This may be a bit of an odd question, but is it possible to make it to Japan without using an airplane. I have an inner ear disease and the last time I flew, it literally left me incapacitated for a week. My doctor said it's just not a good idea to take a chance. I want to visit Japan and possibly move there, however I cannot fly.

Does anyone on here know of ways around this? I have done some googling, but they all seem to be "Stupid" answers like "Sneak into a shipping container". I could easily go by way of boat or ship, but the only things I've seen are private charter and cost upwards of $20,000 to rent them.

I know this is a unique situation, but I'm going to possibly get a job there so I need a method other than flight to get back and forth from the states.

Thanks ahead of time for any suggestions.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Mark Mayo
    Commented Apr 19, 2016 at 8:58

8 Answers 8


Travelling by cargo ship (mostly container but also bulk or ro-ro, never heard anything about travelling on a tanker, presumably for safety reasons) is totally a thing. More information and links to specific agents can be found in previous questions tagged “freighter travel”. Many websites advertise specific journeys but you can always contact an agent and see what they can find for you. The only US-based freighter travel agent I know is Maris Freighter Cruise.

It's not particularly complicated but relatively slow and expensive and needs to be arranged well in advance (you will also need a certificate from your GP and special “deviation” insurance – to protect the ship's operator against losses if they need to change the ship's route because of you, e.g. in case of medical emergency). The price is not fixed nor based on distance per se but simply USD 90-110 per day (+insurance, agent fees and embarkation/disembarkation fees), and crossing the Pacific takes at least 20 days, so around $2,000 (this also covers food on board, you get meals at fixed times with the ship's officers, alcohol at the discretion of the captain, sometimes not at all – it's not a cruise, freight goes first and your entertainment a distant second!).

You could also go the other way around and cross the Atlantic (on a cargo ship, a regular passenger line or a seasonal “repositioning” cruise) and then go on to Asia by train or cargo ship. Not quick or cheap by any means but certainly a journey to remember. If you are prepared to go for less luxurious options (cheap freighter option or cheapest offer from Cunard, kupe on the trans-Siberian), you could probably manage it for $5,000-$7,000 I think. A friend of mine went to Japan from Europe taking buses to avoid expensive Western European trains and buying a platskartny ticket directly in Moscow (so one class below kupe, you get a bunk in a carriage with 50 other passengers); it was much cheaper than a pre-arranged tour, possibly even competitive with the plane, but you have to love adventure!

Exactly where you end up on the west coast of the Pacific Ocean is not very important. Once you have reached East Asia or the Russian Far East, the last hop to Japan is not a problem, there are many ferries.

  • I am waiting for someone to mention hitchhiking and sleeping outside to shave a few hundreds from the budget!
    – Relaxed
    Commented Apr 16, 2016 at 21:59
  • A friend of mine biked (a lot of) the way from France to Mongolia (the blog, in French), but it took them a year ;) Commented Apr 17, 2016 at 14:18
  • 1
    I have read that Maris and travltips.com are the only (major?) US ones.
    – user4188
    Commented Apr 17, 2016 at 17:11
  • 1
    seat61 has info on the trans-Siberian railway and connections to/from Japan: seat61.com/Trans-Siberian.htm
    – A E
    Commented Apr 17, 2016 at 18:13
  • 1
    So you can spend $2000+ on a freighter, or (as another answer suggests) $1000 on a cruise liner?
    – Adeptus
    Commented Apr 18, 2016 at 2:20

It's possible to travel on cargo ships, though I'm not sure how practical it is. There are certainly container ships sailing backwards and forwards between the west coast of the US and Japan (and China and other parts of east Asia). See, for example, this question.

  • 1
    This guy has travelled by land/sea to every country in the world apparently and gives insight how to get on shipping boats. Commented Apr 18, 2016 at 9:08

Many cruise lines offer transpacific routes. Here is one I found via Google (cruise Vancouver Japan) link

If you want to travel regularly, this would not be the best option due to the limited number of ships making that route, but for a one-time trip, it seems reasonable.

  • 1
    You can definitely cruise from Vancouver (or other west coast cities) to Hawaii, from Hawaii to Australia, and try to find a boat from Australia to Asia then switch to trains. But it's going to be extraordinarily slow! Commented Apr 17, 2016 at 1:27
  • 3
    You don't need to go via Australia. Several companies offer North Pacific cruises from Vancouver to Japan with stops in Alaska and/or Russia taking 15-18 days. In addition to the one linked in this post, Celebrity Cruises also offers such a cruise and some fares are under $1000 for a 15 day trip. Commented Apr 17, 2016 at 3:19
  • 1
    For what it's worth, and for people that don't click... The linked cruise in the answer is over $7000 per person. Celebrity does offer cruises for less than $1000 per person, but this assumes two people are going. If you're going alone, you're still looking at around $2000 once taxes and fees are added.
    – JPhi1618
    Commented Apr 18, 2016 at 15:29

There's a Metasearch for cruise ships including all costs. You can do a search by region or from region A to region B.

Searching California to Asia for the rest of the year it only shows 2 cruises departing for Tokyo from Vancouver, both in September, 14 days ~$1000 with cruise line Celebrity


  • Is this price per person assuming double-occupancy (as seems to be the normal way of advertising cruise fares?) If so, it might be good to note that, since someone traveling alone would then be paying double that amount.
    – reirab
    Commented Apr 18, 2016 at 16:32
  • Is this website/company legit? Seems kind of scam-like from the large type, to the incessant querying for your email.
    – spacetyper
    Commented Sep 3, 2018 at 17:37

Not a terribly practical suggestion, perhaps, but one British woman has rowed solo from Japan to Alaska.


I also googled and http://www.freighter-travel.com/travel-itineraries.html lists what you are asking for, it says 1000 eur. Try googling simply cargo ship travel to Japan. Also see http://www.travltips.com/cruises/freighter/fareast.php


Ferries between Japan and Korea, China and Russia.

Currently no ferry between Panama and Colombia.

However, several companies offer multi-day tours between the two countries. Here's one.

No ferries between America and Asia, not even between Alaska and Russia. And no ferries between the Americas and Greenland, Europe or Africa.

Charter flights between Alaska and Russia. (Presumably in smaller, lower flying planes.)

But, cargo ship voyages, between New York and Hong Kong, amongst others, do exist.

So, with overland connections between Asia and Africa and Europe and Africa also available, it's possible to travel the world overland without going completely nuts (like this guy).


You can travel on Freight Ships. (EXAMPLE)

I am not so sure why you would like that, because there are also cruises to go your route.

As for my understanding, your problem is not getting into Japan (an island) but leaving the US.

There are many commercial ferries and sea routes to and from Japan (Korea, China, Taiwan…) But your problem is actually getting to any one of these other locations. Your problematic part is jumping the Atlantic, going from the "New world" to the Old. Once you get to Europe or Africa (a lot of cruise ships ..) you can do the rest by trains, small ferries, and even driving your own car.

Long trip though and expensiv .

Another option, if your problem is only pressure as opposed to fear of flight, Is to fly on non-pressurized non-jets aircraft. A lot of private small companies offer them, And your best rout would be US east-coast ( or Canada ) -> Finland -> Europe -> China OR South america -> Africa -> Continue at will to China.

This will also not be cheap, both on pocket and time. But it is a hell of an adventure :-)

All those suggested ways are one-time adventures. I would not use it as a regular 'go-home-on-holiday' routes. But If your budget can support it - they all potentially work.

On the other hand - Fixing the ear might be a lot cheaper :-)

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