A carpet of sand stretches into the distance below me. As clear and still as the water, the light seems muted, creating a peaceful, subdued scene.

Surrounding each rocky feature are small oases of life. At one, there are two nudibranchs (sea slugs) and, as I swim closer, I become aware of a tiny goby on a strand of coral, so camouflaged as to be practically invisible. The long, effortless dive seems to last forever and throughout, I catch glimpses of species I've never seen before.

When it comes to scuba diving in Asia, countries such as Malaysia or Thailand garner the most attention, but Japan is a hidden gem, with dive spots across the country. The far north is cold, with seaweed and rocky topography, while the south offers shallow coral reefs, slopes, sheer walls and carpets of white sand. Conditions vary widely and, with over 3,000 species of fish inhabiting the archipelago, there is a vast collection of marine life.