Many opt to hop on the puddle-jumper operated by ANA Wings that flies to Goto-Fukue Airport out of Nagasaki or Fukuoka Airports, or the Kyushu Shosen Ferry out of Nagasaki—but you want to go in style? Take the Taiko. This 300-foot ferry sails out of Fukuoka Prefecture’s Hakata Port, steaming south to Shinkamigoto’s Aokata Port and beyond.
The trip to Shinkamigoto’s Aokata Port takes about six hours (an extra two hours to get all the way to the terminus at Fukue). Accommodations range from the standard berths to luxurious suites with deluxe observation rooms. Even the most economical ticket affords the traveler with cleanliness and comfort, as well as access to spacious common areas.
Most opt to crash for the night, as the Taiko departs from Hakata at 11:45pm, arriving at 5:40am at Aokata and 8:15am at Fukue. The simplest cabins will be familiar to anyone that’s spent the night in a capsule hotel or on an overnight train. The cabins at this level are gender-segregated and include space for luggage, as well as a TV over the bed. If you’re traveling as a couple or with kids, there are twin rooms and family rooms available, as well.
If you’re feeling claustrophobic, escape to one of the common areas or observation deck. Most opt to sleep during the trip, but there’s no reason that you can’t kick back and watch the view. The view from the observation deck attached to the suites is particularly good, but the more accessible observation areas are more than fine to watch the sun come up over the islands.
If you’re headed to the islands with kids, let them burn off steam before bed in the kids room; if you’re coming back from the islands, the kids room is open all day, making it the perfect place to sequester them between strolls around the ship. If you’re headed down to Shinkamigoto with your dog or cat, there’s a dedicated pet area for them to spend the trip in.
Even if time is tight, the trip on the Taiko only differs from quicker option by a couple hours, and it’s certainly the most comfortable way to get to the Goto Islands. The ship operates a small shop, if you’ve forgotten any necessities or if, traveling back to Hakata from the islands, you need to pick up a souvenir. There are also vending machines, if you want to toast the stars and waves with a cold one.
It’s best to book at least a week in advance, stretching that to the a full month in the busier season during midsummer, especially if you plan to grab a suite. Booking can be done by phone up to a month in advance for the ride south from Hakata. 4,650 yen is enough for the trip to Aokata; a suite on the trip out from Hakata runs 17,200 yen, less than a night in a Tokyo hotel, and a spot in a communal bedroom will set you back 1,400 to 2,100 yen; with options in between those.