Seven Recommended River Boat Rides in Japan
There are many rivers across Japan where you can experience "kawakudari' boat rides on small boats that are skillfully operated by boatmen from which you can enjoy gorges with sharp cliffs up close and beautiful seasonal scenery. This time, we introduce seven select rides.
This is a boat ride on Kinu River on which you can enjoy the beauty of canyons created by nature. It is a thrilling ride on small boats that kick up sprays while going through the rapids. The strangely formed rocks and the beauty of the trees and plants such as the colorful rhododendron in the spring, the fresh verdure of the summer and bright red foliage in the fall are also highlights of the ride. The ride takes about 40 minutes and operates between mid-April and late November.
Rates: 2,700 JPY/adult, 1,200 JPY/child
This is a ride down Nagatoro River on traditional Japanese boats from which you can enjoy the meandering river that sometimes flows fast and sometimes slow, and the beautiful landscape created by nature. The 6km course is divided into Course A (Oyahana Bridge to Iwadatami; approx. 20 mins) and Course B (Iwadatami to Takasago Bridge; approx. 20 mins), and there is also the option of riding the whole distance between Oyahana Bridge and Takasago Bridge (approx. 40 mins). The boats operate from early March to early December. In the winter, you can ride on Pokapoka Kotatsubune, with kotatsu, which are tables with heaters covered with blankets to keep the heat in.
Course A: 1,600 JPY/adult, 800 JPY/child
Course B: 1,600 JPY/adult, 800 JPY/child
Complete Course: 3,000 JY/adult, 1,400 JPY/child
Pokapoka Kotatsusen: 900 JPY/adult, 500 JPY/child
Yanagawa is a canal district with a grid of canals in a 2 sq.km. area. On the Yanagawa Kawakudari, you can ride through the canals on small boats called donko-bune. It is a relaxing, 70-minute ride over 4km on which you can enjoy the boatman's singing and the sound of the water. In the early summer, you can see Japanese irises along the ride, and in the fall, cosmos and the fall foliage. Between early July and early September, there is also an Akaribune (reservation required) in the evenings with lanterns and LED lights lighting up the water, and between December and February, there is a Kotatsubune with kotatsu seating.
Rates: 1,500 JPY/adult, 800 JPY/child (both incl. tax)
KUMA RIVER BOAT CRUISE is a thrilling ride on Kuma River, one of Japan's three greatest rapids, through huge rocks and raging waters. The water is clear so you may be able to see some ayu sweetfish swimming. There are four options with different lengths to choose from, with the most standard one being the middle course that takes about 50 minutes. Regular rides operate between March and November and boats with kotatsu seating, which must be reserved as a whole, run between March and November. Reservations are required for all rides.
Rates (middle course): 2,700 JPY/adult, 1,782 JPY/child, 648 JPY/toddler
*The kotatsu boats must be reserved as a whole and is 32,400 JPY/boat
Hozu River has been the backbone of a water culture that has supported the capital for a thousand years, and this is a ride of approximately 16km from Kameoka to one of Kyoto's foremost tourist destinations, Arashiyama. In the winter (early December - March 9), there is an Ozashiki Danbo-sen, with carpet and small oil heater, on which you can enjoy the scenery out the window from inside a warm boat.
March 10 - December 10: 4,100 JPY/adult, 2,700 JPY/child (both incl. tax)
December 11 - March 9 (Ozashiki Danbo-sen): 4,100 JPY/adult, 2,700 JPY/child (both tax. incl.)
This is a boat ride on which you can enjoy the Garyu Gorge and Tenryu Gorge in the Tenryu River area. The 35-minute ride of Garyu Gorge, which is up river, is appropriate for those who want to experience a thrilling ride, and the Tenryu Gorge ride is recommended for those who want to enjoy the scenery. The boats have kotatsu seating between December and February. Reservations are required between December and March.
Garyu Gorge Course: 2,400 JPY/adult, 1,200 JPY/child
Tenryu Gorge Course: 2,900 JPY/adult, 1,450 JPY/child (both incl. tax)
Geibi Gorge is a nationally selected place of scenic beauty. This is a round-trip ride through the gorge with approximately 2km of limestone walls that are more than 50m high. It is especially popular in May, when the wisteria is at its most beautiful, and in October, the height of the fall foliage season. Between December and February, there are boats that serve a miso-flavored nabe hot pot (reservation required) with ingredients such as chicken, daikon radish, carrots, and burdock roots. The ride takes approximately 90 minutes.
Rates: 1,600 JPY/adult, 860 JPY/child, 200 JPY/toddler
How was it? Some of these rides are seasonal, so if you want to try them, be sure to check their schedules on the official homepages.
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.