It just makes sense to visit Japan by water. Because this island nation consists of 6,852 islands, you’ll never get a true feel for the place or culture if you stay rooted on land.
With dozens of stunning shore excursions offered by a host of excellent cruise lines, you’ll enjoy the best of both worlds during your Japanese vacation: a spellbinding taste of multiple islands, along with the comfort and unmatched excitement of a luxury cruise vacation.
Nagasaki’s Peace Memorial Park and Cable Car Ride to Mount Inasa
Cunard Cruise Lines
Cunard has been offering incredible luxury to passengers for 179 years, and some of its most unique shore excursions can be found among its Japanese ports of call. Stop in Nagasaki during your trip, and you’ll want to visit the Peace Memorial Park. The surreal peace and harmony of the Peace Memorial Park make it hard to believe that this was once Ground Zero of the second nuclear bomb dropped on Japan during the Second World War. You’ll have time to enjoy the park’s fountain, 30 foot tall peace statue, and impeccably beautiful landscaping before stepping inside the Atomic Bomb Museum, which brings the reality of nuclear war closer to home. Here, photos of the aftermath of the bomb’s destruction and artifacts retained from the explosion inspire an eerie silence and respect among museum-goers.
After your visit to the park and museum, you’ll enjoy getting away from the haunting weight of that place to embark on a cable car ride to the summit of Mount Inasa, which offers the most panoramic views of Nagasaki and the harbor below from 1,093 feet above sea level. The entire excursion takes most of the day and is led by a local guide with travel prearranged so you can relax and enjoy the adventure.
Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park, Hiroshima Gardens, and Itsukushima Shrine
Oceania Cruises makes it easy to rent a car for a full or half day so you can explore the city according to your interests. While in Hiroshima, you’ll want to stop at the Peace Memorial Park and Museum, especially if you didn’t see its counterpart in Nagasaki.Spend some time getting lost in the Hiroshima Gardens, the most famous of which, the Shukkei-en, once served as home to the villa of the prominent Asano family, and which later provided refuge to those who were displaced after the a-bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. The Hiroshima Castle and incomparable Itsukushima Shrine are also must-see stops for those who love fine architecture.
Kushiro’s Lake Mashu and Geothermal Hokkaido
Holland America Cruise Line
Kushiro is located on the island of Hokkaido, one of Japan’s largest islands on the northern end of the island chain. On this excursion planned by Holland America, you’ll soak up the atmosphere surrounding Lake Mashu, often called the “Lake of the Gods” by locals.Lake Mashu’s sparkling, clear water is widely regarded to be the clearest lake water in the world, and its crisp emerald color changes as quickly as the skyscape above. The lake is almost always shrouded in mist, a characteristic that adds to its otherworldy feel.
After spending some time on the shores of Lake Mashu, you’ll visit the Mashu Hot Springs and stroll around the geothermal features of the area; you could even grab an egg cooked by the natural geothermal heat. This excursion includes plenty of free time to stroll around Kawayu Onsen, a hot springs resort town. Make sure to stop and soak your feet in an ashiyu, a naturally warmed footbath, before heading back to the ship.
Kobe’s Mt. Rokko and Arima Onsen Hot Springs
Kobe offers far more than exceptional dining (and the Kobe beef that bears its name). While on your ultra-luxury Seabourn cruise, debark for a day to explore Kobe’s Mount Rokko. A cable car ride to the summit is the best way to soak up the panoramic views of the surrounding mountains. At the top, take the time to explore the botanical gardens and Rokko Garden Terrace, where you’ll find an observation deck and an array of shopping and dining options.
Another favorite stop while in Kobe is the Arima Onsen Hot Springs, one of Japan’s oldest hot spring resorts. Public bath houses and some spas open to non-staying guests during the daytime, so you’ll get a chance to enjoy a traditional hot spring bath amidst beautiful surroundings.
Of course, these are just a few of the dozens of shore excursions available during a cruise along Japan’s coasts. For help planning your trip or for more information about Japan’s many stunning destinations, talk to one of our Japan travel experts!
Checkout our featured Asia Cruises >>
Talk with cruise consultant Bridgett Quinn >>