The Land of the Rising Sun is fast becoming one of the most popular destinations to cruise around.
It offers beautiful natural wonders, cultural attractions and delightful food. The country has plans to welcome even more cruises in the next few years with investment in more berth and passenger terminals. A new cruise terminal in Sasebo is also currently being built in partnership with Carnival Corporation and set to open in summer 2020.
We share with you the six best Japanese cruise ports and what they have to offer.
Yokohama was one of the first Japanese ports to be opened to foreign trade in 1859, so it has a long maritime history. The city is where the ancient and modern, and Japanese and Western worlds collide, Yokohama Port, popular for its close proximity to Tokyo, has the largest capacity in Japan with the opening of two new cruise piers in 2019, allowing seven ships to dock in Yokohama at one time.
Within walking distance of Osanbashi Terminal are shopping districts, hotels, bars. It’s home to one of the world’s biggest Chinatowns. The futuristic waterfront Minato Mirai boasts stylish boutiques at Yokohama Landmark Tower and Plaza along with the Mitsubishi Industrial Museum, Cup Noodles Museum and the Yokohama Noh Theatre. The Sankeien Garden in southern Yokohama also offers a Japanese garden experience and there is an exhibition dedicated to historic buildings from across Japan.
Daikoku which is mostly a freight port will now be open for some larger cruise ships like Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth II. While the five-story Shinko Pier or ‘Yokohama Pier 9’ is dedicated to passenger cruises, the complex includes dining, entertainment and a hotel.
Visiting cruise lines: Princess Cruises, Costa Cruises, Royal Caribbean, Windstar Cruises, MSC Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Lines, Holland America Line, Oceania Cruises, Celebrity Cruises, Cunard, Silversea Cruises, Cruise & Maritime Voyages
Osaka is Japan’s second largest metropolitan area after Tokyo and it is often the first or final port of Japan cruise itineraries. The city is home to Japanese street food culture, colourful nightlife and iconic sights and attractions.
They include the famous Osaka Castle which dates all the way back to the 16th century, Universal Studios Japan and one of the largest aquariums in the world Kaiyukan where you can see popular animals like ringed seals and whale sharks.
If you head there in July, you’ll also be able to catch the Matsuri Festival, one of the three largest festivals in Japan. It features a grand 100 boat procession on the Okawa River, fireworks and many more.
Visiting cruise lines: Princess Cruises, Royal Caribbean, Regent Seven Seas, Celebrity Cruises, Oceania Cruises, Ponant, Norwegian Cruise Lines, Viking Cruises, MSC Cruises
The harbour is surrounded by mountains on three sides and when you’re entering the city’s harbour, the ships pass under the imposing Venus-Wing Bridge. It’s a perfect photo opportunity.
The UNESCO World Heritage listed Glover Garden is just a 10-minute walk from the port. The Hamano-machi shopping district which is nearby is also bustling with locals browsing the shops. Visit the Peace Park to see the massive iconic statue paying tribute to the historic threat of atomic weapons in the city. There are also quirky sights like the Spectacles Bridge which is also Japan’s oldest stone arch bridge.
Visiting cruise lines: MSC Cruises, Royal Caribbean, Holland America Line, Celebrity Cruises, Oceania Cruises, Cunard, Princess Cruises, Silversea Cruises, Viking Cruises, Costa Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Lines, Windstar Cruises, Fred. Olsen
Hakodate is also one of Japan’s first international trading ports along with Yokohama and Nagasaki. The port brings you right to the doorstep of the freshest produce of Hokkaido.
The Hakodate Morning Market features rows of 280 shops where you have access to all the tastes of Hakodate. Have your fill of seafood rice bowls Kaisen-don before heading to the peak of Mt Hakodate in a cable car to enjoy sweeping views of the city and the 19 steep sloping streets at foot of the mountain. This is also the place that you will see the bathing monkeys.
Visiting cruise lines: Celebrity Cruises, Holland America Line, MSC Cruises, Silversea Cruises, Princess Cruises, Cunard, Oceania Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Lines, Windstar Cruises, Royal Caribbean.
The Ishigaki Port is southwest of the main Okinawa Island and it is surrounded by Natural Heritage Sites such as the Sekiseshoko National Park which has Japan’s largest coral reef area. Other scenic spots include Kabira Bay where you can snorkel for a chance to see manta rays or kayaking along mangrove flanked rivers.
A scenic drive along the coast to Tamatorisaki Observatory offers amazing views of the ocean, coral reefs and Okinawa’s signature red Hibiscus flower. When night falls, you can enjoy the stars on the observation deck while sampling the island’s tropical fruits like pineapples, mangoes, limes and more.
Look out for local festivals like the Honensai harvest festival during early August, and Angama dance during the night of Kyu-bon (Day of the Dead).
Visiting cruise lines: Holland America Line, Regent Seven Seas, AIDA Cruises, Oceania Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Lines, Princess Cruises, Royal Caribbean, Cunard
The iconic Mt Fuji presents as the majestic backdrop to the Shimizu port area. The area houses Miho-no-Matsubara a World Heritage pine tree grove. Shizuoka is also home of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of the Edo shogunate and the you can find cultural attractions like the Kunozan Toshogu Shrine, Sumpu Castle Park, and Shizuoka Sengen Shrine.
Look out for traditional Suruga handicrafts such as bamboo works, dyes and lacquerware. The Port of Shimizu boasts the highest catch of tuna in all of Japan. The tuna, sakura shrimps which are small and crunchy and young sardines are some of the local specialities that you can try.
Visiting cruise lines: Princess Cruises, Regent Seven Seas, Oceania Cruises, Celebrity Cruises, Holland America, Norwegian Cruise Lines, Viking Cruises, Windstar Cruises, Silversea Cruises