AOMORI Who goes there: Celebrity Cruises, Crystal Cruises, Holland America Line, Princess Cruises, Seabourn, Silversea.
Cruisers like: There isn’t a lot to see in Aomori itself, but there are plenty of attractions nearby. A short train ride away is Asamushi Onsen, a hot-spring resort on the coast, which has interesting rock formations nearby. Or you can visit the Sukayu Onsen and Lake Towada. Another worthwhile tourist attraction is the ancient Hirosaki Castle and nearby temples.
Best for: Couples and families.
Getting around: Downtown Aomori is easily accessible by foot and the train station is a 15-minute walk from the dock.
AKITA Who goes there: Princess Cruises.
Cruisers like: Visit the Akarenga-kan Folk Museum, housed in a former bank building built in the early 1900s. The museum’s Baroque-style exterior showcases the works of local artists. Another tourist attraction worth seeing is the Senshu Park which, during spring, is full of cherry blossom.
Best for: Families and culture buffs.
Getting around: City buses run from the port to Akita Station. From here, you can take the Shinkansen (bullet train) to a number of nearby destinations, such as Lake Tazawa, the deepest lake in Japan and almost perfectly circular in shape.
BEPPU Who goes there: Princess Cruises, Royal Caribbean.
Cruisers like: This city is known as the spa city of Japan and is surrounded by beautiful sea and mountains. There are a number of hot springs including sand baths and steam baths. The city is not very big and the onsens are its biggest tourist attractions. One of Beppu’s most famous onsen is the Jogoku or “hells” in the Kannawa area.
Best for: Couples.
Getting around: It is easy to get around the town by foot and the JR Beppu Station is a 30-minute walk from the port or 10 minutes by taxi.
HAKATA Who goes there: Costa Cruises, Crystal Cruises, MSC Cruises, Princess Cruises, Royal Caribbean, Seabourn.
Cruisers like: Hakata is the port for Fukuoka, which is known for its shopping. Tenjin is Fukuoka’s largest shopping district with an abundance of designer stores housed in towering retail blocks. There are lots of boutique areas including Tenjin Chikagi in an underground area adjacent to the station. Don’t miss the Canal City Hakata, a huge, uniquely designed mall with some 250 shops and restaurants. If you have time, hop on a train to Kurume, which is famous for its ramen noodles. The train takes about an hour.
Best for: Shopaholics and foodies.
Getting around: You can buy a Fukuoka Tourist City Pass, a one-day ticket allowing foreign visitors unlimited rides on buses and trains operating in Fukuoka City. There are also plenty of taxis.
HAKODATE Who goes there: Celebrity Cruises, Holland America Line, Princess Cruises, Seabourn, Silversea.
Cruisers like: Hakodate Port was opened with Yokohama and Nagasaki as Japan’s first international trading ports. Take a trip to beautiful Mount Hakodate which has spectacular views from the top, or relax in one of the delightful hot springs such as Yunkawa Onsen. Visit The Old Public Hall and don’t miss the remains of the famous Western-styled fortress. There is an art gallery at the Goroyokaka Park.
Best for: Families and history lovers.
Getting around: Hakodate’s main ferry and cruise terminal is four kilometres from the centre of the city and there are buses that run regularly. Hakodate has a streetcar, with trams every 10 minutes and you can buy a one-day pass from the driver. If you want to visit the top of Hakodate Mountain, there is a cable car that costs about US$13.50 per person.
HIROSHIMA Who goes there: Azamara Club Cruises, Celebrity Cruises, Crystal Cruises, Cunard, Hapag-Lloyd Cruises, Oceania Cruises, Phoenix Reisen, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Royal Caribbean, Silversea, Seabourn.
Cruisers like: Hiroshima was the site of the world’s first atomic bomb attack in 1945 and there are now many shrines commemorating the civilians who died on that day. It is now a thriving modern city with great food and nightlife. One of the best things to eat in Hiroshima is okonomiyaki, a sort of pancake made with local flour, egg, cabbage, pork, shrimp or other seafood and topped with condiments such as sweet sauce, mayonnaise, dried seaweed and dried fish flakes. One of Hiroshma’s top attractions is the Itsukushima Shrine on Miyashima Island.
Best for: Families and history buffs.
Getting around: Hiroshima has an extensive tram network. Albeit slow, it is a reliable way to see the city. The trams are a mix of old rattle-traps and new “Green Movers”. There are plenty of sightseeing buses as well. There are also taxis, which can be expensive.
KAGOSHIMA Who goes there: Celebrity Cruises, Cunard, Hapag-Lloyd Cruises, Holland America Line, Phoenix Reisen, Princess Cruises, Royal Caribbean, Seabourn.
Cruisers like: Kagoshima has palm tree-lined streets and is home to Sakurajima, an active volcano. A ferry runs between Kagoshima and the volcanic island and from Sakurajima Harbour a two-hour hike or a 15-minute drive will take you to the Yunohira Lookout. Because the volcano is still active, tourists are forbidden to go within two kilometres of the crater.
Best for: Hikers and nature enthusiasts.
Getting around: Trams connect the station at the port and the city centre. The Kagoshima City View tourist bus connects the main attractions including Senganen and the ferry pier to Sakurajima.
KANAZAWA Who goes there: Celebrity Cruises, Phoenix Reisen, Princess Cruises, Royal Caribbean.
Cruisers like: Kanazawa is the capital city of Ishikawa Prefecture and sits on the boarder of the Japan Alps, Hakusan National Park and Noto Peninsula National Park, which makes it a great destination for hikers and capers. The Kenrokuen Garden is the most famous part of Kanazawa and was original built as the outer garden of the Kanazawa castle. It was open to the public in 1875 and was considered as one of the three most beautiful gardens in Japan.
Best for: Nature lovers and families.
Getting around: The city is fairly compact and one of the best ways of getting around is walking. The train station is a tourist attraction in itself – the architect has integrated traditional wooden temple gates with modern glass and steel.
KOBE, OSAKA Who goes there: Azamara Club Cruises, Celebrity Cruises, Crystal Cruises, Cunard, Holland America Line, Oceania Cruises, P&O Cruises, Phoenix Reisen, Princess Cruises, Royal Caribbean, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Seabourn, Silversea.
Cruisers like: Kobe is one of Japan’s busiest districts. The waterfront area called Nadagogo has the largest concentration of sake breweries in Japan. The breweries transform the spring water from Mount Rokko and superior quality rice into famous brands of sake. In Kobe, there is a large concentration of Western-style houses. Take a wander around the Fruit Flower Market, a park surrounded by flowers and greenery. Visit in spring to see as many as 10,000 plants in bloom. Kobe is also famous for its beef, from the cattle fed with specific grains and beer.
Best for: Families.
Getting around: The Port of Kobe offers a free shuttle bus service between the cruise terminal and downtown. It’s the best service to use if you are heading to Kyoto, Nara, Himeji, Osaka and other destinations.
KUSHIRO Who goes there: Holland America Line, Princess Cruises, Silversea.
Cruisers like: The Kushiro City museum is worth visiting. The building is shaped like a Japanese crane spreading its wings. Eat and shop at the Fisherman’s Wharf then take a walk to the Nuamai Bridge which has romantic street lights and bronze statues representing the four seasons. If you have time, visit the Kushiro City Zoo, a 50 minute bus ride from the city.
Best for: Families and couples.
Getting around: The Kushiro Shitsugen Norroko-go, the local public transportation system, is easy and reliable.
MAIZURU Who goes there: Celebrity Cruises, Princess Cruises, Royal Caribbean.
Cruisers like: Visit the Golden Temple, a premier example of the Muromachi Era, and the famous Ryonanji Zen rock garden, which features 15 rocks set in raked white gravel. The ruins of the Fukuoka Castle are another one of the city’s main attractions. While only ruined walls and a few turrets remain, the park has walking trails and a few lookout points. Maizuru Park turns into the city’s best spot during the cherry blossom season.
Best for: Families and nature lovers.
Getting around: It is a 10 minute walk or five minute taxi ride from the wharf to the JR Maizuru Line Nishi-Maizuru Station.
MIYAZAKI Who goes there: Holland America Line, Princess Cruises, Royal Caribbean.
Cruisers like: This is a popular destination for both international and local tourists. The city’s attractions include the SeaGaia resort and event centre, the Phoenix Zoo and the Miyazaki-jingu Shrine, built deep in the woods with a Torii Gate (shrine gate) made from cedar.
Best for: Couples and families.
Getting around: There are plenty of taxis to take you into the centre of the city.
MURORAN Who goes there: Celebrity Cruises, Holland America Line, Princess Cruises, Royal Caribbean.
Cruisers like: Itanki Beach is a popular hang out for swimming and surfing during the summer months. The beach is very wide with fine brown sand. Also visit the white lighthouse at Cape Earth where you can spot falcons that live around the area. Sokuryozan Ryokuchi (Mount Sokuryo Green Space) is known for its wild birds and flora.
Best for: Surfers and bird watchers.
Getting around: There are free shuttle buses to the city. There are also free buses to take tourists to four or five stops, to pick up some free souvenirs such as kites, calligraphy samples and cotton candy. There are also free maps for tourists to take themselves on their own walking tours of the city.
NAGASAKI Who goes there: Celebrity Cruises, Crystal Cruises, Cunard, Hapag-Lloyd Cruises, Holland America Line, Oceania Cruises, P&O Cruises, Princess Cruises, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Royal Caribbean, Seabourn.
Cruisers like: Nagasaki is one of Japan’s biggest ports and boasts a number of unique festivals that highlight the city’s food culture and local traditions. Glover Garden has an amazing view of Nagasaki Harbour from its position at the top of a hill and is one of the most romantic sites in the city. The Atomic Bomb Museum commemorates the thousands of Japanese who died in the 1945 attack.
Best for: Hikers and nature lovers.
Getting around: There is a one-day pass ticket available for the tram. The bus is a good way to visit many of the tourist sites and there are plenty of taxis. Cruise ship passengers can easily walk from the terminal to the entrance of Glover Garden. It takes about 10 minutes.
NAGOYA Who goes there: Phoenix Reisen, Princess Cruises, Royal Caribbean.
Cruisers like: There are a number of historical sites including a castle with two golden orcas on the roof and the Atsuta-jinga Shrine, which is also popular with the locals. The shrine houses a sacred sword that is part of the imperial regalia. Auto buffs should visit the Toyota Techno Museum.
Best for: History and car lovers.
Getting around: There are plenty of taxis available.
OKINAWA Who goes there: Celebrity Cruises, Costa Cruises, Cunard, Hapag-Lloyd Cruises, Holland America Line, Oceania Cruises, P&O Cruises, Phoenix Reisen, Princess Cruises, Regent Seven Seas, Royal Caribbean, Seabourn.
Cruisers like: Okinawa is a group of islands with a unique culture that is different from mainland Japan. It has its own unique language, music and traditions including arts and crafts. Shuri Castle in Naha, the former palace of the Ryukyu Dynasty, was almost destroyed in 1945 by the US Army and Navy. After the war, the University of the Ryukyus was constructed on the site and the castle was reconstructed and registered as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Visit the Shikina-en Garden near Naha which was built at the end of the 17th century. Built out of wood, if reflects the Okinawan style of red tiled roofs and a spacious Japanese style landscape garden.
Best for: Families and hikers.
Getting around: Cruise ships arrive at Naha Port and it is easy to walk to local restaurants and attractions. Okinawa’s first monorail, Yui Rail, runs from Naha Airport to Shuri Castle in about 30 minutes. There are also plenty of taxis.
SAPPORO Who goes there: Celebrity Cruises, Crystal Cruises, Princess Cruises, Holland America Line.
Cruisers like: There are lots of historical buildings in Sapporo, many within easy walking distance of the port. The tourist centre suggests a walking itinerary that starts at the Otaru Music Box Museum at one end of the Sakaimachihondori Street. There are also pleasant short cruises from the harbour that include bird feeding which is great for kids.
Best for: Families and snow bunnies.
Getting around: The Sapporo-Otaru Welcome Pass is a one-day ticket that is only available for international tourists. It allows unlimited travel on the JR Jokkaido lines between Sapporo and Otaru Station.
SAKAIMINATO Who goes there: Celebrity Cruises, Princess Cruises, Royal Caribbean.
Cruisers like: This fishing port is known for its fantastic seafood. Sakaiminato is the home of Shigeru Mizuki, the creator GeGeGe no Kitaro, a famous Japanese cartoon. Kitaro can be found on many of the streets and there are one hundred bronze statues of the story’s characters on a dedicated street in the town. Visit Izumo-taisha, one of the oldest and holiest shrines in Shinto.
Best for: Families.
Getting around: The port of Sakaiminato is about five kilometres from the city centre or a 10 minute taxi ride. Take the Hama Loop Bus which has two routes – the Main Course and Life Course.
Cruisers like: Shimizu is one of the most beautiful ports in Japan and the city is in the shadow of Mount Fuji. Take a walk through the pine groves of Miho to see a 650-year-old Japanese black pine tree. There are plenty of tours available and you can take a tour of Toro and get a glimpse of feudal life in Japan in 200BC.
Best for: Nature lovers and families.
Getting around: There are plenty of taxis or you can take a bay cruise and learn about Japan’s first sushi museum. There are also lots of shore excursion tours available.
TOKYO Who goes there: Celebrity Cruises, Crystal Cruises, Oceania Cruises, Princess Cruises, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Royal Caribbean, Silversea.
Cruisers like: It is one of the busiest cities in the world so don’t be too concerned about ticking the tourist sights off your list. For most visitors, the biggest part of the Tokyo experience is just about being in the city. Tokyo has many different districts – from the Imperial Gardens and shrines of Chiyoda to the youth culture hub of Shibuya. Visit the Meji Shrine in Harajuku and try to get to the Tsukiji fish market early in the morning, otherwise you will miss all the action. It’s the best place to get sushi – straight from the chopping block. There also many small restaurants and stalls. Bring cash. In November 2016, the markets will be closed and moved.
Best for: Everyone.
Getting around: the Tokyo Metro and Toei subway companies run an excellent network of trains that always run on time. The Tokyo Metro Transfer Planner (https://www.tokyometro.jp/en) is an online service where you can plan your subway and train travel based on time, cost and transfers. Taxis are expensive but not bad value for groups of three or more.
YOKOHAMA Who goes there: Celebrity Cruises, Cunard, Holland America Line, Phoenix Reisen, Princess Cruises, Royal Caribbean, Seabourn.
Cruisers like: Yokohama blends the best of modern and ancient Japanese and Western cultures. Within walking distance from the passenger terminals are shopping districts, high-end hotels and Yokohama’s famous Chinatown. Visit the Yokohama Noh Theatre and the Sankeien Garden. In winter, the garden has a stunning display of plum blossoms and in spring, visitors can see flowering azaleas and cherry blossoms. The garden is a 10-minute bus ride from the port.
Best for: Everyone.
Getting around: The cruise terminal offers a dedicated shuttle bus service between the passenger terminal and Yokohama Station, the hub for rail trips to Tokyo which is about 40 kilometres away.
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