Tokyo Waterway Wonders: Embracing Tradition with Yakatabune Cruises

My first glimpse of a yakatabune cruise was under the Eitai-bashi bridge near Monzen-nakacho in Tokyo. While strolling along the Sumida River in the evening, my Japanese husband and I spotted a sleek boat adorned with red and white lanterns. I hadn’t seen anything like it before, and I immediately asked my husband what it was. A traditional houseboat called a yakatabune, he swiftly replied. He explained that the boat offers the perfect opportunity to explore the rivers of Tokyo and enjoy delicious food and drink while admiring the picturesque scenery. 

When I got home, I researched yakatabune and discovered that wealthy samurai, feudal lords, and merchants were the only people who could take these cruises during the Edo period. Furnished with low tables, rectangular zabuton, and tatami flooring, traditional yakatabune served as entertainment venues for enjoying hanami (cherry blossom viewing), tsukimi (moon viewing), and hanabi (fireworks). Today, for a sum of ¥10,000 to ¥25,000, they are open to anyone and everyone. 

What You Need To Know Before Booking a Cruise

Photo by Nesnad

Most people choose to go for group outings or corporate events on yakatabune. They are particularly excellent for companies’ team-building activities. Some people even reserve the entire boat for family events. Whichever you choose, you are bound to have one of the best nights of your life! 

Recommended Campaign: Book the Ultimate Team Building Cooking Class 

Most yakatabune cruises run all year long, with spring and summer being the best time to enjoy the tours. During spring, you will be surrounded by majestic cherry trees, and in summer, the sky is clear and perfect for enjoying fireworks. Since it can get really busy during this time, I recommend making a reservation a few days in advance just to be safe. Also, cruise ships have their own rules regarding the number of passengers permitted, whether they are kid-friendly, and if there are designated smoking areas on board. It is always best to check with the companies before making a reservation. 

Where to Board a Yakatabune Cruise 

The most common areas you will board a Tokyo river cruise are Fukagawa, Odaiba, Ariake (near Tokyo Big Sight), Shibaura, and around Asakusa. You will always find the boarding location on your ticket, no matter which cruise you book. Just to be sure, you can always call the company the day before you plan to board.

What to Expect When on Board 

These are a few experiences to look forward to when on board a yakatabune. The cruises typically feature traditional Japanese food and cultural activities. You can enjoy local and seasonal dishes like tempura, sashimi, miso soup, and other mouth-watering appetizers. However, it is rare to find vegan or vegetarian food options on board, so if you have dietary restrictions or food allergies, it is best to confirm with the company before boarding. 

Photo by wang xi on Unsplash

Some cruises give you the option to rent summer kimono, use karaoke machines, enjoy classical music performances, listen to poetry recitals, and watch geisha shows for an additional fee. Even others offer special services like fishing and ninja performances. Some of the ninja performers will also teach their guests a few skills, share tips, and pose for pictures.   

Over the two- to three-hour trip, your cruise will likely travel around major landmarks of Tokyo such as Rainbow Bridge, Tokyo Tower, Tokyo Skytree, Tsukiji Fish Market and Asakusa. Tokyo Bay sightseeing on a yakatabune offers a great opportunity to take some stunning pictures. Moreover, the illuminated bridges at night add to the overall atmosphere. The experience is worth every yen! 

Note: Traveling by a Yakatabune cruise is a pleasurable experience. However, the tides can be unpredictable, and turbulence may be unavoidable. If you suffer from motion sickness or seasickness, take your medicine before boarding. Also, avoid too much alcohol, as it could interfere with the medication and potentially worsen your seasickness. 

Top 5 English-Friendly Yakatabune Cruises in Tokyo

Interested in booking a cruise? These are some of the best options that offer service in English


Photo: Harumiya Instagram

Harumiya has a 4.5 rating on Google, and people have left positive reviews, having said it is one of the best yakatabune cruises in Tokyo. You will experience Japanese hospitality (omotenashi) at its finest here, as the staff is friendly, kind, and helpful. With luxurious interiors and delicious traditional Japanese cuisine, this company sets the bar high for other competitors. 

Website: Click here
Address: Kachidoki 4-6-1, Chuo-ku
Phone: 03-3644-1344

Funayado Tsurishin

This Sumida cruise will provide you with great food and a memorable cultural experience. While enjoying the scenery of the Sumida River, you can make happy memories with your colleagues or loved ones. Their yakatabune are ideal for hosting farewell parties, birthdays, office parties, new year parties, and other lavish events

Website: Click here
Address: Honjo 1-3-11, Sumida-ku
Phone: 03-3622-3572

Yakatabune Amitatsu

Photo by Amitatsu Yakatabune Summer BBQ

This company has been in business for almost 100 years. They have eight large boats that cater to different group numbers and services. It’s one of those few cruises with vegetarian meal options. They have an all-you-can-drink menu and a karaoke system on board too! 

Website: Click here
Address: Nishimizue 4-1-20, Edogawa-ku
Phone: 03-3655-2780

Yakatabune Ikegami

The Ikegami houseboat has simple and elegant interiors. The meals on board focus on traditional food like freshly fried tempura, soup, and sashimi platters. For those who do not prefer seafood, an hors d`oeuvres menu is also available. Menus change with the season, so  check their website for more details.

Website: Click here
Address: 1 Chome-1-30 Kiba, Koto City, Tokyo 135-0042
Phone: 03-3820-7570


Photo: Iwaiya Instagram

This Tokyo dinner cruise is an exquisite option for those seeking a unique cruising experience in Tokyo and Yokohama waters. What sets this cruise apart is its ability to cater to diverse culinary preferences, serving traditional and Western-style dishes. In addition to the exceptional dining offerings, guests can engage in various activities such as origami and mochi-making, adding an interactive element to their journey. To further enhance the ambiance, talented performers like magicians, belly dancers, and drummers are on board to captivate and entertain passengers throughout the voyage.

Website: Click here
Address: Bright East Shibaura 1F, Kaigan 3-18-21, Minato-ku
Phone: 03-6809-6448

In a nutshell, Yakatabune cruises offer more than just a sightseeing tour of Tokyo. They provide a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in Japanese culture and cuisine. They’re a chance to explore beautiful landscapes, create lasting memories, and foster new friendships

Enrich your life in Japan with GoConnect’s curated content. Sign up here to get the latest articles and campaigns.

Read more: Discovering the Top Japanese Craft Beers: A Guide to the Best Brews and Build Your Network at Foreign Chambers of Commerce Events in Tokyo, Kyoto and Tochigi

Share this Story