Due to the DMZ South Korea For all intents and purposes is an island and there the only two ways to travel in or out is either by plane or ferry. Until recently the availability of any cheap return flights was low and therefore most people stayed in Korea which is great most of the time but sometimes the travelers urge kicks in and a change is needed. However with the prices and time commitments still high if traveling by plane the option of boats or ferries comes to mind.
From Korea you can quite easily to travel to China and Russia by boat but immigration and visas make this a less desirable option. So therefore we have Japan with numerous ports and services available. But if you only have a single day can it be done?
Short answer YES, either traveling to mainland Fukuoka (2.5hours away) or the island of Tsushima (1.5hours away). Here is the story of our trip to the Island of Tsushima:
Busan Port & Tickets:
Firstly we had the advantage of speaking Korean so we called up the Dae-A Shipping booking hotline and booked tickets in advance (2 days before), all we needed to provide were names, passport numbers and dates of travel. We chose a Friday and were told it would cost ₩90,000 for return tickets, +₩11,000 tax charged in both Busan and Tsushima (you can pay in Korean Won there).
Here is one of our return tickets:
The only departure time was 9.30am and we were also told to get there an hour before to pay and collect the tickets, which we did. Busan Port was super busy and unorganized with people blindly going with the flow, but after immigration you have a short wait until you can get on the nicely named Ocean Flower.
The Boat & Ride:
Firstly this was not a nice ride, the boat is high speed, wave jumping monster and there was at least 10% maybe of the passengers making regular trips to the bathroom because of seasickness. The on board entertainment was a TV showing Korean TV, however as it is a boat you can use cellphones so for the first 30minutes 3G services make the time fly. You can also bring on your own food and drinks so that was nice.
Here is the Ocean Flower in all its glory:
Before you can enjoy Tsushima you have to go though Japanese immigration which is slow plus 95% of the passengers are Korean so therefore are going though the same immigration gates. We were lucky and got off the boat quickly and so were towards the front of the queue but if you’re at the back it may well take 30mins+ to get though on a busy day.
After immigration it is a good idea to go inside the departure building up to the 2nd floor and exchange your ticket and pay the taxes, otherwise you will have another long queue to enjoy.
Now after all of that you have maybe 2 and a half hours to enjoy Tsushima island, well at least Ichiraku (the port towns name). Is it enough time? Yes, mainly because there is very little to see or do apart from walking around the ghostly town which has just a handful of shops and restaurants. You could climb the mountain, take a bike ride or go fishing, but that is about it. Honestly the island may have more to offer if you had a whole day but 2 hours isn’t enough time.
Here are a few pictures:
The Return Journey:
Much like the first apart from being a little quicker but still late, as it took 2 hours not 90mins. After a quick queue for Busan Immigration the 10 hour trip came to an end. (Well apart from the KTX trip back to Seoul).
Conclusion and Links:
In conclusion can a trip to Japan be done in a day, yes. But should it be done, no. Basically it is a lot of traveling, queuing and hassle for little reward. Traveling by boat is cheaper and a little easier than flying but in our option it is slower and less comfortable.
If however you are coming to the end of a tourist visa, a day trip to Japan maybe a good way of renewing it and getting another 3 or 6 months but only if you live in or near Busan as the ferry leaves at 9.30am and you’ll need to get there by 8.30am. So if you are traveling from Seoul it is not possible.
Here are a few useful links for traveling to Tsushima (or Japan):
* http://www.daea.com/main/main.html?mobileA= Busan to Tsushima Ferry Company (Korean)
* http://onceatraveler.com/ferries-between-japan-and-korea Korea to Japan Ferries information (English)
* http://www.jetsetzero.tv/2009/06/24/tsushima-island-visa-run/ Another Tsushima Travel Post from 2009 (English)
Thank you and if you have any questions please let us know.
Modern Seoul Magazine