The Shanghai Ferry Company runs ferries to Shanghai every Friday at noon. They ask that you arrive by 10:30am. Reservations can be made in advance, but tickets can only be bought in cash at the ferry terminal.

Leave plenty of time the morning your ferry departs. You’ll need to pack your bags and check out of your hotel. Hit a post office to get cash for your ticket – only post office ATMs in Japan reliably accept foreign ATM cards. And buy some food or snacks for the trip. Take the subway to the Cosmosquare station and make a sharp left along the water, then just follow the road for about fifteen minutes to the International Ferry Terminal. Waking up by 7:30am should give you plenty of time. We set our alarms for 7:30am. At 10:00am the radio alarm clock has been buzzing static for two and a half hours and the digital watch has been silent for exactly as long. In Japan you can buy warm sake from vending machines.

Waiting Around

We are out of the hotel by 10:20. We are at Cosmosquare a half an hour later. We reach the International Ferry Terminal a little after 11:00.

We do not have any money.

The lady at the desk takes our passports. She has our tickets. We cannot pay for them. Credit card? The reservation form said quite clearly: Japanese yen only. Of course. Is there a Post Office? Yes. It’s a half an hour walk away.

Falling In

The man behind the counter starts walking. With a blind trust forged in panic we follow him. We go to the parking lot. Can we take a taxi? The man leads us past the taxis. He leads us to a clean white mini-van and gets in the drivers seat. His car. So we get in. It’s a white-knuckled five minute drive to the post office, a hurried dash into an office building and a wasted thirty seconds trying all the doors until we find one that opens. Once we are inside the post office the man runs back out to the parking lot. I take out more yen than we will need with too-hard jabs at the ATM buttons and we run out to the parking lot where the man has pulled his car around, and before we can pull shut the heavy van doors we are racing back to the ferry terminal. Five minutes later we are paying for our tickets. Ten minutes later we are running through immigration with our passports out. Fifteen minutes later we are on the boat.

The world is kind to idiots.


Rooms have a bunk bed on either side of the doorway as you enter, and a television in the far corner of the room. The movie schedule is posted in the lobby. There is a low table by a window that looks out at the front of the ship. The lobby has a machine for hot water and tea, and one for cold water. The cups here are free. After the ship departs a ping-pong table is placed in the lobby. After the first day the ping-pong table is folded up ad lashed to the side of a hallway. The second floor lounge is the one where all the foreigners sit and talk about travel plans, and the typhoon we are heading into, which the ship’s crew makes announcements about in Japanese, but does not acknowledge in English.

The cafeteria serves breakfast. It’s not very good, but it is complementary. Next door is a restaurant where at night you can sit at the bar and sing Karaoke. Or you can just listen to Karaoke. It’s quite audible from the second floor lounge.

Outside of Shanghai a fleet of ghost ships sits rusting to our right, and to our left they are building more. At disembarkation we get on a little bus to customs and immigration, which is incredibly easy, and then you are on the street in no one quite knows where. Welcome to China. Taxis are affordable. Don’t get robbed.


ONE WAY TICKET 12-19km ¥230 (ABOUT $1.96USD)
SUGGESTED ACTIVITY: If there is anyone with you you can say to them Don’t panic, don’t panic. If you are alone you can mutter it under your breath.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY: Tallboys of Premium Kirin and Asahi are only ¥200 from the duty-free vending machines.


  1. I’m always very creeped out by boats being on land. Something just looks wrong in your bottom picture, that unsettles me in a way I have no way of justifying.

  2. I accidentally ran into this story while searching for toy street in Osaka. Very interesting story, regret as business travelers we don’t have the luxury of 2 days on the sea. US$186 is about the airplane fare and we are always rushing to the next city.

    Once we found a ferry service from Guangzhou China to HKG, left at 9PM(scheduled, actual 11PM), arrived in HKG at 6AM. Wonderful experience to sort of saw Pearl River(too dark), saw all those China domestic ships where 1000s of local people travel, unload chicken, crates, etc. I did not know travel by ships is a common mode of transportation in China. Great experience, saved the US$350 hotel(a night), arrived in HKG next morning fresh, instead of the train or limo ride. Pretty nice looking white cruise ship too.

    There is magic in ships.

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