The ferry service between Matsuyama in Ehime prefecture and Yanai in Yamaguchi prefecture is a direct and easy way to get between Shikoku and Honshu. Many people take a train or car route, when perhaps the most relaxing and enjoyable way is simply to sit back, watch the waves, and cross the scenic Seto Inland Sea by boat.
How to purchase a ferry ticket from Yanai to Matsuyama
Purchasing a ticket is easy, with the ticketing office in Yanai having a genuinely surprising amount of English information. It is difficult to miss the ticket and information building, which is clearly marked and labelled for foreign travelers’ convenience.
Travellers can choose to purchase a one-way or a return ticket, depending on their planned itinerary, with a return ticket costing 6380 yen and the former costing half that amount. After purchasing the ticket, you can choose to wait either inside (with heating or air conditioning available) or outside, if the weather is mild as usual. The Seto Inland Sea area is among the more temperate and calm regions of Japan, which leads to generally favourable weather conditions.
Once your ship arrives, leave some time for other travelers to disembark! There are generally a variety of vehicles on board, as well as pedestrians. Join the small queue (you will likely be helpfully corralled/herded into line) and get on board. Once you’ve selected your favoured seat, the rest of the journey is an easy one. Relax, bring some snacks from the 7-Eleven nearby the Yanai ferry office, listen to music, read a book, or simply admire the beautiful sea views.
Exploring the Seto Inland Sea
The sea is a scenic and relatively still one, due to its inland positioning, and there are plenty of sights to see. Islands large and small dot the sea, with one of the more notable ones being Suo-Oshima, a picturesque little island with a nice port area. It even has some small terraced rice fields visible from Ihota Port, as well as lush green forested areas and small secluded beaches. Marine birds swoop along the coast, and small local boats (both recreational and for fishing) drift near the ferry, which is never out of sight of dry land.
There are several different vessels used for the journey between Matsuyama, Suo-Oshima, and Yanai. One of the ships has a tatami-like elevated platform in the middle of the boat, which many travellers use to relax or even sleep on. The interior of the boat is quite nice, and there are comfortable seats on either side with good views of the sea.
One of the other ferries between Yanai and Matsuyama is an interesting one, vaguely reminiscent of a 1980s pleasure boat, complete with upper deck pool. While this pool may or may not be in use during the summer season, it certainly adds an air of festivity to the ferry’s exterior decor. The interior is also a bit different to the other boat, and quite reminiscent of a comfortable lounge room, both upstairs and downstairs. Dangling from the ceiling are plentiful goldfish lanterns, which are a local icon of the Yanai area in Yamaguchi prefecture. Needless to say, all ferries come equipped with the ubiquitous Japanese vending machines, from which a variety of drinks can be purchased.
After arriving in Matsuyama from Yanai, you will find yourself in Mitsuhama Port, which is on the outskirts of the historic neighbourhood of Mitsuhama itself – full of nice little cafes and interesting restaurants. From there, you can take the bus directly to Matsuyama station (departing from outside the Matsuyama ticket office), or walk for approximately 10 minutes before taking a train from Mitsu Station. Or, of course, drive straight out of the ferry and make your own path, depending on where you want to go. Matsuyama is an excellent base in terms of exploring Shikoku, and is the largest city on the island.
While ferries between Yanai and Matsuyama are fairly frequent, it should be noted that there are only four which make a stop at the Suo-Oshima’s scenic Ihota Port. These departures from Yanai at 7:05, 12:25, 17:50, and 01:00, while departures from Matsuyama to the other side are at 03:35, 09:40, 15:05, and 20:30. Full details can be found in the links below.
Overall, cruising between Yanai and Matsuyama is a relaxed and leisurely way to make it to Shikoku from Honshu, and vice versa. The trip itself tends to take just over two hours, but time goes by quite quickly when absorbed in the sea views, breathing in the fresh air on the outer deck, or taking a nap in comfort and style.
– Yanai, Suo-Oshima, Matsuyama ferry times:
– Yanai ferry ticket office location:
– Mitsuhama ferry ticket office location:
A travel writer and wildlife enthusiast currently based in Shikoku, Japan. Having previously lived in New Zealand, I'm especially interested in exploring places with a focus on ecotourism and the natural environment. Highlights of my experience in Japan so far include being mobbed by rabbits on Ōkunoshima, sleeping in a beachside Mongolian yurt on the art island of Naoshima, and countless trips around the many natural wonders of Shikoku.
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