[From March Issue 2010]
Centered around both the ports of Tokyo and of Yokohama, the Keihin Industrial Zone has developed into Japan’s largest industrial area. With metal, mechanical and chemical plants standing side-by-side and intricately entangled in pipes, smoke and rising steam, with their lights illuminating the night’s darkness, the scene resembles those of science fiction movies. “The Jungle Cruise for Night Views of Factories,” a boat tour of the industrial zone surrounding the Port of Yokohama, started in June 2008, and costs 4,500 yen per person.
The cruise, which starts near the Yokohama Red Brick Warehouse and lasts one-and-a-half hours, is so popular that it’s usually fully booked several months in advance. On the deck of the Ootori, a wooden boat that holds up to 30 passengers, the captain and the chief engineer describe places of interest around the city, including 17 must-see factories. Since it is a night tour for adults, original cocktails are also served on-board.
The tour is conducted by the KMC CORPORATION, a company involved in operating both regular and chartered passenger liners as well as other marina-related businesses including the storage of private boats. IWATA Hideo, the company’s general manager, says: “MARUMARU Motoo, the famous night view critic, proposed and produced this tour, which made it all possible. We spent a lot of time on preparing for the tour, including choosing the route and instructing the guides.”
“The echoing sound of metal and the way the boat passes through a narrow canal reminds you of a jungle expedition. But, since the boat sails on the canal, where there are few waves, you hardly need to worry about getting seasick. With permission from the Transport Ministry, you can look at the enormous factories from as close as 30 meters away, which is the real appeal of this tour. The boat departs at dusk and returns after sunset, so you can enjoy a different version of the same views on the way back,” says Iwata.
In recent years, Japanese history, and trains, have both captured the attention of many young women. Now it’s similar with factories, where young participants have also included young women. The tour is popular among men and women of all ages, with many repeat customers. And aside from the factory-fanatics, those who work, or who used to work at factories, also take their families on these cruises. Some participants even come all the way from Hokkaido or Kyushu for this cruise.
Last October “The Adventure Cruise” started. This tour uses the largest boat the company owns, which accommodates up to 50 passengers. Passing under the Yokohama Bay Bridge, the boat heads for the famous “Castle of Light” oil refinery. Chartered, group cruises (for 10 to 50 passengers) with hotel catering services are available for parties and other special occasions.
These night cruises of factories, which were Japan’s first, have prompted some other local administrations to develop their own original tours as new tourist attractions. “I don’t want this to be just a temporary fad. So in order to keep providing this service, I’d like to further improve the content of the tours, rather than merely increasing the number of cruises that are currently provided only on Saturdays and Sundays. Taking our customers’ comments to heart, we’re striving far continuous improvement,” Iwata says.