[From August Issue 2014]
Practiced in Japan from the Heian era (8-12th century), boating is sailing on a river or a pond for pleasure. In addition to river cruises, all kinds of boating can be enjoyed all over Japan. In Tokyo, you can rent the “Riverboat Mizuha” for your private use.
Tokyo is on the Bay of Tokyo where, during the Edo era (17-19th centuries), large cargo was always transported by ships. Tokyo still has many rivers and canals that were used in those days. “You can forget your everyday routine just by pushing off from the shore and being rocked by the water. You can experience this in the middle of a metropolis,” says SATO Miho, managing director of Floating Life Co., Ltd., the company that runs Mizuha.
Though the boat has a small capacity of just ten, these ten people are accommodated on comfortable seats with a large table. The boat also has a toilet and electronic devices. Since the boat was built to sit low in the water, it can pass under low bridges even when the tide is high. Slender lighting fixtures leave enough headroom inside the boat. Since the tablecloths and lighting fixtures are traditional Japanese artisanal objects, the whole interior of the boat resembles a showcase in which everything can be seen and touched.
Typical rental periods are for 60-120 minutes leaving you free to choose your route and to have a good time with your family or close friends. If you indicate your preference for “a route with beautiful nighttime views” or “a route that gives a sense of Tokyo’s history,” suggestions will be made depending on the hour and season.
Customers vary: some hire the boat for a parents’ anniversary, sometimes all three generations of a family enjoy the cruise, and some are small parties on a company outing. A family with small children doesn’t have to worry about bothering other passengers. People have commented that it was good to laugh out loud and enjoy talking knowing the noise they made on the water wouldn’t disturb anyone.
On other trips, you ride with strangers. “Tokyo Landmark Boating” and “Dusk/Early Evening Boating” (about 60 minutes) are trips that take you through Nihonbashi River and Kamejima River – unchanged since the Edo era – along the Sumida River visiting Rainbow Bridge and the Tokyo Tower area. You can see the contrast between canals that still retain vestiges of their old banks, narrow waterways, and the Sumida River – also called the “big river.” In addition to Tokyo Skytree, you’ll also enjoy the many unique bridges that span the Sumida River. In the evening, the reflections of bridge lights on the river’s surface are particularly romantic.
Sato says, “I’m delighted if it stirs up thoughts such as: ‘I wonder why the scenery looks so different from the river?’ or ‘Was Tokyo such a cool town?’” It’s possible to embark from three locations: Nihonbashi (Chuo Ward), Kachidoki (Chuo Ward), and Azuma-bashi (Sumida Ward). On such sightseeing boats, it’s often forbidden to bring along your own drinks and food on board, but on Mizuha it’s permitted without incurring extra charges. If you request catering, it’ll be provided. English tours are available.