One of the oldest countries in the world, Japan has enough sightseeing opportunities to satisfy nearly every interest. Located inside the "Ring of Fire," Japan is made up of more than 3,000 small islands dotting Asia's Pacific coast, making river tours a popular choice for visitors. Depending on the length of stay, travelers might enjoy a quick cruise of a major coastal city, or a longer and more in-depth exploration of these ancient waters. If travelers, don't speak Japanese a translator may be necessary to book these cruises, but the experience is always breathtaking.
Kinugawa Line Kudari River Cruise
Just five minutes from the Kinugawa Onsen Station train stop lies the Kinugawa Line Kudari River Cruise. Passengers remove their shoes upon entering the wooden flat-bottomed boat and settle in for a trip that lasts about 40 minutes. The cruise follows a winding path through an expanse of untouched land and naturally-sculpted rock formations that characterize the river. Those who understand Japanese will enjoy the boatmen offer a running commentary as the cruise passes points of interest. The cruise is in operation from the latter half of April to the beginning of November; as of January 2010 admission is 2,500 yen. Reservations include a shuttle bus to Kinugawa Onsen Station.
Sasukehana Harbor Cruise
The port city Shimoda, on the Izo-hanto Peninsula, is most known as the site where a peace treaty was established between Japan and America. The harbor that used to dock the American Kurofune ("Black Ships") in the 1800s is now home to the Sasukehana harbor cruise: a ship fashioned after these Kurofune that sails around the edge of Shimoda. The cruise itself is a bit short, coming it at a little under 30 minutes, as it passes the scenic coastline and Mount Nesugata. If traveleres arrive in Shimoda on the third weekend in May, they can participate in the Kurofune Matsuri, or Black Ship Festival, which commemorates the signing of the treaty with Commodore Matthew Perry. The trip to Shimoda takes just under three hours from Tokyo if you take the limited express train on the Izu Kyoko Line to Izukyu-Shimoda Station.
Mogami-gawa River Cruise
Located in the heart of the Yamagata Prefecture, the Mogami-gawa River is well-known among the locals for its attractive scenery. The hour-long cruise includes a trip down the Goshiki-numa ("Five-Color Lake"), whose water changes color before your eyes. The boatman will sing traditional Japanese songs to accompany the ride, which can also be sung in English if it's a group's native language. If arranged ahead of time, passengers can enjoy a meal on the cruise or depart the boat at a certain point to explore more of the countryside on their own. It is a four-hour trip from Tokyo by taking the the Joetsu Shinkansen Line to Niigata Station, then the Uetsu Line limited express from Niigata to Sakata Station.
Article Written By Umiko Sasaki
Umiko Sasaki has been writing for newspapers and trade magazines since 1999. Credits include Software.com, The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, Mayo Center for the Performing Arts, and several regional charities. She holds a Bachelor's degree from Drew University in playwriting and has owned a copywriting business in New Jersey since 2005.