Cruises around Japan offer a fantastic way to explore the diverse and captivating landscapes, rich culture, and historical heritage of this fascinating island nation. Cruising in Japan provides breathtaking views of the country’s natural beauty. You can expect to see rugged coastlines, lush greenery, and stunning mountain ranges, including iconic sites like Mount Fuji.

Japan is known for its rich culture and history. Cruises often include stops at culturally significant ports, where you can explore temples, shrines, traditional gardens, and historical sites.

Japanese cuisine is renowned worldwide, and cruise passengers have the opportunity to savour authentic Japanese dishes on board. Sushi, sashimi, tempura, and various regional specialties are often featured in cruise ship dining options and shore excursions.

When visiting Japan, it’s essential to be mindful of local customs and etiquette, such as removing your shoes before entering a traditional Japanese home, bowing as a sign of respect, and following specific rules in sacred sites.

When to take a cruise around Japan

The cruise season around Japan usually starts in March and ends in November. The best time to embark on a cruise around Japan may vary depending on your preferences. Cherry blossom season in spring (March to April) and the colourful autumn foliage in October and November are particularly popular times to visit. Different seasons offer unique experiences, such as cherry blossom viewing parties (hanami) or autumn festivals. The Cherry blossom season is the most expensive period to cruise in Japan and the end of summer is usually the most affordable period.

Departure Ports for Cruises Around Japan

Tokyo (Yokohama) is usually the embarkation and/or disembarkation port for cruises around Japan. Some cruises, which also include other destinations like Taiwan, will start or end the cruise in Hong Kong.

Ports of Call

Tokyo (Yokohama), Shimizu (Mount-Fuji), Osaka, Kobe, Kochi, Hiroshima and Nagasaki are usually included in itineraries for cruises in Japan. In the north of Japan, Otaru (Sapporo), Hakodate and Aomori are popular ports.

Cruise Lines and Itineraries

Japan offers a wide range of cruise itineraries, catering to different interests and duration. You can find cruises that focus on specific regions, such as Hokkaido in the north, the Japanese Inland Sea, or the Ryukyu Islands in the south. Some itineraries include ports of call in neighbouring countries like South Korea, China, or Russia.

Holland America and Princess and Celebrity offer multiple voyages around Japan. MSC, Norwegian Cruise line, Azamara and Cunard also offer some departures. Luxury Cruise lines such as Regent, Oceania and Silversea offer itineraries in Japan. Others like Seabourn and Viking cruise to Japan par of longer Asia or Transpacific cruises.

Destination Highlights

Tokyo, Japan’s bustling capital, is a vibrant metropolis where tradition seamlessly merges with modernity. Its highlights include the iconic Tokyo Skytree, offering panoramic city views, and the historic Senso-ji Temple in Asakusa, surrounded by a bustling market. The serene Meiji Shrine offers a tranquil escape amidst the urban chaos, while the fashion-forward neighbourhoods of Shibuya and Harajuku showcase cutting-edge style. The Tsukiji Fish Market provides a sensory feast for seafood lovers, and the Imperial Palace East Gardens reveal a glimpse of Japan’s imperial history. Dining in Tokyo is a culinary adventure, with sushi at Tsukiji, street food in Ameya-Yokocho, and Michelin-starred restaurants. From neon-lit streets to serene gardens, Tokyo’s eclectic mix of attractions ensures an unforgettable experience in this dynamic city.

Osaka, often referred to as “Japan’s Kitchen,” is a lively and dynamic city with a distinct personality. Its highlights include the vibrant Dotonbori district, known for its dazzling neon signs, street food stalls, and the iconic Glico Running Man sign. Osaka Castle stands as a symbol of the city’s rich history and offers stunning views from its observation deck. The Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan boasts an impressive array of marine life, while Universal Studios Japan provides thrilling entertainment for all ages. The Umeda Sky Building offers panoramic vistas of the city, and the Shitenno-ji Temple, one of Japan’s oldest Buddhist temples, provides a glimpse into Osaka’s spiritual heritage. Renowned for its street food culture, Osaka is also a gastronomic paradise where you can savour local specialties like takoyaki (octopus balls) and okonomiyaki (savoury pancakes). Osaka’s warm hospitality and lively atmosphere make it a must-visit destination for travellers seeking a blend of tradition, entertainment, and delicious cuisine.

Nagasaki, a city with a complex history and a rich cultural tapestry, is celebrated for its unique highlights. The Peace Park and Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum bear witness to the city’s tragic past as the second target of an atomic bomb during World War II. The Glover Garden offers a glimpse into Nagasaki’s international history, with well-preserved Western-style homes and panoramic views of the city. The stunning Oura Church is Japan’s oldest Christian church and a testament to Nagasaki’s role in the introduction of Christianity to Japan. Nagasaki’s vibrant Chinatown is another attraction, known for its delicious street food and cultural charm. A visit to the picturesque Gunkanjima (Hashima Island), with its abandoned coal mining facilities, provides insight into Japan’s industrial history. Nagasaki’s fusion of cultures, its resilience in the face of adversity, and its captivating natural landscapes make it a compelling destination for travellers seeking a mix of history, culture, and scenic beauty.

Hiroshima, a city with a profound history and a commitment to peace, is marked by its poignant Peace Memorial Park and Atomic Bomb Dome, reminders of the devastating events of 1945. The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum offers a comprehensive look at the atomic bombing and its aftermath, promoting a message of peace and anti-nuclear sentiment. Amidst this sombre history, the city has flourished, and highlights include the stunning Shukkeien Garden, the elegant Hiroshima Castle, and the bustling Hiroshima Orizuru Tower.