Translated by Greg
Fukuoka's Yanagawa River - A Scenic Cruise On A Boat With A Heater!
Fukuoka prefecture's Yanagawa city has the historic feel of a castle town, with a series of waterways passing through it. If you join the local river cruise, you can relax while looking at the area's natural beauty and history.
Written by miki fukumuro
Enjoy the Four Seasons on a River Boat Cruise
Yanagawa city is a jokamachi (*1), or castle town, located in the southern part of Fukuoka Prefecture and the waterway that was built to protect the castle runs through the heart of the city.
A famous boat called a donkobune (donko boat) travels along this waterway along a scenic river cruise, the centerpiece of Yanagawa city's tourism industry.
If you join this cruise, you can see the numerous faces of the Yanagawa River area that change with the seasons: the various colors of the beautiful flowers in the spring; the night view in the summertime; and the changing colors of the autumn foliage.
Then when winter comes, you can have a pleasant time going down the waterway on a boat equipped with a kotatsu (a traditional heating device), called a kotatsu boat (kotatsubune). In today's article, we'll be introducing this kotatsu boat, a charming winter tradition in Yanagawa city.
*1 Jokamachi: refers to a kind of Japanese city that surrounded the feudal lord's castle in ancient times. The city was subsequently designed in ways to encourage its growth and development, while at the same time strengthening its defense. Today in some jokamachi, remnants of moats and stone walls that were built in those days, still remain.
Go Down a River on a Boat Heated By a Hibachi Stove!
The kotatsu boat tour only operates in the winter, from December 1st until the last day in February.
People usually sit on chairs aboard the boat as it travels down the river, but when the winter season arrives, the chairs are replaced by a futon and hibachi stove, and passengers snuggle up into this kotatsu-like setup.
A hibachi is a charcoal-filled container acting as a heat source. When the charcoal is lit, a futon is then placed over it, and this heating apparatus is called a kotatsu. As a result, in the winter months, this donko bune is specially called a kotatsu bune (referred to as kotatsu boat from here on).
By the way, when getting on board this kotatsu boat, please remember to remove your shoes.
With skill and expertise, this captain carefully guides the donko boat downstream with a long pole. His appearance is characterized by a piece of Japanese traditional clothing called a happi (*2)
There are a reported two hundred and fifty donko boats in total. At the present time, the oldest and still active boat captain is eighty-four years old (*in December, 2015)!
It's amazing how easily this operator can handle a boat like this with twenty-two to twenty-four passengers on board!
*2 Happi (happi coat): a traditional straight-sleeved coat made of cotton and imprinted with a crest. It's often worn at festivals and other special events. Open in the front, one side is overlapped over the other and tied up, similar to a kimono. This simple to put on short length coat is also sometimes worn on the job by craftspeople and other workers.