For foreigners, one of the most surprising aspects of cruising Japan is that one rarely anchors. Most of the well-protected harbors are fishing or commercial ports (where anchoring is prohibited and which have so much junk on the seabed that one would probably lose one's anchor) or are full of aquaculture operations. Fortunately, though, Japan has many great, and generally cheap, moorage options.
Japan has over 2,500 fishing ports, so one is almost never more than a few hours away from a well-protected harbor. One can almost always find a place to tie up (the exceptions being crowded fishing ports near big cities, especially Tokyo and Osaka) and moorage is generally free – in six years of cruising Japan, I've never been unable to find a moorage spot in a fishing port and I've only been asked to pay twice. Here are photos of Silk Purse at the fishing ports of Taisha, Ishikawa, and Ikenma, Kakeroma Island, Kagoshima.
Read more on How to Moor in Japanese Fishing Ports in a "Kirk's Take" column.
There are over 100 marinas that can accommodate visiting cruisers (although not all can handle larger boats). The facilities are generally excellent, the staff friendly, and the fees reasonable (generally lower than at comparable marinas in other developed countries). Here are photos of Silk Purse at Fukuoka City Yacht Harbor (north Kyushu) and Oarai Marina, Ibaragi (Pacific coast).
Read more about Japanese Marinas in a "Kirk's Take" column.
Umi no Eki
Japan has a nationwide network of over 170 Umi no Eki (Sea Stations) that offer visitor moorage. About 100 of them are marinas, but the other 70 are visitor-only "mini-marinas" that can accommodate only a few boats (sometimes just one). Moorage at the mini-marinas is typically cheap and occasionally free. Here are photos of Silk Purse moored at two of the best Umi no Eki, at Yuge, Ehime, and at Ohmishima, Ehime (both in the Seto Inland Sea).
Some local fishing co-operatives operate their own marinas, referred to as Fisherinas. There are about 30 Fisherinas, many of which are simple facilities catering primarily to small pleasure-fishing boats but some are on a par with marinas. Here are photos of Silk Purse at Fisherinas in Ukujima, Nagasaki (the northernmost island in the Goto Islands, off Kyushu's west coast), and in Amakusa (an area of inland seas and islands in western Kyushu).
Here and there throughout Japan, one can find docks that visitors can use, usually for free, for a few days — some are specifically for visitors (but not registered Umi no Eki) while others are just unused. In addition, as bridges connect many of Japan's islands to the mainland, ferry docks are often available for short-term moorage (with some of them registered as Umi no Eki). And even some actively used ferry docks allow visitors to moor on the side not used by the ferry (typically the left side of the dock looking from the water). (Note, though, that floating docks in fishing ports are almost always for the exclusive 24/7 use of fishing boats and any cruiser who tries to moor there will be chased away.) Here are photos of Silk Purse moored at a ferry dock at Ikejima, Nagasaki, and at an unused dock near Watazumi Shrine at Tsushima, Nagasaki.
And, of course, Japan does have some lovely anchoring spots too. In particular, one can find good anchorages in many of the Ryukyu Islands in southern Japan, in the Goto Islands off Kyushu's west coast, in Tsushima's Aso Bay, and in some parts of the Seto Inland Sea. This drone photo shows Konpira Consulting's first client, M/V Buffalo Nickel, anchored off of Naru Island in the Goto Islands.
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