Tokyo Yakatabune Association

Tokyo Bay Ninja Cruise

That’s right ninjas!!! For centuries traditional boats known as yakatabune have cruised the waters of Tokyo Bay and Tokyo’s many rivers. And though yakatabune continue to preserve the traditional cruising style of yesteryear, they are also constantly evolving. The latest evolution is embodied in the form of a ninja themed cruise!

See Tokyo Like Never Before

Enjoy a front row seat to Tokyo's spectacular skyline. See the iconic Tokyo Tower, magnificent Rainbow Bridge, futuristic Odaiba, and soaring Tokyo Sky Tree from truly unparalleled vantage points, along the Sumida River and on top of the waters of Tokyo Bay.

Japanese Cuisine, Fit for Nobility

Indulge in some of the finest Japanese cuisine Tokyo has to offer. Savor truly exceptional sashimi freshly caught and expertly prepared by our chefs. Spoil yourself with our generous servings of tempura, freshly made on board. Unwind will all you can drink premium Japanese beer, spirits and more. The way Japanese nobility enjoyed yakatabune cruises.

Actual food may vary depending on boat. Please inquire for specific menus.


A Brief History of Yakatabune

A Boat for the Imperial Court

Yakatabune go as far back as the Heian Period (794-1185). In the Manyoshu, Japan’s oldest anthology of poems, they were the pleasure boats of the Imperial court. Historical paintings show that they were used for entertainment in rivers and ponds, and were elegantly decorated with dragon heads and aquatic birds. Musical performances and readings of Japanese and ancient Chinese poetry were also common against a backdrop of cherry blossoms and autumn leaves. It was a place for Imperial nobility to exchange knowledge of the day.

Feudal Lords and Wartimes

When Japan was thrown into chaos during the period of Warring States, samurai lords, such as Oda Nobunaga and Toyotomi Hidetsugu, and members of the Imperial court took advantage of the tranquil setting aboard yakatabune to continue their predecessors' tradition of chanting Noh songs and reciting poetry.

Although yakatabune may have served as an escape from the dark days of war, this private setting may have also served as a venue to formulate battle tactics and political maneuvers.

Towards Luxury

When peace finally came to Japan during the Edo period (1603-1868), a new class of wealthy merchants and powerful feudal lords were at the forefront yakatabune construction. With popularity came competition and bigger and more elaborately decorated boats.

When the Great Fire of Meireki in 1657 decimated most of Edo, yakatabune construction came to a temporary stop. But soon after recovery construction resumed again, and in even greater abundance. A generation of truly magnificent and glamourous boats was born, glamorously decorated with gold and silver and painted in urushi lacquer.

Sophistication and Refinements

This prosperous time was brought to an abrupt end when the military shogunate government halted construction of all new yakatabune. Heavy restrictions were also placed on existing fleet of boats, causing a sharp decline in the number of luxury yakatabune, with a new generation of more modest vessels taking their place. These simpler boats were run by local restaurants and inns, providing common folk to enjoy a yakatabune cruise. Several ukiyo-e wooden block prints of this era remain, illustrating this new style of cruising for the common person, a tradition which continues on to this very day.

Ups and Downs of Meiji and Beyond

Through the Meiji Restoration (1868), and into the Taisho (1912-1926) and Showa (1926-1989) periods, yakatabune continued to enjoy widespread popularity among the common person. However the War in the Pacific brought a sudden decrease in popularity of yakatabune.

The end of the war brought an intense period of economic expansion. But despite such rapid growth, water pollution and over-construction along the riversides hindered the yakatabune community and brought it to a near collapse.

Modern Yakatabune

The bubble economy of the 1980's saw a crucial lifeline for yakatabune. With improving economic conditions, the idea of luxury cruises once again attracted attention, and the polluted waters of rivers and bays were cleaned up. New boats, with modern amenities such as air conditioning, heating and even karaoke systems, helped revive the centuries’ old tradition of the yakatabune.

For over 1000 years yakatabune have enjoyed a rich history filled with as many ups and downs as the waves they so easily glide over. Despite its colorful history, it may still come as a surprise as the current popularity of yakatabune is comparatively recent.