Harbors in Japan: Five of the Best


2018.08.13

NAVITIME TRAVEL EDITOR

Befitting a nation that built its wealth and military might on its maritime trade and seafaring expertise, the harbors of Japan are often the focal points of the country’s dynamic cities. We’ve selected five that it would be a shame to miss.

  • 01

    Yokohama Harbor

    Yokohama Harbor

    Yokohama Harbor

    The Tokugawa shogunate, which was forced at gunpoint to open up the country to foreign traders, first selected Kanagawa Port and then made a last-minute switch to Yokohama. Yokohama Harbor became a thriving port town and a melting pot of cultures on the periphery of the capital. The area’s reputation has changed over the past century. Gone are the days when revolutionary Chinese exiles exchanged gossip with Fujianese sailors, and gone, too, are the longshoremen brawling in the debauched red light district. And you would struggle to identify Yokohama’s harbor as the setting for bloody noir flicks like Kurahara’s I Am Waiting: now it’s a great day trip from Tokyo.

    Stop by Minato Mirai 21, the name given to the new urban development on the harbor. Enjoy the views out into Tokyo Bay from Kishamichi Promenade or Osanbashi Pier, and visit the Red Brick Warehouse, a historic building that anchors a shopping and dining complex, or ride the Ferris wheel at Yokohama Cosmoworld.

  • 02

    Shimonoseki Harbor and Moji Port

    Shimonoseki Harbor and Moji Port

    Shimonoseki Harbor and Moji Port

    Shimonoseki is defined by a port that has helped build the city into a destination, though one that is underrated. Fugu, the potentially poisonous pufferfish, is always on the menu in Shimonoseki, even if you miss the annual fugu festival. Its links westward mean that it has some of the best Korean food in Japan outside of Tokyo’s Shin-Okubo neighborhood.

    Karato Market and the restaurants around Kanmon Wharf are not to be missed. Board a ferry to travel from Shimonoseki’s Kanmon Wharf to Moji Port on the Kitakyushu side. While on the southern side, stroll the Moji Port Retro, a sort of open air museum dedicated to the port town, which fell into decline following the Second World War.

  • 03

    Aomori Harbor

    Aomori Harbor

    Aomori Harbor

    A short walk from Aomori City’s downtown, the harbor on Mutsu Bay has been transformed in recent years by its city fathers hoping to revitalize the area. The project has been a success and the harbor area is particularly energetic in summer as ferry passengers embarking and disembarking at Shin-Chuo Wharf pass through.

    Warasse Nebuta House is one of the fruits of that labor: a stunning building in its own right, Warasse collects art and artifacts from the local Nebuta Festival, the parade of dancers and illuminated floats that define the summer festival season in Aomori.

  • 04

    Ushimado Harbor

    Ushimado Harbor

    Ushimado Harbor

    Ushimado Harbor in Okayama Prefecture overlooks what has been optimistically called Japan’s Aegean Sea. The sleepy harbor town is home to an abundance of comfortable restaurants, serving the bounty of the surrounding waters. The Kuroshima Venus road, which runs along a sandbar linking several islands, is a fine way to take in the scenery, as is the ferry to nearby Maejima Island.

  • 05

    Nagasaki Harbor

    Nagasaki Harbor

    Nagasaki Harbor

    Nagasaki's harbor changed the history of the world. Among the significant events, there is the arrival of Portuguese ships in the 16th century, carrying tobacco, beer, tempura, and Catholicism. It was from Nagasaki’s harbor that the bulk of ships in the Imperial Japanese Navy were launched to fight in East Asia and the Pacific.

    Today, Nagasaki’s harbor sits far from the spotlight of world history but it’s still worth a visit. Popular cruises leave from the harbor’s wharfs, heading out for dolphin spotting, to visit Battleship Island, or to cruise the hundreds of islands around the city. Apart from simply enjoying the pretty views, many visitors stop by the seafood market or stroll in Nagasaki Seaside Park on their way to Dejima, the former headquarters of the segregated Dutch trading mission, or Nagasaki Chinatown.

    Yokohamakouosambashikokusaikyakusen Terminal
    place
    Kanagawa Pref. Yokohamashi Naka-ku Kaigandori 1-chome
    Shimonoseki Port
    place
    Yamaguchi Shimonoseki-shi
    Mojiko Retro Area
    place
    Fukuoka Pref. Kitakyushushimojiku Minatomachi
    phone
    0933214151
    opening-hour
    Depending on the facility
    Aomori Port FT
    place
    Aomori Pref. Aomorishi Okidate 2-chome
  • Seikan Ferry Aomori Ferry Terminal
    place
    Aomori Aomori-shi Oki 2-11-1
    phone
    0177823671
    Nagasaki Port
    place
    Nagasaki Pref. Nagasakishi Motofunamachi

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