Ferries Between Japan and Korea

October 21, 2010

Why travel by ferry when there are other options? Cruises. Flying. For me, it comes to comfort. Ferries take a little longer, but there’s more amenities on longer trips, like table tennis. And even if the ride is longer than a few hours, the overall commute is just… well, easier.

Consider someone in Seoul looking to travel to Japan for a holiday. I’ll grant you, there are decent flights into Tokyo, but what do you have to do? Take a local bus to Dongseoul Bus Terminal, take the airport shuttle bus for 1.5 hours to get into Incheon, and arrive a few hours early to ensure time to get through security: it’s an international flight, after all. Quite the hassle. I’m not saying going by water is any better for time: it takes a few hours to get from Seoul to Busan, another hour by subway to the International Ferry Terminal, and then three hours (minimum) to arrive on Japanese soil. But the whole process feels a lot less intrusive to me, without the hassle of dealing with liquids at security lines and dealing with fewer numbers of travelers. Fewer people, less stress.

It’s also a better way to socialize, especially on longer trips. After all, since the majority of travelers go by air, you always get interesting stories from ferry-goers; I met a Dutch couple going from Osaka to Shanghai, and enjoyed stories of a long-lost family member reuniting with relatives on the island of Nakanoshima in Kagoshima Prefecture. Here are some of the ways to go about it, if you’re looking to travel to Japan from Korea.

Busan (부산) <-> Fukuoka (福岡)


Probably the most popular connection for those heading to Japan or Korea by boat in terms of time and cost. Technically, there are two ferry companies operating between these two cities (Kobee and JR Beetle), but only one may be operating depending on demand. From Busan, head to Jungang-dong (중강동), stop #112 on Line 1, and walk towards the water (about 10 minutes). From Hakata Station in Fukuoka, take whichever bus you can find that stops at Chuo Futo (中央埠頭). From there, it’s a short walk to the international ferry terminal (国際ターミナル).

I didn’t have too much trouble getting my tickets with Miraejet (the booking company) online, but the website is only available in Korean. By buying online, you save ₩30,000. However, I’d recommend doing it well in advance of your departure date, and making sure your bank account transfer payment goes through; the operators were quite good about informing me of the transfer details and confirming my departure date and time. If you have a Korean cell phone, they will text you.

One thing I did not like about this service was the hidden surcharges. A fuel and oil surcharge from Busan to Fukuoka for ₩10,000 + ₩2,300. From Fukuoka to Busan there is a even a “terminal tax”… I have no idea why they feel compelled to charge you for the terminal you’re waiting in, but it just meant another ¥500 out of my pocket.

As far as the ride over there, the waters were smooth going out, but sickening on my way back. The JR Beetle is a high-speed hydrofoil boat, which makes it the faster way to travel over the water between Korea and Japan, but only intensifies nausea when the waves are high. I thought I was doing to die waiting for that ship to dock.

Websites: http://www.jrbeetle.co.jp/, http://www.miraejet.co.kr/
Roundtrip Cost: ¥24,000 in Japan (¥20,000 on certain weekdays), ₩190,000 in Korea, both if paid in advance


The JR Beetle and the Kobee ferries are the fastest options. However, if you really want to (and I don’t see a good reason, as the price difference is marginal), there is a slower and cheaper ferry running between these two cities, the Camilla Line, which runs at 10:30 PM for the overnight ferry (to 6:00 AM the following day) and at 12:30 PM for day commuters (to 6:00 PM). As I said, there is a price difference of only ₩19,000 between the hydrofoil and the standard ferry, so unless you really want to save by sleeping on board in lieu of a hotel… just go with Miraejet.

Website: http://www.koreaferry.co.kr/
Roundtrip Cost: ₩171,000, no advance payment required

SIDE NOTE: There is no international ATM at the ferry terminal in Hakata, but one is available from the closest 7-11, about a 15-minute walk.

Busan (부산) <-> Shimonoseki (下関)

I really don’t see the advantage of this ferry, as it’s about the same price, an even longer commute, and docks in a much smaller area like Shimonoseki. However, I think some choose the Pukwan Ferry for its service carrying cars into Japan. Departs daily at 6:30 PM.

Website: http://pukwan.co.kr/
Roundtrip Cost: ₩180,500, plus other hidden taxes

Busan (부산) <-> Tsushima (対島)

The Dream Flower and Sea Flower II offer passenger services to the Japanese island of Tsushima between Korea and mainland Japan. The schedule varies according to the season, but ferries generally depart Busan 6-7 times/week at around 9 AM. The are two entry ports on Tsushima, so make sure you know your boat goes to the right one: Izuhara (厳原) and Hitakatsu (比田勝).

The island itself is pretty rural, but it’s a good escape for Busan residents looking for better hiking or maybe just some higher quality Japanese food. If nothing else, you might try to catch a glimpse of the Tsushima leopard cat.

Website: http://www.daea.com/
Cost: ₩150,000 from Busan roundtrip, ¥7500 from Hitakatsu one way, ¥8500 from Izuhara one way

Donghae (동해) <-> Sakaiminato (境港)

Not many know about this ferry on the east coast. Donghae, named after the sea it borders (and perhaps to solidify the Korean claim to the name “East Sea”), is an unassuming city with two claims to fame… well, two things I see as a traveler: an E-Mart supermarket and an international ferry port.

The DBS Cruise Ferry not only connects Korea with Japan, but with Russia as well. If you’re looking to go to Vladivostok, the end or start of the Trans-Siberian Railroad, this is a great way to go about it. Otherwise, for a minimum of ₩180,000 or ¥15,000 (Standard “B” Room), one can purchase a roundtrip ticket to Sakaiminato on the northern border of Tottori Prefecture. Remember: nearby Matsue (松江) holds one of the few original Japanese castles.

Website: http://www.dbsferry.com/
Roundtrip Cost: ¥15,000 in Japan, ₩180,000 in Korea, no discount for advance payment as near as I can tell

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2 Responses to Ferries Between Japan and Korea

  1. J K on October 21, 2016 at 1:31 am

    Hello fellow traveler, this is very good information, concise and comprehensive. Thank you very much for sharing. I am still debating between the Ferry and the Air travel for time is always limited during travels. In this case, two weeks of travel for me to cover Kurokawa Onsen and temple stay in Woljeungsa and skiing in Yongpyong. I do like the time saved by Air travel in this case but I had wanted to experience the ferry travel between Japan and Korea (as in walking/biking experiences are different vs. bus or air) but my readings on the experience from other sites tell me that the ride is not as enjoyable but seat-belted/planted ride for ~3hrs. Perhaps, you can jive in your thoughts? Thank you in advance! J

  2. Turner on October 21, 2016 at 12:01 pm

    Personally, I think the ferry is easier if you’re already planning to be in Busan or Hakata. Even if you flew from Korea, you’d have to use Incheon, Daegu, or Busan. On the other hand, you might find a cheap flight; the ferry prices are fixed.

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