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Beyond Tokyo: Japan’s Hidden Ports

By TRAVELINK on May 12, 2023

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Asia Japan Takamatsu Naoshima 1
There’s more to this stunning island nation than bustling cities. From serene forests to inspiring temples to rarely seen ports, the best way to see it all on a luxury cruise to Japan.

Takamatsu, Shikoku Island

Known for doing udon noodles better than anywhere else in Japan, this artsy, laid-back gateway to Shikoku Island offers an intimate port ideally suited to small ships. On A&K’s luxury Wonders of Japan Cruise, guests can choose from included shore excursions to islands such as Naoshima, where the contemporary Benisse Art Site strikes a stunning balance with nature, and Shodoshima, to wander olive groves that mingle with mountains.

Asia Japan Karatsu Castle 2

Karatsu, Kyushu Island

An ancient trading port at the western edge of Kyushu Island, Karatsu is home to highly coveted Karatsu-ware, a red-fired pottery known for its elegant simplicity and Korean influences. Karatsu is also revered for its medieval heritage and Karatsu Castle, with its stonework rising out of the water. On A&K’s luxury Japan cruise, visit this “dancing crane castle,” a 16th-century ceramic studio still in operation, and other cultural treasures, all while sailing aboard the first Western-operated Japan cruise to visit this extraordinary port.

Asia Japan Ogi Sado ga shima Drums 3

Ogi, Sado-ga-shima Island

Japan’s unique cultural heritage is well preserved in this small port town on the southern coast of Sado-ga-shima Island — a place inaccessible for larger cruise ships. Wooden tub-shaped boats (taraibune) still paddle about in its beautiful surrounding waters, while A&K guests cruise to shore in comfortable tenders for a private performance by the world-famous Kodo Drummers, which headline Sado’s annual August Earth Celebration.

Asia Japan Noshiro Waterfall 4

Noshiro and Aomori, Japan

Facing the Sea of Japan at the northern end of Honshu, Noshiro offers ideal access to the natural wonders of the Akita Prefecture. On Wonders of Japan, venture to Towada-Hacimantai National Park, passing through the dramatically forested mountains of magical Hacimantai before reaching mountain-top Lake Towada, where an easy hike follows the picturesque Oirase Stream.

Asia Japan Hokkaido Otaru Cable Car 5

Otaru, Hokkaido Island

Once a bustling center of trade with China and Russia, this small port on the western coast of Hokkaido showcases interesting Western-style buildings along its central Otaru Canal. On A&K’s richly designed luxury cruise, opt to visit this action-packed canal on a guided tour, which also explores the storied Herring Mansion and a sake distillery. From there, ride a gondola to Mount Tengu, where you may walk to a 100-year-old cherry tree and see the legendary goblin masks of Tengu House.

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