An Insider's Guide to the Best Cruise Ports in Japan and What to Eat There
Updated: May 13
This season for the sakura (cherry blossoms), my family embarked on a cruise around the best Japanese cruise ports. Armed with knowledge from previous visits to Japan, and insider intel on what to eat in each port, finding food and entertainment was no problem. Follow along for what to eat at each of Japan's best cruise ports.
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1) What to Eat in Tokyo Cruise Port
Tokyo contains so much population density that it's really difficult to pinpoint one regional specialty to try. The sky's the limit here - go for okonomiyaki, yakiniku, ramen, tempura, sushi, kaiseki, and more. With so many options, you need to study up a little bit in advance on Japanese dining.
Luckily, if you have a hankering for something, it's probably easy to find, but just keep in mind that each of the above specialties are typically the one main thing served up at each restaurant.
For instance, you can only get ramen at a ramen place, or only get okonomiyaki at an okonomiyaki place. Of course over-generalized, this is a rule of thumb, as most places will have some sides or other options.
In Tokyo, there is so much going on that it may be best just to try the street food and try a little bit of everything!
2) What to Eat in Shimizu Cruise Port
Shimizu is the #1 tuna fishing port in Japan and 40% of Japan's green tea comes from nearby Shizuoka. That means you need to definitely make time for both.
Your best bet as a cruiser is to simply get off the ship and walk down to the Kachi-no-ichi fish market. With over 20 restaurants and food stalls to choose from, you can most assuredly find what you are looking for.
Look for specialties including shirasu - raw whitebaits (better to skip this...) and sakura ebi – cherry shrimps (you can get them crispy fried - delicious!).
At the fish market look for Ichiba-kan (the market side with a couple restaurants) and Maguro-kan (this offers about 15 restaurants).
If you've got the time, research tea farms to visit.
3) What to Eat in Osaka Cruise Port
Osaka is a well located port within reach of so many side trip options including Kyoto, Kobe, and Nara - all worth visiting.
If you visit Kyoto, look into the riverside dining options called "kibune river dining". If you're there the right time of year (late spring through hot summer months) you can try the fun and interactive dining called "nagashi somen".
This is literally a bamboo waterslide for cold noodles served down a track towards diners. You must catch your noodles with your chopsticks and plop them in a sauce before eating. What a fun way to beat the heat!
If you go to Nara, the most fun here is to feed the deer. You'll find typical Japanese snack stalls, but the deer get to eat here. It's a great time and they are very friendly.
In Kobe, I don't need to say it - Kobe Beef is the ticket. If you can stay for dinner, Steak House Kokubu and La Shomon get my vote. While you are in Kobe, check out the Nada District for visiting multiple sake breweries.
Some options for old-style brewing and museums include:
Kiku-Masamune Shuzo Kinenkan
Hakutsuru Sake Brewery Museum
Kobe Shu-shin-kan Breweries
Finally, if staying put in Osaka then the most recommended items include:
kushikatsu (tempura fried everything on sticks)
okonomiyaki (cabbage pancake with fixings)
takoyaki (octopus balls)
It's best to take an organized food tour to get the most out of the amazing and bountiful street food experiences you can find in Osaka.
4) What to Eat in Kochi Cruise Port
There's really only one thing to say here: Katsuo Tataki.
This seared bonito is perfectly cooked, skin on, with a touch of flake salt. Find it at the local market Hirome Ichiba or as part of a full day tour exploring all of Kochi's markets and attractions.
For me, this was a game-changing experience. The bonito was unlike anything I had tried before, and served with lime juice and garlic chips was simply unreal. Other area restaurants offered this dish and frankly, they looked gross. Get the good stuff at Hirome market.
5) What to Eat in Hiroshima Cruise Port
Don't spend all your time focusing on war memorials and museums here - where you really want to be is Miyajima Island.
Aside from delicious chocolate candy covered ice cream treats and friendly deer to feed, this island is known for one major foodie delight - oysters.
Get your oysters grilled with cheese and five spice or go for bold with oyster okonomiyaki. Whatever you do, eat some oysters!
Another classic treat on the island is the maple cake. Typically stuffed with bean paste, this cake flavor can be found in Kit Kat bars, waffle treats and traditional sponge cake all over the island shops.
Hiroshima isn't just Miyajima Island though. Take a tour of the best Hiroshima foods on offer or partake in an okonomiyaki cooking class for something a little off the beaten path!