What is Yakatabune?
Yakatabune is a unique Japanese-style wooden tour boat which is good for sightseeing as you can see quite a few famous spots in Tokyo from the boat while sailing along the river.
Yakatabune is normally not that big and has over the centuries hosted dinner parties where guests can mingle and socialize over food and drinks. Each boat is furnished with tatami mats and tables, and historically featured entertainment such as music performances and poetry recitals as the boat cruises down the river. It first started during the Heian Era (794-1185) and had been a luxurious entertainment for feudal lords, warriors and later, wealthy merchants. It opened up to the masses only in the late 19th century.
What can you see while on the cruise?
You can pick a Yakatabune boat tour route (there are different routes as you can see on the website) you like when going on a cruise. My recommendation is the tour that starts in Kachidoki and go all the way to Odaiba. What you can see on the cruise includes Tokyo Tower, Tokyo Skytree, Rainbow Bridge, Fuji TV, Odaiba area, Toyosu Market, etc. The newly built Athletes’ Village and the Olympic rings (see a picture below) for Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics are also something you can check out while sailing down the river. Check out the route on the website below!
How to make a reservation for a cruise?
You can book online or onsite. There are different companies that organize the Yakatabune boat cruise so you can chose the one you like. The size of the boat is mostly the same across the companies but the atmosphere of inside the boat may be a bit different. Most importantly, the food menu (all Japanese food) that each company offers is different; so make sure you pick the cruise that offers the food you like. Here are some companies that organize the boat cruise:
Some of them don’t have English website so you may ask your hotel to help make a reservation for the tour. Or you can call them directly. During the cherry blossom season and summer fireworks season, the boat cruise may get very crowded; however, the view from the boat will be spectacular.