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5 of the best cruises to Japan

Cruise Advice

As host to the Rugby World Cup in 2019 and the Olympics in 2020, Japan is firmly on the radar for travellers right now.

Quite apart from the vibrant cities, the spectacular scenery and the contrasting islands, visitors to Japan return talking of something else altogether: the calm, the strangeness, the moments of zen beauty, the bowing, so respectful and contained; in short, the graciousness of an ancient heritage.

Japan boasts a multifaceted culture, steeped in the most ancient traditions overlaid by extraordinary fashions and technological developments. Every region is different, with amazing contrasts: the soaring mountains of the Japan Alps, the volcanic landscapes of Kyushu island, the temples and shrines of Kyoto, and the northern island of Hokkaido. To experience these contrasts, a cruise is an excellent option, carrying you effortlessly from region to region.

Himeji castle, Japan

Along the way you will learn so much about the people and their religion and conventions, the Geisha and the Samurai, theatre, manga and anime, and above all, the extraordinary obsession with hanami - cherry blossom viewing - in the Spring. If you are wondering why there are so many April and May departures, cherry blossom is the answer!

Cherry blossom season, Mount Fuji, Japan

If Japan is on your list, we recommend you don't delay - some itineraries as far ahead as 2021 are already sold out. Here are our top five Japan cruise options for 2020 and 2021…

Best for all-inclusive luxury...

Two captivating 14-night itineraries on board the lovely Silver Muse in April 2021, each sailing round-trip from Tokyo on a circumnavigation of Honshu island, are well worth a second look. These are a great choice for a busy schedule of exploration to give you an excellent overview of the country, from the outstanding comfort of Silversea's intimate 596-guest flagship, Silver Muse.

Geishas outside Senso-ji temple, Tokyo

Best choice of itineraries...

Cunard's Queen Elizabeth gives you so many options to choose from in Spring and Autumn 2020 and 2021. Combine southern and northern Japan cruises for an in-depth 18-night voyage, or pick an itinerary to the rarely visited southern islands, and you will return home stimulated by your comprehensive exploration of this extraordinary land.

Kochi castle, Japan

Best for cultural insight...

Ponant's 260-guest Le Soléal offers an Immersion in Japanese Culture departing 30th May 2020, with lots of fascinating inclusions and enhancements such as a private audience with the Abbot of Kofukuji Temple in Nagasaki, and lectures and discussions with cultural historian Timon Screech and landscape design experts Holly and Osamu Shimizu. For a Japan trip with a difference, this is one to look at.

Floating shrine in Miyajima, Japan

Best premium value...

Holland America Line's Noordam, with 1,924 guests, is something of a destination in her own right, with lots going on in true Holland America style. Put that together with her 14-night round-trip itinerary departing Yokohama on 10th April 2021, including a call at Vladivostok in Russia, and you have quite a special trip, at a very attractive price, particularly in the spacious Signature Suites. There are plenty of 2020 options too.

Snow monkeys in an onsen in Hakodate, Japan

The best of the rest…

Other options include Oceania's Nautica, Celebrity's Millennium, Azamara Pursuit and Viking Ocean Cruises, all with departures in April 2021.

Meet the author

Edwina Lonsdale is Managing Director and together with husband Matthew, owner of Mundy Cruising. Most recently she's cruised on Windstar and has also sailed with Silversea, Seabourn, Regent Seven Seas, Crystal, SeaDream, Ponant, AmaWaterways and Aqua Expeditions. Her favourite destination is the Galapagos however she's also enjoyed cruises in the Mediterranean, Danube, Middle East, East Africa & Indian Ocean, Brahmaputra, Vietnam/Cambodia/Laos & Mekong, Thailand/Singapore/Malaysia & Philippines, Caribbean and the Arctic. When she’s not travelling she loves reading, food and wine.

More about Edwina

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