Ferry arriving on Rishiri Island

Consisting of several thousand islands, Japan is naturally home to an extensive network of ferry routes. Japan's four main islands (Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu and Shikoku) are connected with each other by bridges and tunnels, but many smaller islands can only be reached by ship. But even between the main islands, ferries can be an interesting, if not particularly fast alternative to trains, buses and planes.

Most ferries transport people, vehicles and cargo. While shorter routes are served by small ships, able to carry a couple of cars and a few dozens of passengers, large liners are employed on longer routes. Large ferries can carry hundreds of vehicles and passengers and are usually equipped with a range of amenities such as public baths and a restaurant. Some come close to being luxury liners.

Book Ferries online in English

Lounge and restaurant on board of a larger ferry

On most long-distance ferries, passengers have the choice between three classes, 2nd class, 1st class and special class:

  • 2nd class without bed
    the cheapest option
    Common space with a carpet or tatami mats to rest on.
  • 2nd class with bed
    typically 20%-40% more expensive than 2nd class w/o bed
    Dormitory with about 4-12 beds.
  • 1st class
    typically twice the cost of 2nd class w/o bed
    Room with about 2-4 beds.
  • Special class
    typically 2.5 to three times the cost of 2nd class w/o bed
    Room with about 2 beds.
2nd class dormitory on board of an overnight ferry

The cost for taking a car onto a ferry usually depends on the length of the car and includes the fare for the driver but not for additional passengers. Advance reservations are possible and recommended on some routes, but are not needed on routes with relatively frequent departures.

Bicycles can also be taken onto most ferries. As a rule of thumb, the cost for bringing a bicycle is about 100 yen for each hour of travel. So, on a 9 hour trip, for example, a bicycle will cost around 900 yen.

Cars being loaded onto a ferry

Ferry tickets can be purchased through the ferry companies directly (by phone, online or at the ferry terminal) or through travel agencies. The availability of English speaking staff cannot be counted on. Some ferry routes can be reserved online in English through Direct Ferries.

Major Ferry Routes

Below are maps and lists of major domestic ferry routes:

Maizaru - Otaru
RouteFrequencyDuration2nd Class (without bed)1st ClassCar (4-5 meters)
Maizaru - Otaru1 per day21 hours9,500 yen19,000 yen31,000 yen
Tsuruga - Tomakomai
RouteFrequencyDuration2nd Class (without bed)1st ClassCar (4-5 meters)
Tsuruga - Tomakomai1 per day20 hours9,500 yen20,000 yen31,000 yen
Tsuruga - Niigata - Akita - Tomakomai
RouteFrequencyDuration2nd Class (without bed)1st ClassCar (4-5 meters)
Tsuruga - Tomakomai1 per week32 hours9,500 yen19,000 yen31,000 yen
Niigata - Tomakomai6 per week18 hours6,500 yen13,000 yen22,000 yen
Akita - Tomakomai6 per week11 hours4,500 yen8,500 yen18,000 yen
Niigata - Otaru
RouteFrequencyDuration2nd Class (without bed)1st ClassCar (4-5 meters)
Niigata - Otaru6 per week17 hours6,500 yen14,000 yen22,000 yen
Oarai - Tomakomai
RouteFrequencyDuration2nd Class (without bed)1st ClassCar (4-5 meters)
Oarai - Tomakomai1-2 per day19 hours8,500 yen22,000 yen27,000 yen
Nagoya - Sendai - Tomakomai
RouteFrequencyDuration2nd Class (without bed)1st ClassCar (4-5 meters)
Nagoya - Tomakomai3-4 per week40 hours10,000 to
11,000 yen
19,000 to
21,000 yen
34,000 yen
Nagoya - Sendai3-4 per week22 hours6,500 to
7,000 yen
13,000 to
14,500 yen
24,000 yen
Sendai - Tomakomai1 per day15 hours7,000 to
8,500 yen
15,000 to
17,000 yen
26,000 yen
Tokyo - Tokushima - Kitakyushu
RouteFrequencyDuration2nd Class (without bed)1st ClassCar (4-5 meters)
Tokyo - Kitakyushu1 per day34 hours17,000 yen28,000 yen41,000 yen
Tokyo - Tokushima1 per day18 hours12,000 yen19,000 yen33,000 yen
Tokushima - Kitakyushu1 per day15 hours9,000 yen14,000 yen23,000 yen
Osaka - Kitakyushu
RouteFrequencyDuration2nd Class (without bed)1st ClassCar (4-5 meters)
Osaka - Kitakyushu2 per day13 hours6,500 yen13,000 yen23,000 yen
Osaka - Kitakyushu
RouteFrequencyDuration2nd Class (without bed)1st ClassCar (4-5 meters)
Osaka - Kitakyushu1 per day13 hours6,500 yen14,000 yen22,000 yen
Kobe - Kitakyushu
RouteFrequencyDuration2nd Class (without bed)1st ClassCar (4-5 meters)
Kobe - Kitakyushu1 per day13 hours6,500 yen13,000 yen22,000 yen
Osaka - Beppu
RouteFrequencyDuration2nd Class (without bed)1st ClassCar (4-5 meters)
Osaka - Beppu1 per day12 hours12,000 yen20,000 yen36,000 yen
Kobe - Oita
RouteFrequencyDuration2nd Class (without bed)1st ClassCar (4-5 meters)
Kobe - Oita1 per day12 hours11,000 yen28,000 yen36,000 yen
Osaka - Shibushi
RouteFrequencyDuration2nd Class (without bed)1st ClassCar (4-5 meters)
Osaka - Shibushi1 per day15 hours13,000 yen22,000 yen39,000 yen
Kobe - Miyazaki
RouteFrequencyDuration2nd Class (without bed)1st ClassCar (4-5 meters)
Kobe - Miyazaki1 per day12-15 hours12,000 yen20,000 yen30,000 yen
Kagoshima - Naha
RouteFrequencyDuration2nd Class (without bed)1st ClassCar (4-5 meters)
Kagoshima - Naha3-4 per week26 hours15,000 yen29,000 yen88,000 yen

Aomori and Hokkaido

Wakkanai - Rishiri (Oshidomari)
RouteFrequencyDuration2nd Class (without bed)1st ClassCar (4-5 meters)
Wakkanai - Rishiri2-4 per day2 hours2,000 yen4,000 yen17,000 yen
Wakkanai - Rebun (Kafuka)
RouteFrequencyDuration2nd Class (without bed)1st ClassCar (4-5 meters)
Wakkanai - Rebun2-4 per day2 hours2,500 yen4,500 yen20,000 yen
Rishiri (Oshidomari, Kutsugata) - Rebun (Kafuka)
RouteFrequencyDuration2nd Class (without bed)1st ClassCar (4-5 meters)
Oshidomari - Kafuka1-3 per day1 hour1,000 yen1,500 yen6,000 yen
Kutsugata - Kafuka0-1 per day1 hour1,000 yen1,500 yen6,000 yen
Aomori - Hakodate
RouteFrequencyDuration2nd Class (without bed)1st ClassCar (4-5 meters)
Aomori - Hakodate8 per day4 hours1,500 yen6,000 yen14,500 yen
Aomori - Hakodate
RouteFrequencyDuration2nd Class (without bed)1st ClassCar (4-5 meters)
Aomori - Hakodate8 per day4 hours2,000 yen4,000 yen16,000 yen
Oma - Hakodate
RouteFrequencyDuration2nd Class (without bed)1st ClassCar (4-5 meters)
Oma - Hakodate2-3 per day2 hours2,000 yen2,500 yen13,000 yen
Hachinohe - Tomakomai
RouteFrequencyDuration2nd Class (without bed)1st ClassCar (4-5 meters)
Hachinohe - Tomakomai4 per day7-8 hours5,000 yen10,000 yen25,000 yen

Seto Inland Sea (Seto Naikai)

Osaka - Beppu
RouteFrequencyDuration2nd Class (without bed)1st ClassCar (4-5 meters)
Osaka - Beppu1 per day12 hours11,000 yen19,000 yen35,000 yen
Kobe - Oita
RouteFrequencyDuration2nd Class (without bed)1st ClassCar (4-5 meters)
Kobe - Oita1 per day12 hours11,000 yen27,000 yen35,000 yen
Matsuyama - Kitakyushu
RouteFrequencyDuration2nd Class (without bed)1st ClassCar (4-5 meters)
Matsuyama - Kitakyushu1 per day7 hours5,500 yen9,500 yen18,000 yen
Hiroshima - Matsuyama
RouteFrequencyDuration2nd Class (without bed)1st ClassCar (4-5 meters)
High Speed Boat12 per day1 hour7,000 yenn/an/a
Regular Ferry10 per day3 hours3,500 yenn/a9,000 yen
Wakayama - Tokushima
RouteFrequencyDuration2nd Class (without bed)1st ClassCar (4-5 meters)
Wakayama - Tokushima8 per day2 hours2,000 yen2,500 yen9,500 yen
Kobe - Takamatsu
RouteFrequencyDuration2nd Class (without bed)1st ClassCar (4-5 meters)
Kobe - Takamatsu4 per day4 hours2,000 yenn/a6,000 yen
Yawatahama - Beppu
RouteFrequencyDuration2nd Class (without bed)1st ClassCar (4-5 meters)
Yawatahama - Beppu6 per day3 hours3,000 yen5,500 yen13,000 yen
Yawatahama - Usuki
RouteFrequencyDuration2nd Class (without bed)1st ClassCar (4-5 meters)
Yawatahama - Usuki6-7 per day2.5 hours2,500 yen4,000 yen11,500 yen
Sukumo - Saiki
RouteFrequencyDuration2nd Class (without bed)1st ClassCar (4-5 meters)
Sukumo - Saiki3 per day3 hours2,500 yen3,500 yen12,000 yen

Okinawa and Kagoshima

Kagoshima - Amami-Oshima - Tokunoshima - Okinoerabujima - Yoronto - Motobu - Naha
RouteFrequencyDuration2nd Class (without bed)1st ClassCar (4-5 meters)
Kagoshima - Naha3-4 per week26 hours15,000 yen29,000 yen88,000 yen
Kagoshima - Amami-Oshima3-4 per week11 hours9,500 yen18,000 yen48,000 yen
Amami-Oshima - Naha3-4 per week13 hours9,500 yen19,000 yen51,000 yen
Kagoshima - Amami-Oshima - Tokunoshima - Okinoerabujima - Yoronto - Motobu - Naha
RouteFrequencyDuration2nd Class (without bed)1st ClassCar (4-5 meters)
Kagoshima - Naha3-4 per week26 hours15,000 yen29,000 yen88,000 yen
Kagoshima - Amami-Oshima3-4 per week11 hours9,000 yen18,000 yen48,000 yen
Amami-Oshima - Naha3-4 per week13 hours7,500 yen19,000 yen51,000 yen
Kagoshima - Tokara Islands - Amami-Oshima
RouteFrequencyDuration2nd Class (without bed)1st ClassCar (4-5 meters)
Kagoshima - Nakanoshima2 per week7 hours6,000 yen12,500 yen28,000 yen
Nakanoshima - Amami-Oshima2 per week8 hours6,500 yen13,000 yen30,000 yen
Naha - Daito Islands
RouteFrequencyDuration2nd Class (without bed)1st ClassCar (4-5 meters)
Naha - Kitadaito1 per week15-17 hours5,500 yenn/an/a
Kitadaito - Minamidaito1 per week1 hour1,000 yenn/an/a
Kagoshima - Yakushima

Access information for selected ports

Otaru, Hokkaido
Otaru Ferry Terminal is a 10 minute bus ride from Otaru-Chikko Station or a 30 minute bus ride or 10 minute taxi ride from Otaru Station. Otaru is located 30 kilometers east of Sapporo (640 yen, 30-45 minutes by JR train). More details.

Tomakomai, Hokkaido
Tomakomai is located 70 kilometers south of Sapporo (one hour, about 3000 yen by JR limited express train, 75 minutes, 1450 yen by JR local trains or 100 minutes, 1310 yen by Hokkaido Chuo highway bus). Tomakomai has two ports, Tomakomai East Port (used by Shin Nihonkai ferries) and Tomakomai Port (used by most other ferries). Tomakomai East Port is located 30 kilometers outside of the city (bus connection from Tomakomai Station), while Tomakomai Port is just a short bus ride from the railway station.

Muroran, Hokkaido
Muroran is located 140 kilometers south of Sapporo (150 minutes, 2060 yen by Hokkaido Chuo highway bus or 100 minutes, about 4500 yen by JR limited express train). Muroran Port is within walking distance from Muroran Station.

Hakodate, Hokkaido
Tsugaru Kaikyo Ferries and Seikan Ferries have separate ferry terminals in Hakodate, both being located about a 20 minute taxi ride north of the city center. The Tsugaru Kaikyo Ferry terminal can also be reached in a 15 minute walk from JR Nanaehama Station, and the Seikan Ferry terminal in a 25 minute walk from JR Goryokaku Station. Donan Ferry is using the same ferry terminal as Tsugaru Kaikyo Ferry. More details.

Aomori
Aomori Ferry Terminal is about 2 kilometers, a 10 minute taxi ride or a 30 minute walk northwest of Aomori Station.

Oarai, Ibaraki Prefecture
Oarai is located 130 kilometers northeast of Tokyo: 100 minutes, about 4000 yen by limited express train (JR Joban Line from Ueno, transfer to Kashimarinkai Railway at Mito Station), 2.5 hours, 2590 yen by local trains (same route) or two hours, 2150 yen by Ibaraki Kotsu highway bus (from Tokyo Station). The port is a 5 minute taxi ride from Oarai Station.

Niigata
Niigata is located 330 kilometers north of Tokyo on the Sea of Japan coast (2.5 hours, about 10,000 yen by JR shinkansen from Tokyo Station or six hours, about 3500 yen by highway bus from Ikebukuro or Shinjuku stations). Niigata Port is a 25 minute bus ride from Niigata Station.

Tsuruga, Fukui Prefecture
Tsuruga is located 90 kilometers north of Kyoto on the Sea of Japan coast (50 minutes, about 3000 yen by JR limited express train from Kyoto). The port is a 10 minute bus or taxi ride from Tsuruga Station.

Maizuru, Kyoto Prefecture
Maizuru is located 100 kilometers north of Kyoto on the Sea of Japan coast (100 minutes, about 3500 yen by JR limited express train or two hours, 2400 yen by bus from Kyoto Station). The port is a 10 minute taxi ride from Higashi-Maizuru Station.

Tokyo
The Tokyo Ferry Terminal is located on a man made island in Tokyo Bay, not far from Odaiba. The closest railway stations are the Kokusai-Tenjijo-Seimon Station on the Yurikamome elevated train (20 minutes from Shimbashi Station) and Kokusai-Tenjijo Station on the Rinkai/Saikyo Line (30 minutes from Shinjuku Station). More details.

Osaka
Most domestic ferries leave from Osaka Nanko (Osaka South Port). The closest station is Ferry Terminal Station on the Nanko Porttown Liner, which can be reached in 10 minutes from Cosmosquare Station, the terminal station of the Chuo Subway Line. The Hankyu Ferries for Kitakyushu leave from Izumiotsu Port, reached by shuttle bus from Izumiotsu Station on the Nankai Line (20 minutes from Nankai Namba Station).

Kobe
Kobe has several ferry terminals, including the Kobe Port Terminal (used by Jumbo Ferries to Takamatsu and Miyazaki Car Ferry to Miyazaki) and the Rokko Island Ferry Terminal (used by Ferry Sunflower Ferries to Oita and the Hankyu Ferries to Kitakyushu). The Kobe Port Terminal can be reached in a short bus ride or 15 minute walk from Sannomiya Station or a short walk from Port Terminal Station on the Port Liner. Rokko Island Ferry Terminal can be reached in a short bus ride or 20 minute walk from Island Kitaguchi Station on the Rokko Liner. More details.

Matsuyama, Ehime Prefecture
Matsuyama's ferry terminal (Matsuyama Sightseeing Port) is located a 3 minute bus ride or 10-15 minute walk from Iyotetsu Takahama Station, the last station on the Takahama Tram Line (20 minutes, 410 yen from Matsuyamashi Station). There are also buses from JR Matsuyama Station to the port (20 minutes, 460 yen).

Yawatahama, Ehime Prefecture
Yawatahama Port is a 5 minute bus or taxi ride from JR Yawatahama Station. Yawatahama Station can be reached from Matsuyama by limited express train (45 minutes, about 2500 yen) or by local trains (100-120 minutes, 1280 yen).

Sukumo, Kochi Prefecture
The Sukumo ferry terminal is a 10 minute bus or taxi ride from Sukumo Station.

Kitakyushu, Fukuoka Prefecture
Kitakyushu is Kyushu's second largest city, located just across the straight from Honshu. Kitakyushu's Kokura Station is a station on the Sanyo Shinkansen. Kitakyushu has two ports, Shinmoji Port, which is used by most ferries and Kokura Port, which is used by the ferries from Matsuyama. To reach Shinmoji Port from Kokura Station, take a JR local train to Moji Station. From there, it is a 20 minute taxi ride to the port. Kokura Port is a 10 minute walk from Kokura Station. More details.

Beppu, Oita Prefecture
Beppu Port is a 10 minute bus ride from Beppu Station.

Usuki, Oita Prefecture
The ferry terminal in Usuki is a 15-20 minute walk or short taxi ride from Usuki Station.

Saiki, Oita Prefecture
The ferry terminal in Saiki is a ten minute walk from Saiki Station.

Miyazaki
Miyazaki Port is about 15 minute bus or taxi ride from Miyazaki Station.

Shibushi, Kagoshima Prefecture
Shibushi is located 90 kilometers east of Kagoshima and south of Miyazaki (150 minutes by bus from Kagoshima or 2.5 hours, 2130 yen by JR local train from Miyazaki). The port is a short taxi ride from Shibushi Station.

Kagoshima
Kagoshima's Port consists of a main port and a new port. The main port (used by most ferries) can be reached in a 10-15 minute walk from Izurodori tram stop or a 15-20 minute bus ride from Kagoshima Chuo Station. The new port (used by A-Line and Marix Line Ferries to Naha) can be reached in a 10 minute taxi ride from Kagoshima Chuo Station. More details.

Naha, Okinawa Prefecture
Naha has three ports: Naha Port, Naha Tomari Port and Naha New Port. Most long distance ferries use either Naha Port or Naha New Port. More details.

Japan Ferry Pass 21

The Japan Ferry Pass 21 provides up to six trips on selected long-distance ferry routes across Japan within a 21 day period. The pass costs 21,000 yen and is not available to residents of Japan. Pass holders are entitled to ride ferries in the 2nd class and have the option to upgrade to a higher class or bring vehicles by paying extra. The pass cannot be used during peak seasons, including Golden Week, Obon and New Year. Ferries must be reserved at least five days in advance.

The routes covered by the Japan Ferry Pass 21 are shown below: