In this tenth installment of the multipart series on my favourite Japanese moorage ports, I introduce three ports on the northern part of Honshu’s Sea of Japan coast, going from south to north. I also briefly mention four other ports that, although not favourites, are good moorage options for boats travelling to/from Hokkaido.
As mentioned previously, the western/central part of the Sea of Japan is my favourite Japanese cruising area, especially because of the interesting history and culture and many cozy ports. As one travels north, the attractions become fewer and the ports less cozy (both reflecting the fact that the harsh winters have made the area more of a backwater), but there are nevertheless several gems along the coast….and the warmth of the people make up for the cold climate.
About 60NMs north of Ogi on Sado Island, and about 12NMs off of the Honshu coast lies the island of Awashima. It’s a ruggedly lovely island with friendly people.
Approaching the main port, on Awashima’s east coast, be careful to avoid the extensive aquaculture areas both north and south of the entrance. Moorage (wall tie) can be found at 38°28'04.0"N 139°15'19.9"E. Being a bit exposed, it can be a rather bouncy and should probably be avoided if very strong easterly or northerly winds are forecast.
Immediately in front of the moorage spot is a lovely café run by a couple who left the mainland to raise their children in a more relaxing, natural environment. And a few minutes away is a delightful onsen (hot spring bath). There are a few modest restaurants in town, some open just during the summer.
To explore the island, bicycles are available (free) at the nearby town hall. The wild west coast is beautiful and has a few rocky beaches, but the island is very hilly so be prepared for a workout!
The fishing co-operative at the south end of fishing port will fill diesel jerry cans and may offer to drive you back to the boat with them.
On the western end of the Oga Peninsula, about 90NMs north of Awashima, is the small fishing port of Toga. The approach is a bit tricky, with reefs and islets on both sides of the entrance, but it’s calm once inside. Moorage (wall tie) can be found at 39°57'31.1"N 139°42'41.9"E.
With its natural, well-protected harbour, Toga was an active, flourishing fishing port for centuries, and in the post-war era it was a popular vacation destination for people attracted to its (once-lovely) beach and hot spring baths. Today, though, Toga is a classic, extreme example of the depopulation of rural Japan – all the inns, restaurants, baths, and shops are closed, there are no children and therefore no schools, and many of the houses have been torn down and replaced by vegetable gardens tended by the few remaining, largely elderly, residents. In a generation, Toga will probably be a ghost town.
So I recommend Toga not because of its many attractions but precisely because it has no attractions. It’s a poignant illustration of what happens when a country’s population shrinks. Walking the town’s abandoned streets and overgrown boardwalk, one gains a vivid insight into the challenges facing Japan’s policy makers as they grapple with the consequences of a national population forecast to decline to 40% of its current level by the end of the century.
Going further north, about 50NMs from Toga, is Fukaura (entrance: 40°38'47.6"N 139°55'24.5"E), another fishing port in a well-protected natural bay (although exposed to the west). Like Awashima and Toga, one needs to be careful to avoid nets near the entrance.
There are two moorage options.
- The outer end of the west side of a concrete dock (red dot).
- A concrete wall in front of a park (blue dot), tying up either to bollards at the far eastern end or to a fence that runs along the wall.
Like other towns along this coast, Fukaura is rather non-descript. It does, though, have one noteworthy attraction: a small but interesting museum on Fukaura’s history as a major port for Kitamae boats. From the early 17th century to the late 19th century, these boats plied the waters from Osaka through the Seto Inland Sea and up the Sea of Japan coast to southwest Hokkaido, buying and selling goods along the way. Single-sail square-rigged boats, they were very weather dependent and so made frequent stops to wait for favourable wind conditions.
Fukaura has several small shops and restaurants, as well as a hot-spring bath about a 20-minute (uphill) walk inland.
Other Moorage Options
Here are few other moorage options that cruisers heading to/from Hokkaido might find useful.
Tobishima is a convenient place to stop between Awashima and Toga. On my two visits there, finding a place to moor was a bit tricky because of the large number of local boats and port construction activity, but I managed.
For boats heading north, this is one of the last full-service marinas before leaving for Alaska. It has a visitor dock, which can accommodate boats up to about 60’, a 50-ton travel lift, and a fuel dock. It has a well-earned reputation for helping foreign cruisers in distress. It is, though, located in an industrial park, far away from the city and shops.
There are smaller sister marinas in Honjo (to the south) and Oga (to the north).
About 25NMs north of Fukaura, Ajigasawa is a large fishing port that offers several moorage options for visiting cruisers. On the two occasions I visited Ajigasawa, I moored at the spot marked by a yellow star, but other cruisers have found space in different locations.
Further north is Kodomari, another large fishing port and a popular jumping off point for boats headed to Hakodate. The yellow star marks the most popular moorage location for cruisers, but one can likely find space elsewhere in the harbour.