Some of the smartest and cutest creatures to ever flip in and out of the sea, dolphins have long captured the imagination and hearts of us land-dwellers. Dolphin watching excursions seem to be as popular as whale watching excursions, and there’s hardly anyone who isn’t thrilled by these friendly mammals’ smiles and enthusiastic squeaks.

So, if you happen to be melting in the Japanese heat this summer, why not head out to Ishikawa Prefecture where you can cool off in the ocean—and have a 98-percent chance of seeing some dolphins!

Naturally, there are many places where you might be able see dolphins inside and outside of Japan, but around Noto Island in Ishikawa Prefecture’s Nanao Bay, you’re nearly guaranteed a glimpse of some wild Flippers.

Inspired by the possibilities, one of our RocketNews24 Japan writers took a trip to Ishikawa! Here’s her experience.

▼Map of Noto Island, Ishikawa Prefecture.


Noto Island dolphin watching

Taking off in a boat from Noto Island, situated in Nanao Bay, our intrepid reporter was able to get up close to some wild dolphins. But before launching from the island for the hour-long tour, she learned why the tour was able to practically guarantee sightseers a glimpse of the dolphins: it turns out that Nanao Bay is where they’ve made a permanent home for themselves.


Here they come!

Our writer said that only five minutes after leaving port, dolphins appeared! And they were swimming around just in front of the boat!

In fact, the dolphins were quick to approach without seeming in the slightest bit scared. There were some young ones born just last year who were quite excited and curious about the humans, and the adults swam around and under the boat, at times coming almost within arm’s length.



▼”Hey! Over here!!”


Why were these southern bottlenose dolphins in Japan?

According to the captain of the boat, the dolphins in the area are actually southern bottlenose dolphins, which are accustomed to the warm waters of places like Australia and the Indian Ocean. The only place one would normally except to see this kind of dolphin in Japan would be around the Bonin Islands, 620 miles south of Tokyo.

So why did the dolphins come to the northern side of Japan? And why were they staying in the waters of snowy Ishikawa Prefecture?

It seems that researchers weren’t sure yet. When asked, the captain simply laughed and said, “We won’t know unless we ask the dolphins themselves!” Of course! We should have thought of that.



Best time to see dolphins

Our correspondent was lucky enough to run into some dolphins almost right away, but was there an even better time to see them? Or, more importantly, which times of year should be avoided?

“You can see the dolphins pretty much any time,” the captain told our reporter. “As long as the weather isn’t bad, you can see them–there hasn’t been an occasion when I’m come out and haven’t seen them, in fact! The dolphins are really friendly. Their faces will just pop out of the water in front of the boat, looking back at us.”

So it seems like you don’t have to worry too much about when you go. They’re happy to show you their adorable faces any time!



If you’re ready to head to Ishikawa Prefecture to see some dolphins yourself, here’s some information on Noto Island dolphin watching:

Place: Kouda Fishing Bay, Noto Island
Address: Mukaida-cho, Noto Island, Nanao City, Ishikawa Prefecture (About 400 meters/437 yards from the Kouda intersection)
Bus stop: Kouda Koen-mae
Fee: 1,500 yen (US$14.80) for adults, 700 yen ($6.90) for children
Website: Noto Island Tourism Association (Japanese only)

More photos below!!

▼Dolphin watching sign. Find this to find your boat! The tour will last about one hour.


▼Back of the sign: “When will you see wild dolphins? How about now!”


▼All this beautiful scenery and dolphins too??


▼”Glamor shot! Get my good side!”




▼”Nooo! Show us your adorable smiles!”



▼”Hi, would you like to buy some dolphin scout cookies?”





▼”Bye! See you soon in Ishikawa!!”


▼And here’s a video of someone swimming with the Noto Island dolphins!

Photos: RocketNews24

[ Read in Japanese ]