Traveling to Japan by Boat and Ferry

Traveling to Japan by Boat or ferry

The majority of tourists arriving in Japan do so via air travel. However, it is both easy and possible to travel to Japan by boat from mainland Asia too. Getting to the country by passenger boat offers a quite viable option for tourists that are not fans of flying and that are looking for alternative transport methods to enter Japan.

To make the situation regarding a boat trip to Japan a little clearer, the following article explains the logistics of traveling to Japan by boat as a tourist, detailing where a sea voyage to Japan can be embarked upon. It will also give a better picture of the viability of a trip to Japan from a mainland Asian destination for travelers looking for alternatives to air travel.

What Documents Should Boat Passengers Bring to Enter Japan

Fundamentally speaking, traveling to Japan by boat has the same requirements as entering Japan via an airport and similar travel documents are required. As with any foreign trip, passengers should travel with a valid passport in order to enter Japanese territory. Traveler’s passports should ideally have 6 months or more remaining before expiry at the time of entering Japan.

Visitors from Western countries such as the UK, USA, and Australia can travel to Japan visa-free. However, for tourists from most Asian countries, nations that comprised the former Soviet Union, and Latin America, a Japanese Visa is required. This will need to be applied for and approved prior to travel.

Where Can You Board a Passenger Boat to Japan?

There are numerous locations in South East Asia where tourists can embark on a voyage to Japan by boat or ferry. This gives travelers a few different choices when it comes to choosing sea-going travel options.

Traveling to Japan From Korea by Ferry

One of the easiest ways to travel to Japan by boat is from neighboring South Korea. There are frequent ferries from Busan to destinations in the southwest of the Japanese Archipelago.

The first route allows passengers to travelers to travel from Busan to Fukuoka in Kyushu, which connects passengers to the San Yo Shinkansen (bullet train) route. It departs daily and has both a fast and slow service available.

The next route travels from Busan to the small Japanese island of Tsushima, located approximately 235km off the Korean coast. As this is a shorter distance ferry service there are multiple daily services available from providers. From there, there are also further ferry services that can be used to travel between Tsushima and locations on Kyushu and Honshu.

Finally, there are boats that can reach the Japanese mainland of Honshu from Busan. The first travel from Busan to Shimonoseki at 9 pm daily. The other departs on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays at 3 pm and goes directly to Osaka.

How Long Does it Take to Travel From Korea to Japan by Boat?

The duration of a trip to Japan from South Korea varies and depends greatly on the voyage being embarked upon and the destination being traveled to. However, on the whole, these are relatively short passenger boat trips taking less than a day of journey time.

  • Busan to Tsushima, 70 minutes
  • Busan to Fukuoka, 3-15 hours (depending on the boat service used)
  • Busan to Shimonoseki, 11 hours
  • Busan to Osaka, 20 hours

Getting To Japan From China by Boat

With the rise of China’s economy more and more of its national citizens are traveling to Japan for both business and tourism. To cater to this demand there are two boat services that travel from Shanghai to Japan.

The first service, the Su Zhou Hao, departs weekly on Tuesdays and travels directly to Osaka and back. The second, the Xin Jian Xen, departs on Saturdays and alternates services weekly between Osaka and the other nearby port of Kobe. Both of these services, however, allow passengers direct access to the main transport hub of Japan on disembarkment.

How Long Does it Take to Travel From China to Japan by Boat?

A journey from China to Japan by boat can take quite a long time. Travel times usually take between 45-46 hours making this is an option better suited for people visiting Japan at a leisurely pace.

Visiting Japan by Boat From Russia

It is also possible to travel from Russia’s far eastern corner to Japan via a boat service. There is a ship that sails from Vladivostok to Sakaiminato on the western coast of Honshu. It departs Russia on Wednesday every week, calling at the South Korean port of Donghae en route.

How Long Does it Take to Travel From Russia to Japan by Boat?

The boat from Vladivostok to Japan is a relatively slow one taking just over 2 days in total. The journey from Vladivostok to Donghae takes approximately 19 hours. There is then a 9-hour layover before the boat departs for the Japanese mainland. The final leg of the journey from Donghae to Sakaiminato takes a further 15 hours.

Traveling to Japan by boat may seem old fashioned to some. However, with several viable options available and increasing concerns about the environmental impact of flying it offers a good alternative method of transport.

Whether tourists travel to Japan via plane or boat, having the right documentation is essential. At present, citizens from China, countries of the Former Soviet Union and Latin American nations require a pre-approved visa to enter Japan as a tourist. This currently needs to be acquired at a Japanese embassy or consulate in the applicant’s country of residence.

However, as of 2020, it is expected that Japan will launch an electronic visa application. This will greatly simplify the process of acquiring a visa for Japan and will allow applicants to apply for their travel authorization from their own homes via the internet.