Cruising to Kyoto: A voyage into the heart of Japan

Cruising to Kyoto Prefecture offers travellers a fresh way to explore the natural and cultural treasures of one of Japan’s most popular tourist destinations

Cruising to Kyoto: A voyage into the heart of Japan

Kyoto Maizuru Port

Amanohashidate, one of the traditional scenic sights of Japan, is a 50-minute bus ride from Kyoto Maizuru Port

By Alex Smith |

Kyoto Prefecture, home to Japan’s ancient imperial capital, is one of the country’s most popular tourist destinations. As the cultural heart of Japan, the prefecture offers a wealth of natural and historical treasures, from the shrines and gardens of the city to the scenic landscapes of the northern coast. Less well known, however, is that the many sights of the region can be visited onboard a cruise ship. 

Kyoto Maizuru Port is accessible through an inlet eight kilometres from the open sea, where cruise guests are greeted with a coastal landscape surrounded by mountains. The bay is well sheltered, with calm waters and a tidal range of less than 30 centimetres throughout the year, making it a safe and easy place to berth. The 2nd Quay features a passenger terminal, which was opened in 2021 and is equipped with customs, immigration and quarantine functions, as well as a waiting space that includes a nursing room and toilet. The International Quay, meanwhile, can accommodate larger ships of over 130,000gt. Cruise ships can also anchor in Miyazu Bay or further up the coast in Ine Bay. 

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Kyoto Maizuru Port

Costa Cruises' Costa Serena was among the cruise ships welcomed to Kyoto Maizuru in 2024

When cruise ships dock at Kyoto Maizuru Port, guests have access to a tourist information counter offering informative pamphlets and maps of the area in multiple languages, as well as a currency exchange counter to ensure they are prepared for their visit. They also benefit from a free wi-fi service.  

Maizuru City offers a range of culinary treats for guests to sample. Nikujaga, a type of beef stew eaten across Japan, is said to have been created in the city when a Japanese citizen who had studied in England returned home and recreated the stew he had enjoyed while abroad using soy sauce and sugar instead of wine and butter. Local produce can be sampled at the city’s oyster huts, which serve Pacific oysters in March and rock oysters from May to August. Tango Barazushi, a local type of sushi featuring mackerel oboro, was originally prepared by families for festivals but can now be found in restaurants. Visitors can also try making Maizuru Kamaboko, a local speciality dish made from minced fish, in a kitchen just 10 minutes from the passenger terminal.  

Guests can visit Amanohashidate, one of the traditional scenic sights of Japan, by taking a 50-minute bus ride from the port. The pine-covered sandbar has been a tourist destination since ancient times, when pilgrims from the city of Kyoto used Amanohashidate as a path to visit shrines and temples. The landscape has appeared in works of art for hundreds of years, including in some of Japan’s famous ukiyo-e woodblock prints. Visitors to Amanohashidate can take part in the custom of mata-nozoki, bending forward to view the scenery upside down through their legs from vantage points overlooking the sandbar. 

In the town of Ine, 90 minutes away from Maizuru, sea taxis offer views of the 230 boat houses or ‘funaya’, where boats are stored on the first floor while the second floor serves as a living space. Visitors can tour the interior of a funaya and experience the unique lifestyle of the residents.  

The city of Kyoto is only 90 minutes away from Maizuru by bus, offering a perfect opportunity for guests to explore the popular destination. Kyoto was the capital of Japan for more than 1000 years, and 17 shrines and temples are registered as part of the ‘Historic Properties of Ancient Kyoto’ World Cultural Heritage Site. The city’s mix of history and modernity offers a rich destination for guests to explore. 

This article was first published in the Spring/Summer 2024 issue of Cruise & Ferry ReviewAll information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed. Subscribe to Cruise & Ferry Review for FREE to get the next issue delivered directly to your inbox. 

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