Saturday, October 07, 2006

Yanagawa Canal Boat Tour (Kawa Kudari)

Yanagawa is located to the south of Fukuoka, about an hour and a half by train. The small town is famous for its canal system, which has a total length of about 450 km. The main tourist attraction of Yanagawa is the boat tour along these canals.




There are six tour operators conducting boat tours along the canals. However, the most popular one is located on the railway station building itself, and therefore is easy to locate. There is a free shuttle service from the station to the boat terminal.

The term "Yanagawa" means willow river. Most of the canals are lined up with willow trees.



The start of the journey








The canals had been built around the ancient castle and other building, so there were many buildings, monuments and shrines near the river bank. The boatment explained these to us, although I could not capture all of it with my Japanese.







They say the boat tour is at its bets during autumn, with all the colored leaves. One bad thing about combining travel with conferences is that I cannot select when to go :o(. But still, the town office and residents make sure that there are some flowers to be seen from the banks all year round.




There were many houses by the canal at the starting point. However, the surroundings becomes more natural as we proceed.
















A traditional fishing trap.




Some bridges are quite narrow, just enough for the boat to pass through.











There are shops and restaurants along the banks, selling crushed ice, ice cream, and drinks. We stopped by one, to buy "Kaki Gori" (crushed ice).
















Towards the latter half of the journey, the boatman sang a couple of songs. He singing was great, but I cannot guarantee that all boatmen sing :-p.









The tour took about an hour and a half, and was a great, relaxing experience.

3 comments:

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Daniel Thomas MacInnes said...

Are you familiar with the 1987 documentary film about the Yanagawa canals? It's called Yanagawa Horiwari Monogatari, and was directed by Studio Ghibli's Isao Takahata (and produced by Hayao Miyazaki). It's a fantastic film that takes you through the history of the city's canal system and its waterways, the ins and outs on how everything works, and its history as it relates to Japan.

Most notably, the Yanagawa canals were totally devestated during Japan's postwar boom. By the 1960s, the amount of pollution and garbage was just shocking. A serious effort was made to repair the damage and return the waterways to their original splendor.

Yanagawa Monogatari is 3 hours long, but it's structured by chapters, so it's easy to watch in installments. I don't know if it was released to theatres, or broadcast on television. But it's an amazing and fantastic documentary that really opens your eyes to the world. It also helps, I guess, if you're a fan of the Studio Ghibli movies - you'll appreciate their environmental bent a lot more after watching this.

The DVD is only available in Japan, but it's fairly cheap ($35) and includes both an English and Japanese soundtrack, and English subtitles. I recommend it to everyone, and I'm always telling myself to upload it to youtube or other similar site.

Chaminda said...

Hi Danial,

Thanks a lot for the information. I am a big fan of Ghibli movies, will look for it!

-Chaminda