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Diving the Door to Prosperity

by Charles T. Whipple

When chronicling the popular diving spots on the east coast of Izu peninsula, you can't ignore Futo -- Door to Prosperity.

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A searobin skitters across the sand with bright blue wings extended.

They say diving from boats out of Futo is nice, but most of us make beach entries. And "most of us" numbers in the thousands per weekend. Diving in Futo can be an exercise in identifying fellow divers, there are so many groups in the water at once.

Still, the diving is good. But then, when is diving NOT good?

Futo Diving Service is on a bluff overlooking Sagami Bay. To the right, a small fishing port; to the left, a path leading down to a rocky beach. Divers have two well-prepared beach entry points, complete with concrete ramps and ropes leading down into the water. One entry point is down on the rocky beach, the other on the far side of the harbor.

By leaving Tokyo at 6:30 a.m., you can be in the water before 11 a.m. There's room for dozens of vehicles around the diving operation, but parking can be a problem if you get there too late.

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A lionfish spreads its fins, floating inches above the sandy bottom in Futo, east coast of Izu peninsula.

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Spiny rockfish

Our group of Manatees chose to dive from across the harbor first. The concrete ramp makes a dogleg before leading down to the water. Sometimes as many as 20 divers are geared up and waiting their turn to follow the rope out into the bay.

Buddy assignments set, eight intrepid Manatees shuffled down into the water. For 30 meters or so, huge boulders lie in a jumble. Then a sharp drop-off takes you down to a sandy bottom at about 15 meters depth.

Whenever diving in east Izu, visibility is limited at the entry. But down about 10 meters, things clear up. Cruising along the sandy bottom, we could see a good 15-20 meters in all directions.

The Manatee leader clanked her tank to get our attention. Before her, a houbou (a species of searobin) spread its wings, but used its legs to skitter across the sand. We followed it for some distance, marveling at the brilliant colors of its wings, a stark contrast to the dull brown of its body.

Wherever there are rocks, there are rockfish. Most in Japan are the spiny variety. And wherever there's a sandy bottom in Izu, the chances of running into a lionfish are excellent. We spotted two. The great thing about lionfish, of course, is their supreme confidence. Whenever a diver approaches, the lionfish merely spreads its fins and invites the intruder to leave.

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In Japan, we call this a tiger moray. Couldn't find an official English name for it, so tiger moray it is. Note the anemone at the right. Left: Usually morays keep most of their bodies concealed. This one must have an urgent errand to be so exposed.

Time flies and we start for the rock ledge that marks the exit point. A tiger moray pokes his head from a crevice between rocks. Another slithers through a field of seaweed. We find the rope and pull ourselves out of the water, reluctantly ending the first dive of the day.

The water was not quite 21 degrees celsius, so some of the Manatees group shivered in their wetsuits. Relief awaited them atop of the bluff.

Directly in front of Futo Diving Service sits Onsen-maru, an old fishing boat that's been fiberglassed inside and out, and filled with steaming water from Futo's hot spring. There are two fiberglass tubs of hot water for removing wetsuits, then you soak away the chills in Onsen-maru.

After lunch, dive number two from the rock beach below the bluff.

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Top down view of a scorpionfish. The white dot is the crown of his head. Just above and to the right of the white spot, you can make out one eye.

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Again, the rope leads down from a concrete ramp into large round rocks. Once across the rock bed, the sandy bottom stretches away. We choose to turn left toward the shore and explore rocky upcroppings in the sea floor. Sponges, anemone, seaweed, and soft coral cover the rocks, providing shelter for myriad creatures.

Yamazaki, Manatees' leader, spots a scorpionfish lying in ambush on a bed of sponge. Turbos and sand dollars abound. For the first time, I see one of them feeding.

Atop one rock a tiny semi octopus puts on its best camouflage. If you don't know he's there, you'd never find him. Once more, the ocean off the east coast of Izu provides fantastic vistas for curious divers.

We don't see sharks or roving tuna or any of the other pelagics. But we sometimes find seahorses, frogfish, all kinds of nudibranches, swarms of sardines and cardinalfish, skates and flatfish, jawfish and gobies and lizardfish. The sea is full of nutrients and the tremendous scale of ocean life forms in east Izu, Futo -- Door to Prosperity -- always brings the end of a dive long before you're ready to leave.

Charles Whipple is a writer who has lived in Japan for more than 20 years. He is an avid diver and often contributes diving articles to Australian, New Zealander, Japanese, and American diving magazines. He's fluent in Japanese and willing to help any diver get acquainted in Japan.


12/24/2023 update: Mr. Charles T. Whipple passed away in 2019. Rest in peace.

Copyright of the article and photos on this page were reserved for Charles Whipple. The copyright now belongs to the person who has inherited it.


Posted July 5, 1998.

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Last updated December 24, 2023.
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