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The obvious place to start any review of Asian surfing culture is Japan. This was the first Asian country to adopt the sport, and it now has the largest popul¬ation of active surfers in any country outside the
Surfing was introduced here in the early 1960s - US servicemen stationed in naval bases in areas such as Shonan, Chiba and Okinawa. Curious lo¬mis started borrowing boards, found they enjoyed the waves, and consequently surfing communities formed around Shonan and Chiba (west and east of, okyo Bay respectively). In order to give the sport same unity and power — important, as fishermen aggressively opposed surfing—the Nippon Surfing Association was established in 1965. The first All span Amateur Championship was held the follow¬rg year, and the sport has since gone from strength strength.

Although there's now an abundance of surfers in Japan, there are plenty of waves to go around: Japan's entire east coast faces the Pacific Ocean, and there are no major land masses to obstruct the incoming swells. In winter, big storms near the Aleu¬tian Islands in the northern Pacific create swells which roll onto these shores. In summer, typhoons and intense tropical storms in the south - especially around Guam and the Philippines - produce waves that are even better than those of winter. The best months to surf here are from June to October.

Shonan is the epicentre of Japanese surfing culture - even though it doesn't have the best waves. This is where you'll find hordes of surf shops (about 100), surfers and wannabes, and legions of surf fash¬ion victims. Shonan is just one of the beaches along Sagami Bay, a continuous 40km stretch of sand which has bar breaks, shore breaks, river mouth breaks and a few point breaks. You can choose ac¬cording to your level of skill. Thanks to the efficiency of the rail and road system, all of the breaks are easily accessible from Tokyo.

North of Tokyo Bay, and also easily accessible from the city, is the coast of Chiba, an area of rocky headlands, small bays, offshore reefs and small, black-sand beaches. The reefs and headlands cre¬ate well-shaped waves that are more powerful and challenging than the beach breaks of Sagami Bay. As a result, Chiba tends to attract the more dedi¬cated, hardcore wave riders.

Nii-jima, one of the seven lzu islands south of Tokyo, is an overnight ferry ride from the capital. The main surfing area is a beach called Habushi-ura. site of one of the best waves in Japan. But all around this island there are good surfing spots, and in sum¬mer crowds of young surfers flood onto the beaches Even for visitors, Nii-jima rates as one of the best surfing destinations in the country.

If you want to get away from the crowds. There are countless other areas with good waves. Many surfers from Osaka take a ferry to Shpkoku. where you can find waves breaking on perfect sand bars at uncrowded river mouths. Or try the next island down. Kyushu, where there are various reef breaks on the south and east coasts of the island. Or fly down to Okinawa, famous for the perfect crystal barrels that break on its outer reefs. But if you want to be 100% sure there will be waves available, queue up at one of the country's four artificial wave pools.

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