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Yakatabune: The Best Pleasure Boats for Sakura Season

Karina Ikedo

Karina Ikedo

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A picture of a woman in a boat among cherry blossoms.

The yakatabune is a magical experience to cruise beneath a row of sakura (cherry blossom) trees! But for true connoisseurs, there’s another way to enjoy it—doing it from a boat. It’s the best way to enjoy the stunning cherry blossoms while resting your feet. 

There’re some fantastic options for flower-viewing tours as the sakura season gets closer. Keep reading as it will take you through Japan’s most recommended flower-viewing cruises!

What is Yakatabune?

A yakatabune is a Japanese-style pleasure boat fitted with tatami mats on the floor and a roof. At first, yakatabune may sound like a cruise ship. However, the size and capacity of yakatabune boats are far less than those of an actual cruise ship. The highest capacity of vessels in the past was 10 to 20, but today some boats can accommodate 200 passengers. 

A picture of a green pleasure boat in the water.
Yakatabune originated in the Heian period (794-1185) Image via Shutterstock.

Passengers can enjoy delicious meals and beverages while taking in the stunning views of the sakura and rivers. Typically, meals on pleasure boats include sushi, sashimi, and tempura. Some yakatabune also give extra services like hiring a geisha or offering kimono rental dressing services. Using such services is advised if you want to make your yakatabune experience even more extraordinary.

Yakatabune Origin

In Japan, sightseeing cruises have a long history. Japanese nobility cruised on adorned boats in the seventh and eighth centuries. During their palatial cruise, they enjoyed the surroundings and performed music and poetry. Rich samurai and merchants competed to build magnificent yakatabune during the Edo period, which was then used for dining and sightseeing. 

A picture of a yakatabune pleasure boat with a skyscraper in the background. The boat is red.
Yakatabune was a luxury experience for the aristocracy. Image via Shutterstock

Unfortunately, officials banned these luxurious lifestyles, and extravagant yakatabune disappeared. Following this, manufacturers built basic yakatabune, allowing everyday people to enjoy cruising. During this period, contemporary yakatabune started to develop.

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Best Yakatabune Tours for Sakura Viewing

Here are our favorite yakatabune cruise tours to enjoy Japan’s cherry blossoms in the best way!

Osaka Suijyo Bus Aqua Liner

During the cherry blossom season, the Osaka Suijyo Bus Aqua-Liner works as a sightseeing boat. On a cherry blossom viewing cruise, visitors can enjoy the 4,800 cherry trees that line both sides of the Okawa River, which runs through the heart of Osaka.

Aichi Samurai Cruise 

A cruise along the Hori River runs through Nagoya, allowing passengers to take in the cherry blossoms in the Shirotori Garden, Oseko Park, and Miya-no-Watashi Park. Furthermore, a private reservation is needed for the Samurai Cruise, a cherry blossom-viewing cruise in the Higashiyama Garden. 

A picture of a pleasure boat in the water during twilight.
Yakatabune offers excellent opportunities to relax on the water! Image via Shutterstock

Starting at 5,000 JPY ($38) per person, the cost of the 120-minute cruise is quite affordable and includes boat transportation, meals, and refreshments. You can make a reservation up to a week before the preferred date. The cruise lasts for around 30 minutes, and Kanazawa travelers may travel to the region in a single day. 

Matsukawa River Cruises 

A picture of a yakatabune near cherry blossoms.
Yakatabune is very common throughout Tokyo when the cherry blossoms come out. Image via Shutterstock

One of Japan’s top 100 sakura tree locations is the Matsukawa River. The boat passes through a tunnel of cherry trees in full bloom on both sides of the Matsukawa River, which runs alongside Toyama Castle Park. All in all, there is no other way to enjoy the breathtaking visual effect of the cherry blossom tunnel as it approaches the roofless open-air boat.

Yokohama Cruise

You can cruise through Yokohama along a well-known cherry blossom viewing area. From the Keikyu Main Line’s Gumyoji Station to the Hinodecho Station, you can completely appreciate the tunnel made by cherry trees in blossom along the Ooka River. 

A picture of a yakatabune which is slightly off-screen. The roof is green.
Yakatabune is a leisure experience. Image via Shutterstock

On the Yokohama Cruise, four companies are operating, and they’re also courses where people can participate in activities like stand-up paddle surfing and canoeing. For a truly magical experience, we advise you to view cherry blossoms at night, illuminated by paper lanterns.

Sumida River Sakura Cruise

Mikawaya’s cruise ships travel down the Sumida River to Tokyo Bay’s Odaiba Rainbow Bridge. They provide a diverse selection of Japanese food at different prices. For example, these choices include affordable bento boxes and gourmet sets with steaks, sashimi, and other delicacies. You can reserve the boats for your group and make arrangements for geisha performances and sushi chefs.

Meguro River Cruise

Meguro River is another excellent location in Tokyo to view cherry blossoms. The 70-minute trip along the river with the breathtaking views is one of the best ways to enjoy spring in Tokyo. Meguro, a neighborhood especially loved by Tokyo hipsters, is becoming more well-known among tourists from other countries.

A night picture of the Meguro River during cherry blossom season.
The Meguro River is one of the best hanami spots in the city. Image via Shutterstock

Since Japan is the best country in the world to view cherry blossoms in the spring, seeing sakura trees in full bloom is the top priority for tourists visiting Japan. How about enjoying hanami (viewing cherry blossoms, eating, and drinking) on the boat? Take advantage of this one-of-a-kind opportunity to see stunning cherry blossoms from a traditional Japanese boat this spring!

Have you been on a yakatabune cruise tour before? Would you prefer to view sakura trees by boat or by foot? Let us know in the comments below!

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