In this fourth installment of the multipart series introducing my favourite Japanese moorage ports, I feature three ports in eastern Kyushu.
For cruisers coming from the south, I recommend going up Kyushu’s west coast rather than the east coast because it has more interesting historical and cultural sights, more beautiful scenery, and more and better moorage options. For those in a hurry to get to the Seto Inland Sea, however, one has no choice but to go along the east coast.
The east coast is problematic mainly because many of the ports tend to be shallow. The only marina along the coast – Sun Marina Miyazaki – is often closed to visitors because the entrance becomes too shallow (in extreme conditions, even people who moor their boats there are not allowed to exit or enter). And, at spring tides, many fishing ports have less than two meters of depth (I try to only recommend ports that have at least 2.5 meters of depth at all times).
In addition, the few large commercial ports along the coast are not attractive, especially because the walls are very high. That is particularly the case for the main Miyazaki port.
But it is nevertheless possible to do an enjoyable harbour-hop along the east coast (I’ve done it twice), and so here are my three favourite spots, going from south to north.
Tucked into the end of a well-protected bay near the southeastern tip of Kyushu is the fishing port of Uchinoura.
Uchinoura is best known for being the location of one of Japan’s two main rocket-launching stations. It is used primarily to launch scientific satellites and to track satellites and interplanetary space probes. Guided tours (in Japanese only) are available at the launch station. (Japan’s other launch station, used for launching larger rockets, is at nearby Tanegashima Island, which is a popular stop for cruisers going to/from Okinawa).
Approaching Uchinoura, be sure to avoid the extensive aquaculture areas. Also, note that major construction changed the size and location of the breakwaters at the entrance a few years ago, so what you see may be different from what is indicated on your charts if they are not up-to-date.
Moorage can be found at the northern end of the fishing port. There is room along the wall for about three visiting boats. (31°16.7368’N, 131°4.7516’E)
There is a very nice onsen hot-spring bath about a 15-minute walk to the north, with a convenience store a few minutes beyond that. About 10 minutes to the west is the small commercial district, with a good supermarket and a few local eateries.
Kamae is a well-protected fishing port about 110 NMs north of Uchinoura. That’s obviously too far for most pleasure craft to do in a day, so one has to stop once or twice along the way – acceptable options include Aburatsu, Kadogawa, and Nobeoka, but none of them are among my “favourites.”
Approaching Kamae, be sure to avoid the many aquaculture areas. Moorage can be found in the far northeast corner of the port. To make getting on/off your boat easier, make use of the set of steps cut into the concrete wall or one of the ladders. (32°48.0385’N, 131°55.5204’E).
Within a five-minute walk of one’s boat, there is a restaurant (Kosaka) that allows one to use their bath for a modest fee (and the food is good too), a laundromat, a post office, two supermarkets, and a Michi no Eki (“Road Station”) that sells fresh fish and other local products and has a restaurant serving excellent seafood dishes.
I’ve heard a rumour that the fishing co-op has started (or will start) charging a “modest” (?) moorage fee for visiting boats, but I don’t know how accurate that is.
The only place along the Kyushu east coast that I consider a “destination” (i.e., worth going out of your way to visit) is the island of Onyujima and the nearby town of Saiki.
Moorage can be found on the west coast of Onyujima, at an Umi no Eki (“Sea Station”) that has a very solid, large dock that can accommodate two boats up to about 60’. Looking from the sea, the left side of the dock is preferable because it gets less wake from the water taxi that zips in and out and is less likely to be buffeted by strong winds. (32°59.9417’N, 131°55.3132’E)
Just in front of the dock is a restaurant, whose friendly owners manage the Umi no Eki (closed on Wednesdays). Moorage is free and reservations are recommended (firstname.lastname@example.org; 0972-23-2535).
As noted above, a water taxi stops at the dock about every hour and whisks passengers to the town of Saiki, 15 minutes away. From the boat, it’s about a 10-minute walk to the train station, next to which is a tourist information office where one can get sightseeing information in various languages and rent a bicycle to explore the town.
Saiki was the prosperous capital of a small domain from the early 17th century to the Meiji Restoration in 1868, and it is now considered one of the best-maintained samurai villages in Japan. Along the 700-meter-long cobblestone Road of History and Literature are temples, shrines, samurai homes, tea houses, and many other reminders of Saiki’s glorious past…and when the cherry trees along the road are in full bloom it is truly breathtaking. At the southern end of the Road there is an excellent museum (although there is little English-language information), as well as a path that goes up a steep hill to the ruins of Saiki Castle from which one has a panoramic view of the town and sea.