Three Popular Ports in Japan

by GoWithGuide travel specialist

If you interested in learning about the history of trade and commerce in Japan, the opening of Japanese borders to the rest of the world, then read on for three of the largest ports and piers in Japan. Take in the scenery, explore the inside of a Japanese trading vessel, or enjoy the surrounding entertainment and attractions:

Osanbashi Pier

Since its opening in 1859, it has developed into an international port linking Japan with other countries. Osanbashi was born in the 19th century which signified the end of the Edo Era and the beginnings of modernization and internationalization but was damaged during the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake. Despite its reconstruction in 1925, the times took Japan into war, and the pier underwent a lot of turbulent periods such as the Second World War after which it was taken over by the Allies. Afterwards, with Japan entering a period of high economic growth from the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, there was a plan for the international terminal to achieve high functionality, and so it was developed once again to regain prominence.  

In 1975, the Queen Elizabeth II entered the pier for the first time, and so it was reaffirmed as a port of call for luxury liners. Moreover, in 1989, undergoing major renovations, the current Osanbashi international passenger terminal was completed. The pier naturally handles both domestic and overseas cruise liners, and is a relaxation area for the local citizens with a restaurant and café. It has become well-liked as an international passenger terminal that isn’t just for passengers but also for city residents with events such as weekend concerts.

Osanbashi Pier is a visual highlight with the concept of a garden port that was designed by England-based architects Alejandro Zaera-Polo and Farshid Moussavi. The 2nd floor has facilities such as the lobby with an information booth, ticket office, waiting lounge, Customs & Immigration and quarantine inspection. As well, there is a hall which can be utilized for many purposes along with commercial facilities and a restaurant. On the 3rd floor, there is wood decking all over with grass. Filled with an open and wide feeling, the novel design which evokes that feeling of nature hints at a park that is on the water. During holidays, the plaza is filled with local residents relaxing while viewing ships coming into port, and there are especially many sightseers there to catch the sight of large passenger ships going in and out.  

The terminal can be accessed for free by everybody and the rooftop plaza is open 24 hours a day, so it’s great to spend time there to see the nightscape. From the plaza, you can have a good view of the Minato Mirai 21 area and Yokohama Bay Bridge. It’s also great to spend time at the café or restaurant while seeing the glittering scenery. At Osanbashi, which has been nicknamed “Kujira-no-Senaka” (The Whale’s Back) by the locals, spend a day there leisurely viewing the ships and enjoying the scenery of the Yokohama waterfront. 

Admission: Free

Guidebook from Planetyze about Osanbashi Pier
Reviews from TripAdvisor about Osanbashi Pier
Tours of Osanbashi Pier


(image by

From 1550, Nagasaki was developed as a trading port with Portugal. However, the increase in followers of Christianity within the country and their unity was becoming formidable to the shogunate, and in 1634, the fan-shaped artificial island of Dejima was built over 2 years to amass and control the Portuguese in one area so as to prevent the spread of Christianity. Afterwards, the Portuguese were expelled from the country and for 200 years, trade and diplomacy between Japan and the outside world continued to be restricted as a policy of Sakoku. During that time, only Holland showed its loyalty to the shogunate, and gaining its trust, a Danish trading firm was moved to Dejima. During Sakoku, Holland became the only Western trading partner and the island played an instrumental role in the modernization of Japan as an exchange base for finance, culture and art.

Since 1900, the role of Dejima ended and its original form has been lost since the area around the island was filled up, but currently, there is construction to restore its historical legacy. At this time on Dejima, there are 49 buildings representing residences, dining rooms, warehouses, guard houses, etc. and 10 of them have been restored for visits. You can follow the changes in Dejima while viewing the remains over 4 eras such as the original Edo Era stonewall breakwaters where the Portuguese had lived, the closing days of the Tokugawa Shogunate when Ryoma Sakamoto and his followers were rebelling, Dejima’s stone warehouses after the opening of the country and the valuable wooden Western-style buildings during the Meiji Era. Avenues are recreated as if you went back in time, restored buildings have become museums, the history and lifestyle of Dejima are on display, and life at that time has been recreated. Access from within Nagasaki is excellent and there is a dining facility known as Nagasaki Dejima Wharf nearby with a fine view of the seaside where there are many places where you can try fresh seafood in Japanese, Chinese, and Italian establishments and cafes.

Admission: Adult: ¥ 510 / Child: ¥ 100

Guidebook from Planetyze about Dejima 
Reviews from TripAdvisor about Dejima 
Tours of Dejima 

The Port of Nagoya

(image by

The Port of Nagoya is the largest international trading port in the country where many cargo ships can be seen daily. It’s recommended to take a leisurely walk there while feeling the sea breeze. Also at the port, up to 40 luxury liners and domestic/overseas cruise ships arrive during the year, so it’s a treat to be able to see them up close. The Garden Pier is located close by at the Port of Nagoya’s Old No. 2 Chisan Pier where you can enjoy facilities such as a museum and an aquarium.  

The 63-meter-high Port Building is a white building which stands out as a symbol of the Garden Pier. On the 7th floor of the building which is right by the sea, there is an observation deck where you can get a 360-degree view of the port. Also on the 3rd floor, there is the Nagoya Marine Museum where you can tour the history of the Port of Nagoya and the exhibits of ships. Leaving the Port Building, you will soon come across a large orange ship. This is the Antarctic exploration vessel Fuji which was in operation for 18 years starting from 1965. After completing its tour of duty in 1985, it was permanently moored at the port and now serves as a ship museum. On the opposite side of the Port Building, there is the Port of Nagoya Public Aquarium. At one of the world’s largest main pools, you can enjoy a dolphin show. Divided into North and South Wings, the North Wing has the theme of the birth and evolution of life while in the South Wing, there are exhibits under the theme of marine life in the oceans from the port to the South Pole. Also, the North Wing features killer whales, dolphins and earless seals, and in the South Wing, you can observe the varieties of marine life such as sea turtles and penguins along with the fish inhabiting the Sea of Japan. If you come to the Port of Nagoya, please visit the museum and aquarium to learn and appreciate about the port and the ocean.

Admission: Various

Guidebook from Planetyze about The Port of Nagoya
Reviews from TripAdvisor about The Port of Nagoya
Tours of The Port of Nagoya