I have cruised twice in Japan, each time for about 4 months, in 1989 and in 1996.
We would time it to leave Hong Kong
in February so that we got a chance to experience the Cherry Blossom Season that starts earlier in the South and can last up to June further North.
A Beginner's Guide to Cherry Blossom Viewing: Popular Hanami Spots
It is a wonderful time of festivals, great food
, special sakes and the Japanese at their most relaxed and hospitable best.
We liked southern Japan better as they see fewer foreigners and the small towns you visit by yacht will treat you like royalty.
My favorite route
when reaching the main islands was to go up the west side of Kushyu… out to the Goto Islands then refurbish in Nagasaki before heading north, exploring the island castles near Sasebo, then turning towards the Inland Sea stopping near Fukuoka for their wonderful cottage industry of incredible porcelain at Arita
The Inland Sea (Seto Nakai) is a huge transport hub but what amazes me about Japan is that heavy industry and bonsai gardens can co-exist. If time permits, the SW area of Shikoku Island have some incredible monasteries and baths.
Heading back up towards Hiroshima there is Miyajima famous for its Tori Gates
Miyajima Travel Guide
Great place to tie up for a while and wander an island full of tourists, free roaming deer and rascally monkeys up on the mountain top. A world heritage site and religious island with apparently no recorded births or deaths allowed on the island.
From there towards Osaka, there are hundreds of interesting stops with Museum Islands housing national treasures (mostly samurai swords) and puppeteers near the fast waters and whirlpools of Awaji Shima.
In general, the further north you go, the more industrial and the people tend to give you a New York
minute, so we stayed low before heading across to North America.
On a sad note Mura on S.V. Shadow of Lorelie (Fast Forward’s link) died a few months ago here in Subic, few times I spoke with him, they loved Japan and certainly had a full life cruising.