How to Take the Ferry from Korea to Japan

Note: due to the coronavirus epidemic ferries are suspended until March 31st as things stand (I expect this will be extended)

The main Korea – Japan ferry route (for those without vehicles) is the JR Beetle hydrofoil between Fukuoka (Hakata Port) and Busan, with several sailings per day in each direction. These boats are fast and get across in just a few hours; if you have a vehicle to transport you can take one of the slower car ferries. If you have a bicycle, see this reader comment for rates.

Korea - Japan ferry map

Korea - Japan ferry map

Red:Busan-Fukuoka. Green:Busan-Shimonoseki/Osaka. Blue:(Vladivostok)-Donghae-Sakaiminato (discontinued)

Korea – Japan ferry route summary

1. Busan – Fukuoka (Hakata Port) (3 hours, JR Beetle, 2 or 3 per day; also once per day on Miraejet’s Kobee hydrofoil, 3.5 hours)

2. Busan – Fukuoka (Hakata Port) (6 or 12 hours, Camellia Line, daily)

3. Busan – Shimonoseki (12 hours overnight, Kampu Ferry, daily)

4. Busan – Osaka (18 hours overnight, Panstar Cruise, 3 per week each way)

5. Busan – Tsushima Island (1-3 hours, multiple times daily with JR Beetle, Miraejet Kobee, and Daea Express Ocean Flower)

(Note that the ferry from Sakaiminato to Vladivostok via Korea no longer operates)

JR Beetle: Busan – Fukuoka (hydrofoil)

I’ve taken the Beetle many times; for my most recent update on this route (including port access info & charges, fuel surcharges, how to book, etc), see here. If you’re wondering about the possibility of doing Seoul – Osaka / Tokyo in one day by bullet train & Beetle, yes it does work but is a pretty long slog – see here for details.

JR Beetle sailing out of Busan

The JR Beetle pulling away from Busan

A Korean company called Miraejet also runs one hydrofoil (Kobee) service per day on the round trip between Busan & Fukuoka; this calls at Tsushima Island (see below), so takes a bit longer than the JR Beetle. You can buy tickets at the ports, but if you want to reserve (or check the schedules) online the website is only in Korean; it’s going to be easier (as well as faster) for most travellers to use the Beetle, but if you do want to try using MiraeJet’s website here’s a key for their reservation box:

Miraejet website translation key

Basically they usually run two ferries a day between Busan and Tsushima (Daemado, 대마도, in Korean), with one of those also running to Fukuoka.

Camellia Line: Busan – Fukuoka (car ferry)

Korea Ferry operates the Camellia Line car ferry making one round trip per day between Japan and Korea, sailing from Fukuoka to Busan by day (6 hours), and from Busan to Fukuoka overnight (12 hours). They have an English website here where you can make online reservations, or you can book on Direct Ferries here.

Checkin counters at Busan ferry terminal

Checkin counters at Busan ferry terminal

The cheapest economy class fares are the ‘premium’ (カメリアプレミアム価格) and ‘special’ (カメリアスペシャル価格) options on the Camellia website, at 2500 and 4500 JPY respectively. If they’re sold out, the ‘standard’ (カメリアスタンダード価格) option is 7200 JPY – in which case it’ll probably be cheaper to book on Direct Ferries , which usually has it for around 57 USD. If you buy in person at the terminal you get the standard fare of 7200 yen in Japan or 72000 won in Korea. You can also go for first class options (starting from approx. 100 USD) in 2-berth or 4-berth cabins rather than the dormitory-style economy class.

(Also don’t forget about the port tax & fuel charges, see port info below)

Ferries docked in Busan

The Shimonoseki and Osaka ferries docked at Busan

Kampu Ferry: Busan – Shimonoseki (car ferry)

Kampu Ferry has a decent English website here; you can make a reservation by phone or email as per the instructions on their site, book online via Direct Ferries here, or just turn up and buy a ticket.

Online with Direct Ferries is the easiest option, and also marginally cheaper. However that wasn’t yet an option when I went from Shimonoseki to Busan on Kampu Ferry, so I went to the tour desk at Kokura Station (the main station in neighbouring Kita-Kyushu city) to ask where the Shimonoseki ferry terminal was located, and ended up paying them a small service fee to call Kampu and book the ferry for me (it was cheap and she’d printed a map out for me and generally been very helpful, so I figured why not. But it isn’t remotely necessary to use a travel agent).

Checkin counters at Busan ferry terminal

Kita-Kyushu and Shimonoseki are located just across the Kanmon Strait from each other; if you arrive in the area by bullet train or night bus, it’ll probably be Kokura Station where you get off (there is also a Shin-Shimonoseki Station, but the faster trains (i.e. all Nozomi and most Hikari trains) skip it). The ferry terminal is a short walk from Shimonoseki Station, which in turn is 15 minutes (2 stops) from Kokura Station on the JR Sanyo Line (or 10 minutes from Shin-Shimonoseki Station). If you want to find it on Google Maps, search for 下関港国際ターミナル (which reads Shimonoseki-ko Kokusai Taaminaru, Shimonoseki Port International Terminal).

At time of last update (2020) the cheapest one-way fare from Shimonoseki is 9,000 JPY (second class), plus port & fuel charges (details here); sailing from Busan the cheapest fare is 95,000 KRW. Direct Ferries usually has it for 85 USD.

For port access in Busan (and port & fuel fees) see port info below.

Sailing time is 11 or 12 hours, depending on direction (details here)

You pass these small islands off the Fukuoka coast (snapped with my old camera phone hence the poor resolution), a nice final (or initial) view of Japan:

Small islands off the coast of Fukuoka Small islands off the coast of Fukuoka

Panstar Cruise: Busan – Osaka (car ferry)

The Panstar Dream runs between Osaka & Busan several times per week, taking about 18 hours. Their website is unfortunately only available in Korean and Japanese, but thankfully you can book this ferry on Direct Ferries here which is usually cheaper anyway.

Checkin counters at Busan ferry terminal

At time of writing the cheapest one-way fares when purchased in person at the terminals are 14,000 JPY from Osaka or 140000 KRW from Busan, plus (when leaving Osaka) the port charge of 620 JPY and the fuel surcharge of 1,400 JPY (subject to change); see below for Busan port & fuel charges. Direct Ferries usually has it for around 110 USD.

Journey time is 18.5 to 19.5 hours, depending on direction & day of travel. You can check the schedule here, using the following characters in the first two columns:

大阪 = Osaka

釜山 = Busan

出発曜日 = Departure Day

月 = Monday

火 = Tuesday

水 = Wednesday

木 = Thursday

金 = Friday

日 = Sunday

The third and fourth columns give departure and arrival times, respectively.

The Osaka terminal is the Osaka Kokusai Ferry Terminal, 大阪国際フェリーターミナル (Osaka International Ferry Terminal), a 10-minute walk from Cosmosquare Station on the Chuo Line.

For port access in Busan, see below.

Daea Express Ocean Flower: Busan – Tsushima (hydrofoil)

The island of Tsushima, 対馬, (Daemado, 대마도, in Korean) is the sizeable island lying between Korea and Japan which the Busan – Fukuoka ferries pass, and is part of Japan’s Nagasaki Prefecture. Various domestic ferry services run from Tsushima to mainland Japan, and there are three companies running hydrofoils internationally between Busan and Tsushima; it’s therefore possible to travel between Busan and mainland Japan via Tsushima. This is unlikely to be of much interest to the majority of travellers from the rest of the world, but Tsushima is a popular spot for both Korean tourists and Japanese domestic tourists.

The JR Beetle (see above) runs some Busan – Tsushima services in addition to its Busan – Fukuoka services; the Miraejet Kobee has a couple of services a day between Busan and Tsushima, with one of those also calling at Fukuoka. You can see their (Korean only) website here, and see above for help with deciphering it.

In addition to those two, a third hydrofoil service exists between Busan and Tsushima; the Ocean Flower is run by Daea Express, you can check their website out here but it’s also entirely in Korean. These Tsushima options are listed up on this Tsushima tourism page.

Busan Harbor Bridge

Port Information for Busan and Fukuoka

(For the ports of Shimonoseki, Sakaiminato, Osaka, and Donghae, see the relevant ferry service listing above)

Busan International Ferry Terminal

Busan ferry terminal

The shiny new Busan International Passenger Terminal is located a short walk (10 minutes or so) from Busan Station, the southern terminus of the KTX (bullet train) line from Seoul. It’s on the east side of the station; leaving the station by exit 9, go down the stairs/elevator, turn left (north) on the main road and take the next right (cross over at the pedestrian crossing) and then go straight along that side road in front of you and follow it round to the terminal:

Walking route from Busan Station to Busan Port

Busan ferry terminal

Ferry terminal as seen from Busan Station

View of Busan station from Busan ferry terminal

Busan Station as seen from the ferry terminal

If it’s raining, just jump in a taxi and show him 부산국제여객터미널 or ask for “Busan Gugje Yeogaeg Teomineol”.

Bridge design between Busan station and ferry terminal

A pedestrian bridge connecting the two is under construction and should be open by 2020

There are also shuttle buses between the terminal and the station:

Busan ferry terminal shuttle bus

Busan ferry terminal shuttle bus schedule

If you’re coming from the Busan subway system, it’s actually closer to get off at Choryang Station rather than Busan Station. Coming out of exit 6 follow the signs to turn left and then through the tunnel under the railway tracks, then cross the main road and the terminal’s straight ahead:

Walking route to Busan ferry terminal from Choryang Station

This screenshot is from KakaoMap, which I highly recommend downloading for your time in Korea (Google Maps doesn’t work so well in Korea)

How to get to Busan ferry terminal

How to get to Busan ferry terminal

Busan ferry terminal

The ferry terminal has good food and drink options available, as does Busan Station, so you can easily make a pit stop as you pass through. Checkin opens one hour before departure and closes 30 minutes before; you have to go through immigration so (if coming from Seoul) to avoid any stress I’d suggest timing your KTX to arrive at Busan Station around 90 minutes before departure, which leaves plenty of time to stroll over, perhaps grab a bite on the go, check in, and clear immigration; if you want to sit and eat some lunch, obviously allow longer accordingly.

Port tax from Busan is 4,300 won (approx $4 US) payable at checkin only, so make sure you keep enough won on hand, and there’s an oil surcharge of 12,000 won ($12 US) which is tacked on to the ticket fare if you buy directly at the terminal, but if you book online the surcharge may or may not be included – if not you’ll have to pay this at checkin too. Also be aware that when you arrive at Hakata you may have cash issues (the terminal has no international ATM and is a bus ride from the downtown area), so it’s best to get hold of some Japanese yen before leaving Busan (there are money changers in the ferry terminal). Alternatively if you have at least a few thousand won to change to yen on arrival it’ll cover the bus fare to get downtown (see Hakata Port, below). The fuel surcharge changes frequently, between 5,000 won and 14,000 won in my experience; the rate given here is correct as of early 2020. If you keep 20,000 won per person that should cover the departure tax & any potential fuel surcharge in Busan.

Hakata Port Access and Information

Hakata Port International Terminal

Access to Hakata Port from Fukuoka is well explained here; I’ve done both bus and taxi, the bus is straightforward enough but taxis are obviously easiest. The passenger terminal is a 20-minute or so bus ride from either Tenjin (central Fukuoka) or Hakata Station; the bus costs 230 yen, and you can take bus number 88 from Hakata Station (bus stand F, over the main road outside the west exit) or bus number 80 from the Tenjin area (bus stop 2A, located in front of the Solaria Stage department store on the west side of the main north/south road (Watanabe Dori, 渡辺通り) outside Tenjin station). Allow plenty of time if you need to locate these as you go, as it’s a pretty busy area and may take some working out / help from a friendly local. If you’re pressed for time, taxis are plentiful and should get you there in 10 minutes or so for around 1,500 yen – just show or tell the driver 博多港国際ターミナル “Hakata-ko Kokusai Taaminaru”. If you fancy it you can also walk it from Hakata Station in about 40 minutes, or from the nearest metro station (Gofukumachi) in about 20 minutes (just use Google Maps for the route).

The food and drink options at the terminal aren’t so great, so it’s advisable to get that sorted before taking the bus (or just make do with the snacks and drink available on the ferry, which are basic but reasonable).

Port tax vending machine at Hakata Port International Terminal

Departure tax machines at Hakata Port

Departure tax from Hakata is 500 yen (approx $5 US) payable in cash only from vending machines next to the checkin desk, and the oil surcharge is 1200 yen ($12 US) which may or may not be included when you book online – if not you’ll also have to pay this by cash or card at the terminal so make sure to keep enough cash in hand, especially given that the nearest international ATM is at the 7-Eleven store some 15 minutes away on foot. When arriving at Hakata, this can make things a little tricky – you’ll need 230 yen for the bus, but unless you have a Japanese account there’s no ATM you can use. Best solution is to get hold of some Japanese yen before boarding in Busan, or at least hang on to a few thousand Korean won which you can change at the money changer in the Hakata terminal (though if you arrive in the evening the money changer will already be closed); otherwise, you’ll have to walk to 7-Eleven, or take a taxi and have him stop at 7-Eleven on the way. If you have won to change there’s a money changer at Hakata Station (in the main concourse, terrible rates) once you manage to get there!

The bus numbers when going from the terminal to Hakata Station or Tenjin are different than when going the other way, for some reason; for Hakata Station you can take numbers 11, 19, and 50; for Tenjin you can take numbers 55, 151, 152, and 80. Of course, things can change so double check on the website and/or at the information counter.

Also, when arriving at Hakata Port be prepared for the likelihood of a tedious bag search and questioning session; they’ve searched me almost every single time, very thoroughly on a couple of occasions including swabs for ‘drug check’ (though they don’t actually appear to run those swabs through any machine, so I’m not convinced they’re genuine).

The fuel surcharge changes frequently; rate given above is correct as of early 2020.

Have you travelled between Japan and Korea by ferry? Any updates or changes future overlanders should be aware of? Do you have any questions? Leave a comment below and I’ll get back to you.

Also check out my overland travel guides for Korea and Japan, my quick guide to Fukuoka, and see China – Korea by ferry and China – Taiwan by ferry

The links to Direct Ferries on this page are affiliate links. If you use these links, 4corners7seas gets commission from Direct Ferries (at no extra cost to you) and it’s usually the cheapest way for you to book, so it’s a win-win. Thanks in advance should you choose to support the site using these links. (Booking this way also avoids potential cockups like the time I made a mess of reserving online in Japanese)

21 comments on “How to Take the Ferry from Korea to Japan
  1. Mary Grace Y Buenafe says:

    Is visa required for tourists from busan to fukuoka or tsushima?

    • Simon Norton says:

      Hi Mary, that depends on your nationality. You need to check the entry requirements for visiting Japan using the passport you have

  2. OMPRAKASH VIMALATHITHAN says:

    hi
    it was a useful piece of info, I would like to know if the ktx and mugunghwa train station at Busan is the same.

    thanx

    • Simon Norton says:

      Hi Omprakash,

      That’s a good question actually, and the answer depends on where you want to go. Some mugunghwa trains depart from Busan Station (same as KTX), but some depart from Bujeon Station (7 stops from Busan Station on metro line 1) e.g. if you want to take the mugunghwa to Seoul then it’s same station as KTX, but if you want to go to Gyeongju or Ulsan by mugunghwa then it’s Bujeon Station.

  3. Nadia Torcoletti says:

    Hi,
    I am looking at options from Busan to Fukuoka. I see a flight for 160€/205$. Does that make more sense than the ferry? I saw a lot of extra charges, fees, taxes, surcharges in your blog!
    Thank you
    Nadia & Ashish

    • Simon Norton says:

      Hi Nadia, there’s just two extra charges – port tax and fuel surcharge. Even with those, the ferry should still be cheaper than the flight you’ve quoted. Also, given the location of Gimhae Airport is a long way out from central Busan I doubt flying would even be faster overall once you include the checkin time. If you take the fast JR Beetle ferry it should be a bit faster and a bit cheaper than flying, and personally I find ferry travel much nicer than air travel. Let me know if you have any more questions!

  4. Marisa Babjak says:

    Great information. Very thorough and the photos are super helpful. One thing is missing unless I missed it. For people new to Japan or Korean ferries–the standard and economy class, etc. It would be helpful to know what exactly you get in each class or the differences. It isn’t always described or clear on some of the booking sites. Thanks.

    • Simon Norton says:

      Hi Marisa,

      Thanks, always good to hear it’s helpful. And thanks also for the feedback, you’re right that would be a good thing to update the page with. In the meantime, is there any particular route/class you’d like to know more about?

  5. Andreas says:

    Hi Simon,
    thank you for your information. I am looking for a ferry between South Korea and Japan which not only accepts passengers, but also cars. You write: “if you have wheels to transport you can take one of the slower car ferries.” It would be great if you could let us know which ferries you are referring to. Many thanx!

    • Simon Norton says:

      Hi Andreas,

      Sorry if it wasn’t clear… it’s just any ferry listed on this page that says ‘car ferry’ in the subheading, so the Busan-Shimonoseki, Busan-Osaka, and Donghae-Sakaiminato routes, and the Camellia Line on the Busan-Fukuoka route. Let me know if you have any further questions about which route would be best for you etc

  6. Simone OConnor says:

    Hi Simon

    We are thinking of travelling from Busan to Osaka (no car) in Jan, 2 adults, 3 kids. I think we would be fine to get the train from Seoul the same day as the departure is late afternoon for ferry? Can we just book and use the allocated 5 berth cabin as included in the fare? I am a little confused about that on the website. Also weighing up if it would be as cost effective just to fly, given I think we are looking at about $700 plus AUD? for the ferry.

    Many thanks

    • Simon Norton says:

      Hi Simone,

      Yes, you can take the KTX train in the morning from Seoul to catch an afternoon ferry from Busan, the ferry terminal in Busan is a short walk or taxi ride from Busan Station. I’ve done this many times!

      And yes if you’re looking at a berth for the 5 of you on the Camellia Line ferry you can book the Japanese-style room (等和室), and that will indeed come to around 700 AUD (or a little less, depending on the ages of your kids). You might also want to consider the JR Beetle high speed hydrofoil ferry, it only takes 3 hours; that actually makes it possible to leave Seoul in the morning and arrive in Osaka that evening, however I’ve done this several times and I don’t think I’d recommend doing it with 3 kids! But you could break the journey with a night in Fukuoka.

      If you book well in advance you can get Beetle tickets for as low as 40(ish) USD each, see my guide here. If you’re already planning to get the JR Pass for Japan, you can use it for the train from Fukuoka to Osaka, making this route pretty cost effective as the Seoul-Busan KTX ticket is only 50 USD; however if you’re not planning on getting the JR Pass, the Fukuoka-Osaka bullet train ticket is 150 dollars (half price for children under 12, free under 6) so in that case it’s probably more cost effective to fly.

      Hope this helps and give me a shout with any further questions

      • Simone says:

        Thanks Simon, yes very helpful however also after thinking about it, flying would save quite a bit of time if we just fly from Seoul. A bit more research to do I think.

        • Simon Norton says:

          No doubt about it – flying will save you many hours. If you want to visit the likes of Busan, Fukuoka, or Hiroshima en route, then the ferry works great, but if you’re really just trying to get from Seoul to Osaka direct A to B, flying is way faster and very likely cheaper (unless you’re getting the JR Pass for Japan anyways). I always do it by train & ferry, but that’s mostly just out of a preference for overland travel.

  7. Nigel Rushton says:

    Hi Simon,

    There is a 1500 character maximum and my first attempt at a reply was too long.

    Usually I don’t post messages but I’m making an exception because I found your blog to be very helpful.

    1) In regard to corona virus, ferries are saying: “…suspension of passenger handling…” which I understand means they’re not taking passengers until at least 31st March and possibly longer.

    2) Is there a way that readers can see the date of the blog post – to know how current it is? I can’t find anything except March 2018 seen on the first post in the comments section.

    3) On 7th January 2020 an international visitor departure tax of ¥1000 was introduced by the Japanese Government. See here>>> https://www.nta.go.jp/publication/pamph/kansetsu/kanko/pdf/05.pdf
    Perhaps it should be added to the list of extra charges on ferries?

    Nigel

  8. Nigel Rushton says:

    This is the second of two replies.

    4) I tour Japan in the really slow (by bicycle) every year and I know lots of other foreigners do as well. I mean tour by bicycle, but not every year!

    Finding the cost of transporting a bicycle on the ferries to/from Korea is difficult.

    Camellia Line carry bicycles for ¥1,000. Kampu Ferry seems to have 2 fares; ¥1,000 and ¥2,000. Reading their blurb it seems to suggest it needs to be in a bag. Can’t find anything on Panstar.

    Neither my computer nor mobile can access info about fares on DBS Ferry website – Sakaiminato to Donghae. The ferry looks like a good option though.

    5) Beetle does have an English page>>> https://www.jrbeetle.com/en/
    It seems a bicycle can only be taken aboard Beetle if it’s in a bag.

    Anyway, thank you very much again for all the research you’ve done.

    Nigel

    • Simon Norton says:

      Hi Nigel,

      Thanks for taking the time to leave such a detailed comment.

      This page was published in early 2017, shortly after this website first went online. I’ve made multiple updates since then to keep it accurate – it was overdue for updating actually though, and you’ve prompted me to do so.

      The new tourist tax is included at time of booking, so that shouldn’t be an issue. And I’ve directed readers with bicycles to see your comment, it’s not something I’d ever thought to check so thanks for sharing those details. My friend took his motorcycle on the DBS ferry in both directions Vladivostok-Sakaiminato, so you shouldn’t have any issues with a bicycle.

      As for Beetle finally having an English website again – hallelujah! About time.

  9. Martin Maginn says:

    The DBS cruise ferry (Sakaiminato to Vladivostok via Donghae) is now canceled permanently.

    • Simon Norton says:

      Hi Martin, thanks for the update. Where did you see this? I haven’t heard anything

      • Martin Maginn says:

        I was in Sakaiminato about a month ago and went to the tourism information office by the railway station (domestic ferry pier) there inquiring about the DBS ferry.
        The staff told me it’s been canceled permanently, and not just due to the coronavirus outbreak, the website also seems down and it cant be booked anymore.

        • Simon Norton says:

          That’s a real shame, it was a useful route. Their website’s still working for me, but yeah I see Direct Ferries has it listed as cancelled now. I’d better take it off the page. Thanks again for the update!

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