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Enjoy a night cruise along Sumida River and Tokyo Bay, along with excellent Japanese cuisine on a yakatabune, a traditional cruise boat. This type of culture has its roots in the Edo Period (1603-1868) and is an excellent way to experience traditional Japanese culture.
One of the most exciting elements of Japanese culture born in the Edo period (1603 - 1868) is yakatabune culture. Yakatabune are cruise boats, either privately owned or rented occasionally.
Feudal lords in the Edo period would compete with each other in holding lavish parties on yakatabune. They would offer guests a gorgeous course of refined food and would invite famous geisha to entertain the guests during the cruise. The hosts would spend a fortune to hold a yakatabune party that would be the talk of the town.
Yakatabune culture survives today in many of Japan's river cities such as Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, Fukuoka or Hita, to name just a few. Courses that include dances and songs performed by geisha are quite expensive, though they allow the full cultural experience.
In this article, we introduce an affordable yakatabune dinner cruise that can be enjoyed in Tokyo. The cruise includes a dinner course of refined traditional Japanese cuisine, a ride along the Sumida River with fabulous views of Tokyo at night, and other elements that allow participants a taste of traditional yakatabune culture.
Book your Yakatabune Dinner Cruise
The Yakatabune Cruise departs from Tennozu Isle Platform 3 at 18:00. Participants should arrive at around 17:30 to the boat and do the chek-in procedures.
The boat heads first to the Odaiba area. There will be two stops on the way: one at Odaiba, offering a great view of Rainbow Bridge and the Fuji TV Building, which are both illuminated at night; the second stop is near the Eitai Bridge on the Sumida River, allowing a great view of TOKYO SKYTREE.
The best time to take photos of the beautiful views of Tokyo at night is during these stops.
A professional photographer is stationed on the yakatabune. He'll take photos of the participants making sure that both their faces and the nightscape show up clearly in the photos. The pictures are included in the participation fee and you'll be able to download them at the end of the cruise.
After a brief introduction by the organizers and the traditional opening of the sake barrel, which marks the beginning of the party in Japanese culture, the food course is served.
The course includes several Japanese dishes that are as tasty as they are gorgeous. The highlight of the menu is tempura. During yakatabune cruises in the past, they would throw a fishing net into the river. The fish caught on the day would be cooked into tempura on the spot and offered fresh to the guests.
The all-you-can-drink beverage menu includes several types of Japanese alcohol, from sake and shochu to whiskey and wine, as well as soft drinks.
The refined cuisine, the wonderful views of Tokyo at night, and socializing with other participants - all these are important elements of the yakatabune dinner cruise so take the time to enjoy everything at leisure. The cruise ends after about two hours, with the boat returning to Tennozu Isle at 20:30.
Book your Yakatabune Dinner Cruise
In order to introduce the Yakatabune Dinner Cruise to our readers, we actually took part in it in December 2019.
The yakatabune boat was waiting for us at the Tennozu Isle Pier. It was decorated with beautiful traditional lanterns, gathering everyone's attention.
The cruise started with the traditional opening of the sake barrel using wooden mallets. Two volunteers were recruited from among the participants. It seemed like a lot of fun to break the sake barrel with everyone cheering around!
By this time, the boat had reached Odaiba. We went out on the deck for a few minutes to take a look at Rainbow Bridge, which looked dazzling!
The food course was brought to the tables one dish at a time. After an appetizer and sashimi artistically arranged on a boat-shaped plate, the tempura was brought it in.
Good quality tempura is soft on the inside and crispy on the outside. For this very important feature to be kept, the pieces of tempura were brought one by one. The various types of vegetable and seafood tempura were light and very flavorful. We loved it!
The course culminates with a hot pot dish and rice. A delicious dessert is brought in at the end of the meal.
After experiencing such a meal, you'll be able to understand why Edo-period people saw the food as the highlight of a yakatabune cruise. The Japanese cuisine served during such a cruise is delicious and made with so much dedication to detail.
It's around this time that the boat reaches Eitai Bridge. TOKYO SKYTREE was shining bright in the distance and both sides of the river were lined by skyscrapers full of lights.
The boat will gradually head back to Tennozu Isle along Sumida River. We passed under several bridges, and the cityscape along the river was simply breathtaking! We even spotted Tokyo Tower on the right, standing out among the bright skyscrapers - a gorgeous sight!
Remember that you can go back to your table inside the yakatabune at any time to enjoy drinks. The leisurely moments on the boat allow you to think about the Edo-period people who invented yakatabune cruises to appreciate excellent food and quality entertainment.
We felt that the Yakatabune Dinner Cruise is so much more than a night cruise in Tokyo. It is a fun and educational evening that offers an in-depth experience of this special part of Japanese culture.
The Yakatabune Dinner Cruise is ideal for everyone who wishes to experience refined traditional Japanese culture. This particular cruise runs through Tokyo Bay and along Sumida River, allowing wonderful views of Tokyo's vibrant skyscraper districts at night.
In addition, the cuisine and beverages are first class, made and served in accordance with the principles of refined Japanese cuisine. They are a joy for the eyes and for the palate.
If you're seeking an authentic experience of truly valuable Japanese culture, do consider taking the Yakatabune Dinner Cruise!