Posted: Summer 2015
In Summer 2005, planning a drive from Narita Airport, Honshu, to Wakkanai, Hokkaidō, I discovered a car ferry crosses the Tsugaru Strait between Ōma, at the northern tip of Honshu to Hakodate, at the southern tip of Hokkaidō. The drive north to Oma was long; but the two-hour 23-mile ocean crossing was pleasant, convenient, and relatively inexpensive; ever since, we've used the ferry system in Japan to get between islands or to cross bays in order to cut driving time between stops.
Ōma-Hakodate Ferry. Summer 2005, Summer 2013
In 2005, the car ferry from Ōma crossed the Tsugaru Strait from Ōma to Hakodate in a little under two hours. We caught the ferry back to Ōma after driving around Hokkaidō for about a week.
In summer 2013, when we took the ferry from Hakodate to Ōma to visit sites in Tōhoku (northern Honshu), the old ferry Vayu had been replaced by the newer, larger Daikan Maru (photo below), which made the crossing in half the time (about an hour).
At the time of our first crossing, I didn't know that the fishing port of Ōma was famous for catching and serving the best hon-maguro (blue-fin tuna sashimi) in Japan, at the best price. In 2013, after landing in Ōma, we stopped in town to eat a maguro bowl; we stopped for another bowl on the way back to Hakodate a week later.
Ōma is famous for the hon-maguro its fishing fleet catches in the Tsugaru Strait.
Across the street from the honmaguro sign was a restaurant where a bowl of maguro over rice, with miso soup and tsukemono, was $25. It was the best meal we ever had in Japan.
$25 Maguro-don at Oma.
On our return trip, he headland of Mt. Hakodate appeared in the sea mist.
Wakkanai-Rebun Ferry, Summer 2005
The ferry leaves from Wakkanai, at the northern tip of Hokkaidō, to the offshore island of Rebun, noted for its good seafood and its summer wildflowers. From Rebun, you can see the neighboring island of Rishiri, with its high peak, known as Rishiri Fuji because of its conic shape.
Niigata-Sado Island Ferry, Fall 2009, Summer 2015
Sado island is about forty miles offshore from Niigata city. The ferry service to Ryotsu includes both a car-and-passenger ferry, and a jetfoil that travels at speeds of over 40 miles per hour and arrives in a little over an hour.
It costs about the same to catch the jetfoil to Sado and rent a car in Ryotsu as it does to take a rental car by ferry to the island; the jetfoil cut travel time of the crossing in half.
Shizuoka to Toi, Izu Peninsula Ferry, Summer 2015
In addition to avoiding the traffic from Shizuoka to Izu, another reason to take the ferry across Suruga Bay is the view of Mt. Fuji from the ocean.
Mt. Fuji, from Suruga Bay
Irago-Toba Ferry, Summer 2012. Spring 2014
Leaving Cape Irago at the tip of the Atsumi Peninsula, Aichi, for Toba, on the other side of Nagoya Bay
Wakayama, Honshu, to Tokushima, Shikoku, Summer 2009
After waking up before dawn and driving to Koyasan then returning to Wakayama (62 miles round-trip) to catch the 11:30 ferry to Tokushima, we must have napped during the 36-mile crossing. No photos. After arriving, we drove south along the eastern coast of Shikoku to Cape Muroto, where we stayed at a ryokan overnight.
The road through Hiwasa, on the way to Cape Muroto at the southeast tip of Shikoku
Ferry from Matsuyama, Shikoku, to Oita, Kyūshū, Fall 2006
Schoolchildren on a class trip taking a group photo on the ferry
Kumamoto to Shimabara, Kyūshū, Fall 2006
Seagulls at Kumamoto Ferry Port
Kagoshima-Sakurajima, Kyūshū, Spring 2011