In this ninth installment of the multipart series on my favourite Japanese moorage ports, I introduce three ports on the central part of Honshu’s Sea of Japan coast, going from south to north.
There are many places to spend the night along this section of the Sea of Japan coast, making for easy daily hops. Included in these are three that I consider “Must Visit” ports.
Ine is a gem. Lining the harbour shore are hundreds of funaya boat houses. In days past, fishermen moored their boats underneath the house and lived above. Although boats have gotten bigger, and so now they are anchored in front of the houses, it’s still a magical setting.
Ine is also a great typhoon hole. Surrounded by high hills on three sides and with an island protecting the mouth of the bay, one is well protected from wind and waves. I once sat out a typhoon that made almost a direct hit on Ine, generating 80-knot winds on the outside but less than 15 knots at my boat.
Approaching Ine, take care to avoid the many fishing nets near the entrance. In particular, you will need to take a big detour loop around one large aquaculture area to the southeast of the bay entrance.
Moorage can be found in a small basin at the north end of Ine Bay. It’s a wall tie, but the wall is low and the tidal range is small. There’s room for 2-3 visitor boats on the south side of the east wall (red dot on the map; 35°40'27.4"N 135°17'15.9"E). In addition, there’s room for 1-2 boats along the inside of the small breakwater if there is no Coast Guard or Police boat there.
There are no public baths in Ine, but just to the north of where you would moor there is the Waterfront Inn (blue dot), a converted funaya that usually allows cruisers to use the bath if you have dinner there – the food and setting are superb.
Just opposite the moorage spot is Mukai Shuzo sake brewery (yellow dot). The sake is excellent, and picking up a few bottles there is somewhat of a tradition for local cruisers. Their guest book is full of cruisers’ comments and boat cards…add yours to the collection.
Fukuura’s excellent natural harbour, with north and south arms, has made it a popular place for sailors to stop for over a thousand years. In Nihon Shoki (Chronicles of Japan), issued in 720, Fukuura is recommended as a place for sailors seeking safe harbour.
From the 17th to early 20th centuries, Fukuura was a major port of call for kitamaebune trading boats that bought and sold goods in their annual passages from Osaka to southern Hokkaido and back. When I was there, the head of the local fishing co-operative showed me a photograph taken around 1900 that showed over 200 kitamaebune boats moored side-by-side in the port, so tightly packed that it looked like one could walk across them to the opposite shore.
Fukuura was home to Japan’s first Western-style wooden lighthouse (1876) and the first Coast Guard station on the Sea of Japan coast.
Today, Fukuura is a very quiet, almost deserted, village. But walking along the narrow streets on the steep hill overlooking the port one is transported back to life in the 8th century.
There are three possible places to moor in Fukuura. In the two times I was there, I tucked into the southeast corner of the south arm (red dot; 37°04'56.7"N 136°43'38.0"E) – that happens to be right in front of the fishing co-op, so somebody will probably come out to confirm that you’re just staying for a day or two and are not in the way of other boats. Moorage can also sometimes be found on the north side of the south arm (blue dot). Failing that, the yellow dot marks a designated place for visiting boats, although it’s a bit exposed to surge in stormy conditions or westerly winds.
Fukuura does not have a public bath or any shops, but it’s a delightful place to chill out!
Ogi, Sado Island, Niigata
Ogi is on the southwestern corner of Sado Island and a popular place for cruisers going to/from Hokkaido.
Ogi has recently been registered as an Umi no Eki (Sea Station), so you can make a reservation by calling 0259-86-3153, although you would probably not have a problem even if you arrived without a reservation (except when Ogi’s popular performing-arts festival is being held, usually in late August). The designated Umi no Eki moorage spot is on the east side of the harbour, marked by the red dot (37°48'52.5"N 138°16'48.6"E); their website says there is room for two boats, but four boats can easily moor there. Register at the nearby building (which also has restrooms).
Alternatively, one can moor on the opposite side of the port, at the area marked by the blue dot. Local sailors moor their boats there, but there’s usually room for 2-3 boats at the northern end of that wall.
As to whether to moor on the east side or the west side of the harbour, I suggest choosing whichever location is likely to be most comfortable considering the forecast winds.
What is unique, and appreciated, about Ogi is that local officials have clearly gone out of their way to accommodate the special mooring needs of cruisers. At both of those moorage locations, they lowered the wall about 75cm to make it easier to get on/off one’s boat, put plastic strips along the edge of the wall to protect docklines, replaced the large black vertical bumpers on the wall with smaller ones that don’t snag fenders, and installed small, people-friendly bollards (instead of the massive ones intended for use by large commercial ships).
Within walking distance of the port are several restaurants, a good supermarket, and an excellent hot spring bath. At the nearby Tourist Information Office, you can learn more about the many sightseeing opportunities near Ogi and all over Sado. Although getting around by bus is possible, I recommend renting a car to make the most of your time in Sado.
One stereotypical, but fun, thing to do in Ogi is to take a ride in a taraibune tub boat!