Cruising to Japan: 11 Incredible Ports to Explore
If you’re looking through Norwegian’s Asia cruises, you'll find no shortage of beautiful and exotic ports, many of which are in Japan. In fact, you can even book a cruise that primarily explores some of Japan's most iconic destinations. One option is a 13-day cruise from Yokohama. If you're planning a cruise to Japan, here's a look at 11 incredible ports in Japan you can't miss.
1. Shimizu (Mount Fuji)
Shimizu is a popular port because it's the gateway to Mount Fuji (pictured above), but it's also one of Japan's most beautiful ports. Here, you can visit Japan's first sushi museum, check out the archeological site of Toro that dates back to 200 BC, or wander through a 650-year-old black pine forest. If you're interested in regional specialties, you'll find traditional wooden handicrafts, fabrics, and local eats like a sweet jellied confection known as yokan.
Kobe, Japan, is famous for its iconic beef, but it's also the gateway to the popular city of Osaka. Here you can visit Ikuta Shrine, one of Japan's oldest shrines, and spend the rest of the day eating and drinking your way through one of Japan's most beloved food destinations. Enjoy an endless amount of street foods, and don't miss Kobe's Nada District, which is the top sake-producing region in the county.
Travelers who want to learn more about Japan's Edo period, which lasted from 1603 to 1886, should book a cruise that stops in Kanazawa. This is the second-largest city to survive World War II intact. You can explore the old castle town, the Nagamachi samurai district, and teahouses in the geisha district. You'll find no shortage of temples and museums, plus a historic market that dates back to 1721.
Sapporo is one of Japan's youngest cities and was the host city for the 1972 Winter Olympics. World class skiing and the annual ice festival are two reasons people flock to Sapporo, especially in the winter months. From Sapporo, you can also visit other iconic destinations, such as Hokkaido, or mineral-rich hot springs like Noboribetsu.
Beppu is famous for its countless hot springs. The most famous of these is Jigoku, or Hell Circuit, but you won't be taking a dip here, as it's only for admiring. Depending on the time of year you visit, you may be able to view thousands of cherry blossoms in the spring or the stunning leaves of autumn. For local food specialties, don't miss stopping by the historic Tomonaga Panya. This bakery dates back to 1916, and its signature specialty is the wanchan (doggie) bun.
Sasebo was once an old fishing village, but it transitioned into a large naval port in the 19th century. Nature enthusiasts will appreciate the wide range of outdoor activities here. Visit the zoological and tropical botanical gardens with over 1,200 plant species and 80 animal species. Love Dutch tulips? Huis Ten Bosch is a recreation of a 17th-century Dutch village, complete with its own tulip fields. For traditional Japanese fare, explore the Yorozu-cho District where you can find a fun market with fresh seafood, produce, and plenty of handmade pottery and clothing.
The best views in Hakodate are seen from atop Hakodate Mountain. You can take a scenic ride up the gondola to the observation deck and marvel at the views below. Don't miss interesting Hakodate attractions like Fort Goryokaku, built in the shape of a star, or the Hakodate market. Be sure to eat local specialties like kaisen-don, a seafood rice bowl.
The western part of Japan is seafood heaven, and Sakaiminato is the main fishing port for this part of the country. If you've eaten succulent snow crab in Japan, it comes from the Sakai Port. Beautiful sculptures from local artist Shigeru Mizuki line Kitaro Road, and the city is famed for its "Yokai" bronze sculptures of Japanese folklore spirit monsters.
Kochi is another fun Japanese port, especially if you want to experience a Japanese beach. Katsurahama Beach is beautiful and is home to the Sakamoto Ryoma Memorial that honors the famous Japanese peace negotiator. Settlement in this area started in 1601, and you can visit the area surrounding the historic Kochi Castle. Don't miss trying Katsuo no tataki, which is a type of tuna tataki.
Okinawa is renowned for its natural beauty, and Miyako-Jima is a beautiful port in the Okinawa Prefecture. Visitors are blown away by the turquoise water and world-class snorkeling. After you've worked up an appetite in the water, be sure to try Okinawa soba, a local specialty.
Hiroshima is an emotional port for many travelers. It's a historically rich region, but also a solemn reminder of World War II. Visit the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and Museum, where you'll find numerous monuments to honor those who perished during the war. Outdoor enthusiasts will enjoy a myriad of outdoor activities like hiking and biking. Hiroshima is renowned for its local cuisine, including okonomiyaki, a crepe-like dish that some people refer to as Japanese pizza. It has vegetables, cabbage, and usually seafood. If you like oysters, don't miss trying grilled oysters in Hiroshima either.
If your budget and vacation time allows, consider an East Asia cruise that primarily explores some of these ports in Japan. Many itineraries start or end in Tokyo, so you can add extra days to explore one of the world's most dynamic cities on your own.
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