Japan is one of the fastest growing cruise regions

Seven of the best things to do in Japan

Author: World of Cruising

Published on:

Updated on:

International travel to Japan is back on the agenda, and a cruise is arguably the best way to experience the country's distinctive blend of ancient and modern for yourself.

The Land of the Rising Sun has reopened its doors to tourists (albeit with strict conditions) for the first time since 2020, after implementing some of the world's toughest Covid-19 restrictions.

Unique is an overused word but Japan is unlike any country you’ve ever visited: skyscrapers illuminated by neon lights sit side-by-side with traditional temples, tea houses, and ryokans (Japanese inns) showing what happens when East meets West.

Here are seven reasons to book a cruise to Japan.

Karaoke culture
Want to let your hair down like a local and not a foreigner (gaijin)? Head to a karaoke (KTV) bar – popular among office workers and high school students alike. Ready to belt out a bit of Bon Jovi or Britney? You’ll find a Karaoke bar on virtually every street corner but two chains to keep an eye out for include Big Echo and Karaoke-kan.

Tokyo is famous for its neon lights
Tokyo is famous for its neon lights

Weird and wonderful shopping
If Japan had a national sport, it would be shopping. Traditional omiyage (souvenirs) to snap up on your cruise include silk kimonos, matcha products, and fine ceramics. Watching your wallet? Don’t miss Tokyo’s 100 yen stores where you can pick up anything and everything for only 100 yen (a snip at just 60p)

Sensational sushi and ramen
Yes, meals may be included on your cruise but whatever you do, don’t pass up the chance to dine in Japan. Make no mistake: food is another part of Japan’s short break pleasures. Get stuck into ultra-fresh sushi and other Japanese staples such as ramen, curry rice, and onigiri (rice balls filled with tuna, meat, or plum). Trust us: your tastebuds will thank you.

Catch the cherry blossom
If you can, aim to coincide your cruise with cherry blossom season. Watching pink petals flutter around you is a not-to-be-missed experience. Cherry blossoms typically appear from the end of March and are in bloom until early May. You’ll have no trouble seeing cherry blossoms all over Japan but top spots to try to include the traditional Golden Route (Tokyo, Kyoto, and Mt Fuji), Hakodate in Hokkaido, Tenshochi in Kitakami, and Tohoku, north of Tokyo.

There are few sights as beautiful as Japan during cherry blossom season
There are few sights as beautiful as Japan during cherry blossom season

- READ MORE: A complete guide to Japan's cherry blossom season -

Experience an onsen
Japan is famous for its onsens (natural hot springs baths) but stripping off and bathing in your birthday suit might not sound especially appealing to most Brits. However, if you can put your modesty to one side and take the plunge you’ll be pleased you did: it’s a treasured Japanese pastime steeped in thousands of years of tradition that is not only relaxing but has a number of therapeutic benefits. Local lore has it that soaking in an onsen aids your circulation, metabolism, and absorption of essential minerals.

Sleep in a ryokan
If you’re planning a pre or post-cruise package in Japan, be sure to book into a ryokan – a traditional Japanese inn – for at least one night. Expect to be requested to leave your shoes in the reception area before being served a cup of tea and shown to your room where tatami mats, futon beds, and sliding paper doors come as standard. Factor in local-style meals and soaks in a communal bath and you’re guaranteed a quintessentially Japanese experience.

- READ MORE: Japanese swords, Hawaiian garlands & Scottish music weird & wonderful skills to learn on a cruise -

See a sumo match
Sumo wrestling is arguably the most popular of Japanese sports and if you get a chance to attend a match, you should grab it with both hands. Where and when else will you be able to watch two world-class wrestlers grapple with each other in mawashi (loin cloths) in a ring? Tournaments typically take place six times a year: January, May, and September in Tokyo, March in Osaka, July in Nagoya, and November in Fukuoka.

14-day China and Gems of Japan cruise includes stops at Ishigaki Island, Hirara, Naha, and Naze. Departs April 8, 2023, from £6,699pp.

Find your ideal cruise

Search for the best cruises to Japan