Yanagawa Canal Boat Tour (Kawa Kudari)

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Yanagawa Canal Boat Tour (Kawa Kudari)

Last month, my fellow blogger friend Joranne came to Fukuoka for a weekend.
She wanted to try yatai and kimono.
Rather than staying in Fukuoka city, I sent her the link of Yanagawa's Sagemon festival which ended soon after her coming and she loved the idea so we went there.

After a long study of the weather and compared the pros and cons between Saturday and Sunday, I booked our kimonos for Sunday morning, 10am. The kimonos are not really a surprise since we have shared photos in our respective social networks.
I leave this part as well as the Sagemon festival for another article (there is a small teaser at the end of the article).

If I hesitated a long time to decide which day we would go, it is because in Fukuoka it often rains on Sunday. I don't know why but sunny sundays are so few that people often  say "wow let's enjoy our sunday".
That day's weather forecast was cloudy in the morning and sunny in the afternoon with a 40% chance of rain. Unfortunately what I fear happened. It started raining right the moment we bought the tickets for the cruise.

Oh yes, let's go back to the article subject.
Yanagawa is called  "Kyushu little Venice" or "Japan little Venice" thanks to the 470km of canals that surround the city. The cruises are called "kawa kudari (川下り)" which literally means "descent of the river". It is the most popular attraction of the city in addition to being a true tradition and many visitors flock to the boats, especially at this time of year.

There are several cruise companies that make more or less similar routes for more or less the same price, around 1600 yen. In addition to descending the canals to the historic heart of Yanagawa, it is now possible to go back up. When I went there two years ago I only crossed one boat going up the canals when this year we met a dozen. This is becoming more and more popular!

I chose the Shogetsu company which is located near the kimono rental shop. I had already done a cruise with them so I knew what to expect. I think this is the most popular company as well.

Yanagawa Canal Boat Tour (Kawa Kudari)
Start point

Yanagawa Canal Boat Tour (Kawa Kudari)
Let's go !

We took our tickets at the counter (all the useful information are at the end of the article) and we waited for a while for the rain to calm down. There are cruises every 30 minutes and we weren't really in a hurry. When the rain stopped, we decided to embark.
In the queue you can rent a traditional hat for 100 yen (advised in summer, on beautiful days) what we choose not to do. As it was likely to rain again, we were given a huge transparent rain coat. Over the kimonos it was really beautiful you can imagine. No no there will be no photos :)

Yanagawa Canal Boat Tour (Kawa Kudari)

Yanagawa Canal Boat Tour (Kawa Kudari)

Yanagawa Canal Boat Tour (Kawa Kudari)
Nice smile !

Yanagawa Canal Boat Tour (Kawa Kudari)

Yanagawa Canal Boat Tour (Kawa Kudari)

Yanagawa Canal Boat Tour (Kawa Kudari)
Donko bune

Yanagawa Canal Boat Tour (Kawa Kudari)

The boats, called donko bune (どんこ船), can embark about twenty people. They don't have a motor but there is boatman armed with a long stick, like the gondoliers of Venice.

In our donko bune there was a group of Taiwanese and us. The poor gondolier spoke without anyone listening him since he spoke only Japanese mixed with some local dialect. Also he spoke in a weird way and it was not easy to understand what he was saying. At first I was a little sad for him so I tried to listen but since he recited his text like an automaton, I was quickly tired. I rather chat with Joranne, took pictures and watch the scenery.

Halfway there are small shops selling food and drinks. If you want something, just raise your hand and the boatman stops the gondola. In ours no one raised the hand.

Yanagawa Canal Boat Tour (Kawa Kudari)

Yanagawa Canal Boat Tour (Kawa Kudari)
Cute !

Seated at the end of the boat, near the boatman, we enjoyed the cruise, although we felt that a bit long at the end. We pass under bridges of different heights, some are so low that you have to bend down so it was quite funny.

From the canals we could see more private houses, some old buildings and some not always beautiful modern buildings.
The view is nice but it isn't the greatest ever. The boatman tries to explain things, for example that it is in such schools that a famous Japanese tennis player studied, but it's too abstract to most of people. What is nice is the boat ride itself, the bridges and you never get tired of watching the other boats go by.

My friend thought that is was a bit long (her butts started to hurt and she was pleased when we finally arrived) and thought that it was too bad that she couldn't understand the explanations.

This is something I understand too. Boat tours are nice but not foreigner friendly. They need to do something like having audio guides in several languages or something like this in order to increase the foreign visitors.
But there are also many people as my mum and me who just enjoy riding a boat so... yes quite difficult.

Yanagawa Canal Boat Tour (Kawa Kudari)
Be careful to your head !

Yanagawa Canal Boat Tour (Kawa Kudari)

Yanagawa Canal Boat Tour (Kawa Kudari)

Yanagawa Canal Boat Tour (Kawa Kudari)

Yanagawa Canal Boat Tour (Kawa Kudari)

Peach flowers in Yanagawa, Fukuoka
Peach flowers
After 70 minutes we docked in the historical and tourist center of Yanagawa.
From there we went to eat and visited different places of the festival Sagemon but it will be for another article ... T

o finish here is a little preview of what awaits you for the next article about Yanagawa.

Yanagawa in kimono preview

Access and useful informations

Access from Fukuoka
Take in Tenjin Omuta Line from Tenjin and get off at Nishitetsu Yanagawa (48 minutes by express train, 850 yens), then 5 minutes by foot.

Everyday between 9am and 5pm. Departure every 30 minutes

Adults  : 1600 yens
Children between 6 and 12 :  800 yens
Children under 6 : Free
Printable coupon here

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