The 5 Most Surprising Ports in Japan
Ultra-modern cities may come to mind first when dreaming up a Japan cruise, but there’s more to this stunning island nation, with its stretches of mountainous wilderness, thousands of temples and breathtaking sea ports steeped in timeless culture. One of the best ways to experience it all: A&K’s Wonders of Japan Cruise, a luxury small-ship cruise that takes you to must-sees like neon-lit Osaka and mysterious Kyoto, but also to rarely seen ports, including these five surprising gems.
1. Takamatsu, Shikoku Island
Known for doing udon noodles better than anywhere else in Japan, this artsy, laid-back gateway to Shikoku Island offers an intimate port ideally suited to small ships, like A&K’s exclusively chartered luxury cruise ship, ‘L’Austral,’ which features a maximum capacity of just 199 guests. From Takamatsu, A&K guests can choose from included shore excursions to islands, such as Naoshima, where the contemporary Benisse Art Site strikes a stunning balance with nature, and Shodoshima, to wander olive groves that mingle with mountains.
2. Karatsu, Kyushu Island
An ancient trading port at the western edge of Kyushu Island, Karatsu is home to highly coveted Karatsu-ware, a red-fired pottery known for its elegant simplicity and Korean influences. Karatsu is also revered for its medieval heritage and Karatsu Castle, with its stonework rising out of the water. On A&K’s luxury Japan cruise, visit this “dancing crane castle,” a 16th-century ceramic studio still in operation, and other cultural treasures, all while sailing aboard the first Western-operated Japan cruise to visit this extraordinary port.
3. Ogi, Sado-ga-shima Island
Japan’s unique cultural heritage is well preserved in this small port town on the southern coast of Sado-ga-shima Island — a place inaccessible for larger cruise ships. Wooden tub-shaped boats (taraibune) still paddle about in its beautiful surrounding waters, while A&K guests cruise to shore in comfortable tenders for a private performance by the world-famous Kodo Drummers, which headline Sado’s annual August Earth Celebration.
4. Noshiro and Aomori, Japan
Facing the Sea of Japan at the northern end of Honshu, Noshiro offers ideal access to the natural wonders of the Akita Prefecture. On A&K’s luxury Wonders of Japan cruise, venture to Towada-Hacimantai National Park, passing through the dramatically forested mountains of magical Hacimantai before reaching mountain-top Lake Towada, where an easy hike follows the picturesque Oirase Stream.
5. Otaru, Hokkaido Island
Once a bustling center of trade with China and Russia, this small port on the western coast of Hokkaido showcases interesting Western-style buildings along its central Otaru Canal. On A&K’s richly designed Japan tour, opt to visit this action-packed canal on a guided tour, which also explores the storied Herring Mansion and a sake distillery. From there, ride a gondola to Mount Tengu, where you may walk to a 100-year-old cherry tree and see the legendary goblin masks of Tengu House.