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Japan for Cruisers - South Central Honshu
Japan for Cruisers - Osaka Bay
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Japan for Cruisers - Kyushu
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Japan for Cruisers - Osaka Bay
Once through Akashi, you are into the wide expanse of Osaka Bay, with many mooring options; the Inland Sea is effectively behind you. Marinas in the area typically cost 40,000 to 70,000 Yen per month (USD $500 to USD $900); rates negotiable, especially if you have a contact; hauling in and out is cheap by US standards, but lay-days on land are expensive.

We began our stay with a free week at the well-protected and very modern Suma Yacht Harbour, in a suburb of Kobe, at 34 38 497N; 135 07.857E. Chartlet Book H-803W p51C; but note that the final entrance to the marina now has a couple more protective walls, necessitating a fairly sharp zig-zag; these appear neither on the chart nor on the Google Earth picture. For the first time since we had left Kyushu, officials (Customs) visited us. Free water and electricity on the (new) pontoons; coin-op showers; free laundry. Gas, diesel and haul-out; very helpful staff. It is ten minutes' walk to the train station, the same to a Max Value supermarket, and a further fifteen minutes by train to downtown Kobe; Kyoto, Nara and Osaka are also easily reached by train; 4 hours to Tokyo by bullet train. Thanks to an introduction, we were adopted by the Suma Owners' Club, who negotiated on our behalf an excellent longterm rate; accordingly we decided to remain here all winter, and hauled out in the Spring (25-ton travelift).

Although ostensibly a modern suburb, with a fine beach, Suma has a very long history and features in Japanese literature as long as 1000 years ago (The Tale of Genji). More recently, it was the inspiration for the Beach Boys' Sumahama; Mike Love is reportedly an occasional visitor.

Moving clockwise from Suma (which is just west of Kobe, on the north shore of Osaka Bay), the next two berthing options are Ashiya and Shin Nishinomiya, which adjoin each other on waterfront half way between Kobe and Osaka. Entrance at 34 42.20N, 135 20 46E, pp 48 and 50 in Chartlet book H-803W. Ashiya is smaller but a lot more expensive: essentially it serves a set of exclusive condos. Shin Nishinomiya is the largest marina in western Japan. It is conveniently located (close to suburban train lines) for Kobe, Osaka, Kyoto and Nara. Modern pontoons with electricity and water; showers; haulout. There is a set of small yacht chandleries in the main building, and a restaurant. Price: upwards of 60,000 Yen per month, no free time offered for foreigners. Safe and convenient but, for our taste, large and impersonal and the staff were not especially interested in discussing a concession for a long term stay.

Hokko Marina, at 34 40' 30”N, 135 24' 30”E, pp 48-49 and 47C in Chartlet book H-803W is the closest marina to Osaka proper. Smaller than Shin Nishinomiya it has all mod cons and welcomes foreigners, but local yachties do complain that it can be subject to the wake of passing ships, located as it is in the heart of Osaka's dockland.

Dejima (Sakai) Marina is in the extreme east of Osaka Bay, deep in the heart of semi-abandoned dockland at approx 34 34' 30” N, 135 27' E, p43A in Chartlet book H-803W. The location is not inspiring – a large highway flyover serves as the backdrop – and the pontoons are a bit rickety, but the location is exceptionally well-protected and it may be possible to negotiate a much lower price here than at other marinas. No showers; public bath (sento) close by. Haulout possible: a crane visits every two weeks or so. The marina is also a working boatyard, run by Japanese yachting legend Katsuichi Nozaki and his son Kosuke (just back from completing a course in yacht design in the UK); www.op-yachts.com; e-mail nozaki-k@op-yachts.com or kosuke@op-yachts.com. Very friendly, helpful people with good English.

On the SE shore of Osaka Bay, sheltered by the artificial island of Kansai International Airport (KIX) is the Aoki Yacht Club, also known as Tajiri: 34 24'N, 135 17'E. P39 in Chartlet book H-803W. If approaching from the NE, a yacht can safely pass under the center span of the highway bridge that links the airport to the mainland. However, the clearance of the second, one-tower road bridge that spans the entrance to the YC is only 42ft (officially....). The entrance is narrow, not easy to make out, and could be tricky in rough weather; inside, a long visitors' pontoon runs NW-SE, with the office at head of the bay. Aoki San, who runs a sailing school here, is a well-known long-distance Japanese cruiser who sailed around the world in a 21-footer. There are convenient suburban trains to Osaka and a large “outlet” shopping complex a few minutes walk away; obviously, this location is very convenient for the international airport, but the noise of the jets may deter from a long term stay. Overnight stays cost USD $20.

SW of Tajiri on the S shore of Osaka Bay, close to its exit into the Pacific, is Tannowa Yacht Harbour; 34 20 18N, 135 10 41E, p34A in Chartlet book H-803W. Lots of space, fair quality pontoons, haulout; active racing scene. Convenient for trains to Osaka, a little less “urban” than most of the above choices, but on the approach to Kansai Intl Airport. Tannowa has a reputation for being exceptionally welcoming towards foreigners; monthly rate around 40,000 Yen (USD $500), first week free. Closed Tuesdays (as are many marinas in the region). E-mail harbourmaster Takeda Masayuki at tannowa.yh@nifty.com

Exiting Osaka Bay to the Pacific, on the eastern shore of the “gap” and a few miles south of Wakayama proper, is Wakayama Marina City: 34 09 425N, 135 10 679E, pp 82 & 85D in Chartlet book H-802W (i.e. next volume). There are two adjacent marinas on this reclaimed island – which may not appear on older charts; Wakayama Marina City is the easternmost, the larger and the cheaper. 1000Y (USD $12) on weekdays, double on the weekend. Free showers, but no water/electricity on the visitor docks (may be possible for longer stay). Laundry. Haulout. One hour's walk to the station, whence it is four stops to Wakayama, where you can change for Osaka or Nara; this is a good place from which to visit the mountaintop Buddhist monastery at Koyasan. The marina is very modern, well-maintained and well-protected, the staff very welcoming, but is in the middle of a modern leisure complex and some way from shops etc. An Onsen (spa) overlooks the visitor berths. E-mail yacht@marinacity.com. There are more informal mooring options up the creek (approach from the SW, the NW approach under the more modern of the two bridges, is shallow) behind the artificial island.

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