If we asked you your travel plans for your next trip abroad, you would probably come up with a flight plan.  It wouldn’t occur to most of us to take a boat.  The fastest way to get from point A to point B particularly when B is overseas would have to be flying.

A ferry ride to foreign lands, compared to air travel ,may not be the most efficient way to go, but the sense of embarking on an adventure on the high seas, makes up for it!  From an island country like Japan, surrounded on all sides by water, taking a ferry trip overseas is actually very reasonable.

Although it is not widely known, there are several  ferry routes leaving at regular intervals from various ports across Japan.  Where do these ferries go?

According to information from the Travel site Tripgraphics, ferries leave regularly for destinations in China, Korea, and Russia.  There are frequent ferry departures to 8 ports of call in these three countries.  Doesn’t it tickle the imagination?  At the very least, you can’t help but be curious.  What would a sea voyage be like?

Our RocketNews24 reporter has experienced ferry travel to two foreign countries; the trip from Wakkanai Hokkaido to Korsakov, a town in Sakhalin, Russia, and one from Hakata in Fukuoka prefecture to Busan in Korea.

The trip from Hokkaido’s Wakkanai to Korsakov in Sakhalin

Heartland Ferry running from Wakkanai to Korsakov

A round trip ticket from Wakkanai to Korsakov is 40 thousand yen, $500 US.  On boarding this Heartland Ferry our reporter was pleasantly surprised to be handed an obento,  lunch box.  The lunch consisted of a Makunouchi lunch box (regular travel lunch box with rice, fish and side dishes) on the way, and a sandwich lunch box on the way back.  Not very remarkable fare, but it tasted good in the fresh sea air, bringing with it the delight suggestive of eating a bento on a school trip.

There was a smoking area on board this ferry.  With the strict rules against smoking for most international travel, it was surprising to see a smoking area provided, even though it was outside on deck.  The Russians (and the Japanese) like their smokes!

There was also Sapporo Beer sold for a hundred yen, $1.25,  a can (350 ml cans).  Undoubtedly something which was hugely popular among passengers!

  • The trip from Hakata to Busan
  • New Kameria Line – Beetle

This trip was taken in 2011 when it cost 26 thousand yen, about $325 US,  for the round trip to Busan in a vessel known as the ‘Beetle’.  The Beetle has reserved seating like an airplane, with rows of seats from front to back. Unlike in a plane though, there was no meal service provided.  If you want to eat during the trip you need to bring your own food.  This ferry has a no smoking policy, and there is no shop to provide snacks or drinks.

The trip to Kosakov  had more in the way of entertainment, with the Japanese beer sold at a wondrously cheap price, and a duty-free shop on board.  The Beetle to Busan was an efficient way to carry passengers, no fuss, no frills.  People have their preferences, but for our reporter, the trip on The Heartland Ferry offered a higher level of enjoyment (it’s the beer!).  Which would you prefer?

International ferry travel from Japan is, if nothing else, at least a new experience.  If you want to get away from the usual hustle and bustle of running through airports to make it to the gate in time, why not give a ride on a ferry a try?

For more information about taking international ferries from Japan, check the Japan National Tourist Information website here.

▼The International Ferry Routes From Japan

[ Read in Japanese ]