With its dense jungle of glass, steel and concrete, it’s easy to forget that Tokyo prospered upon its proximity to the sea and its many canals and waterways. For a unique view of the metropolis, there is no better way than to jump on one of the many boats that offer cruises of Tokyo Bay.
While a cruise during the day will give you a fascinating view of day-to-day life and the grimy reality of the many waterways, like the city itself Tokyo Bay comes to life after dark when the light from a million windows and neon signs shine down on the water. The other obvious advantage of a Tokyo night cruise during the hot summer months is the refreshing breezes out on the water and the constant flow of chilled beer and cocktails.
While there are options to spends lots of money out on the water (like this one that offers a ¥15,000/person French food course), there are also plenty of reasonable Tokyo night cruise options comparable to a night on dry land.
The Tokyo Bay Noryosen
The Noryosen is a largish, multi-leveled cruise ship that runs evening ‘Yukata Cruises’ on Tokyo Bay over summer from June 30th until October 9th, 2017.
The cruise leaves from Takeshiba Pier near Hamamatsucho Station at 7:15pm passing under Rainbow Bridge, continuing on past the lights of Odaiba and doing a U-turn near Haneda Airport before heading back and docking at 9pm.
The cost of the cruise is ¥2,600—which includes all-you-can-drink beer and cocktails as well as entertainment from yukata dancers. If you wish to wear a yukata (light summer kimono) yourself, you’ll get a ¥1,000 discount on the ticket price—but only if you go on a week day, the discount doesn’t apply on weekends or on public holidays.
You have to book in advance—telephone bookings are accepted up to two months in advance (starting June 1st) while internet bookings can be done up to a month in advance—although the website is only available in Japanese (there used to be an English site).
More info: http://www.nouryousen.jp/
Yakatabune are the more traditional low-slung boats (so they can fit under the many low bridges on the Sumida River and connected canals) strung with red lanterns down both sides. In Tokyo, yakatabune tend to specialize in monja—a sloppy, savory type of pancake similar to its better-known West Japan cousin—okonomiyaki. There are however a huge range of different options—from kaiseki and tempura through to yaki-niku.
Many yakatabune offer a combined cruise, food course and all-you-can-drink for around ¥10,000. However, you can get evening cruises for as low as ¥6,000. With the food on yakatabune, you more or less get what you pay for. The thing that doesn’t vary with price is the amazing view.
Most offer a dizzying array of different courses, different departure points and different minimum booking numbers so it can be a little difficult to reserve. Some require you to book the whole boat—so it can work out reasonably cheaply if you convince only about 75 of your friends to come along too. Altogether, the process is ridiculously complicated and only worth the effort if someone else is organizing it!
This particular yakatabune (formerly known as the 4,900-yen yakatabune—before they put their prices up)
is was a lot easier to work out. Since we first wrote about them, they’ve changed their system a few times. While early evening cruises (departing at before 4pm) cost ¥5,000 for a single adult, early evening and weekend cruises are priced at ¥5,500 to ¥6,500. If you can handle daytime heat (these boats are typically open-sided with no aircon!) afternoon cruises are the best value.
A few daytime cruises depart from the relatively convenient Asashio Pier—located between Triton Square and Kachidoki Station. Most boats however, depart from the much more inconvenient Shin-kiba Pier, which is a free shuttle ride from Shin-kiba Station—the last stop on the Tokyo Metro Yurakucho Line.
Don’t expect much from the food, and they might even serve you a beer can rather than a glass. However, you can’t beat it for some good-value boozy fun on the water.
Reservations can be made by telephone (only in Japanese!) for as few as 2 people. More info: http://www.edomaekisen.com/en/index.html (in English even!)
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