Traditional Japanese River-boating: Yakatabune | Guidable - Your Guide to a Sustainable, Wellbeing-centred Life in Japan

Traditional Japanese River-boating: Yakatabune

By Yae Jul 27, 2018

This post is also available in: Spanish

When you think about summer in Japan, what comes to mind? Maybe you think of fireworks, watermelon, cicadas, or shaved ice, but have you heard of yakatabune? If you’ve been shopping in Odaiba, you may have noticed boats with colorful red lanterns floating down the river. Those boats are called yakatabune.


A Noble Pastime

Yakatabune first became popular among the nobility of the Heian period (794-1185), but the common people couldn’t afford to ride these lavish boats. While cruising down the river or along the coast, the nobles would host drinking parties, sing, and recite waka (a style of Japanese poetry). Starting in the Edo period, wealthy merchants began enjoying yakatabune, and since then the boats have become increasingly popular with people of all social classes in Japan.


The Near-Extinction of Yakatabune

During the Pacific War (1941-1945), the Japanese didn’t have time to enjoy yakatabune. They were too busy trying to survive. Even after the war, the damage and water pollution was so widespread that to try hosting a drinking party on a yakatabune was unthinkable, and the culture fell into decline.

During the “bubble economy” of the late 80’s, an abundance of spending money allowed yakatabune to regain popularity, and today traditional yakatabune culture has returned in full force.


Where in Japan Can You Enjoy Yakatabune?

There are many spots to enjoy yakatabune in Japan, but here are some of the best cities:

(Tokyo Area)
Hamamatsucho, Sumidagawa, Shinagawa, Yokohama

Nagoya, Osaka, Fukuoka, Niigata


How to Enjoy Yakatabune

Generally, about 10-20 people fit onto a yakatabune, and the average cost per person is about 10,000 yen including dinner and nomihodai (all-you-can-drink). A typical course may feature deep-fried fish, tempura, or a display fireworks as the boat cruises down the river.

The summer season is the best time to enjoy a yakatabune cruise because the warm weather allows the party to continue into the night. Eating, drinking, enjoying the company of friends and family, and the gentle breeze as the boat drifts the river — yakatabune is a great way to enjoy the summer season in Japan.


Recommended Yakatabune Plan

If you’re staying in Japan for a short time, you’d better try a yakatabune cruise at least once. It’ll be an unforgettable experience!


Shinagawa Yakatabune, “Funasei”

Shinagawa Yakatabune, “Funasei” offers three types of plan:

・Chartered plan
Minimum 20 people.
Basic course: Starts at 10,000 yen
Boarding time: 2 hours 30 minutes

・Shared plan
Minimum two people. You’ll share the boat with other passengers. Recommended for couples!
Basic course: Starts at 10,000 yen
Boarding time: 2 hours 45 minutes

・Wedding reception plan
Minimum 20 people
Basic course: Starts at 11,800 yen
Boarding time: 2 hours 30 minutes

There is English translation of the Funasei website, so if you’re interested check it out!

<Shop Information>
Address: 1-16-8, Funasei Building, Kita Shinagawa, Shinagawaku, Tokyo, 140-0001
TEL: 03-5479-2731
Phone Availability: 10:00-19:00
Access: (JR Line) Shinagawa Station 13 min of walk from the station

Yakatabune are smaller than luxury cruise ships, but the intimacy of these boats is what makes them special. You can enjoy dinner, drinking, and chatting with your loved ones in a cozy, traditional setting. From the deck of a yakatabune, you can also get a view of the nighttime city lights from a new angle.

If you’re not prone to seasickness, why not try a Japanese-style cruise on a yakatabune this summer?