide to head out on a journey to explore Chiba’s surfing culture and to find out about its best surfing spots. With the help of some experts along the way, I not only found the best surf breaks that Japan has to offer, but also discovered a colourful surfing vibe complete with souped-up vans full of surfing equipment, Japanese rastafaris, and “Umino Ie’s” (Japanese beach bars).
Most of the surfing action in Chiba happens along two main areas: The Kujukuri Beach line, and along Road 128 from Taito to Katsuura. Both of these areas are accessible by car or by the Sotobo JR Line, although as pointed out by Del from
Flying Sumo Surfing SchoolOnjuku Beach has the best access via public transportation. And although wave quality and the atmosphere on the beaches varied from spot to spot along the coast, every surf spot I checked out had something special, and will in one way or another provide a memorable experience.
Katagai Beach, Kujukuri Beach, Shirako Beach, and Ichinomiya Beach. (This is the preferred location for more experienced surfers and also a perfect area to relax along the long sandy beaches.) These spots are hit head on by the waves from the Pacific Ocean and are thus known for bigger beach breaks and stronger currents. The water temperature here is cooler than the southern area of the Boso Peninsula but not cold enough to prevent year-round surfing. During the winter months you will definitely need a dry suit.
When driving, it is easy to hop from beach to beach to decide on the most favourable conditions for the day. To avoid the surfing crowds weekdays are the best option, but if you prefer to rub elbows with the locals in the water or are looking for some post-surfing entertainment then head down on the weekends. Ichinomiya is one of the locals’ favourite surfing spots, and understandably so, the beach breaks are awesome and the streets are full of California-inspired bars, pensions, surf shops, and the young surfer crowd chilling and having a good time after the sun goes down.
Past the Kujukuri Beach Line, you will eventually drive onto the picturesque Road 128, a very lively and scenic region of the Boso Peninsula. Some of the notable surf spots in the area are
Taito Beach, Ohara Beach, Onjuku Beach, Hebara Beach, and Malibu Beach. Although serious surfers also abound in this area, there are more beginner-friendly surf spots here than on the northern part of Chiba, most notably Taito Beach which offers the smallest waves of all the afore-mentioned spots but good enough action to give you a friendly thrill. Taito gets busy during typhoon swells as its rather calm waters get more exciting, especially for long boarders. The intensity and quality of the waves increase the further down you go on Route 128. Ohara offers similar conditions to Taito, Onjuku offers a great combination of wave quality and a lively beach-town atmosphere, Hebara Beach has some of the bigger waves in this area but less tourist infrastructure, and Malibu Beach, although small, has the only reef breaks in the area.
Wherever you choose to go to, remember to be safe, wear sunscreen, and have a good time. Be mindful of surfing etiquette in the area and enjoy the unique surfing lifestyle of this beautiful prefecture. For more information on the highlighted surfing spots, be sure to checkout