Yokohama is a popular homeport for international cruise ships
This article was first published in the Itinerary Planning Special Report. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed.
With the rapid growth of the Asian cruise market in recent years, the number of calls by cruise ships to Japan has increased sharply. The Ministry of Land and Infrastructure, Transportation and Tourism (MLIT) has set a goal of five million cruise passengers visiting Japan by 2020.
Around 2.53 million cruise passengers visited Japan in 2017, an increase of 27%. Port calls by cruise ships increased by 37% to reach 2,764 calls. Both figures are the record highest. For the third consecutive year, Hakata Port had the most port calls by cruise ships (326), followed by Nagasaki Port (267), while Naha Port (224 calls) was the third-busiest port for the second consecutive year.
Japan offers an abundance of destinations that can be included on cruise itineraries, with small and large ships being able to select ports of call throughout the country. In 2017, a cruise ship entered each of the 130 ports across Japan. There are 36 harbours where cruise ships of 100,000gt can berth; 24 where 160,000gt ships can visit; and seven where cruise ships of 220,000gt can call. By 2020, the number of ports where cruise ships of over 100,000gt can visit is expected to reach 50 thanks to infrastructure projects.
Most cruise ships visiting Japan are foreign vessels from countries such as China and Taiwan, and most of the visiting cruise passengers are from the departure country. For geographical reasons, most calls at ports tend to be on the western side of Japan.
In recent years, the number of cruises from and to Japan by foreign cruise ships has gradually expanded. After 2013, Princess Cruises, Costa Cruises, Cunard Line and others began cruising from and to Japan. Since 2017, Costa Cruises has offered Japanese cruising throughout the year, including during the off season, and Princess Cruises began doing the same in 2018. MSC Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Line have also started operating cruises from and to Japan. In addition, the number of visitors who enjoy ‘fly and cruise’ (visiting Japan by aeroplane and travelling around the country by cruise ship) is also increasing.
Cruise ships from and to Japan use Yokohama, Kobe, and Kanazawa as homeports, and visitors can travel around the country and enjoy its nature and culture. In an increasing number of cases, foreign cruise ships are arriving at ports that were not previously visited by foreign vessels. Cruise has steadily penetrated Japan.
As a result, at each port of call in Japan we are working on ‘O-mo-te-na-shi’ (Japanese hospitality) and devising various ideas to make sure cruise passengers enjoy their visit. For example, at Hakodate Port, student volunteers provide a traditional Japanese culture experience programme. At Akita Port, a dedicated ‘Cruise Train’ connects the port and downtown. Omotenashi is a unique characteristic of Japanese cruises.
The MLIT Ports and Harbours Bureau is planning measures to take advantage of these characteristics and help make Northeast Asia a world-famous cruise destination.
Subscribe to Itinerary Planning Special Report for FREE here to get the next issue delivered directly to your inbox or your door.
Share this story