Yakata-bune Boat (a roofed pleasure boat) (屋形船)
Yakata-bune is a kind of Japanese boat and is a roofed ship with zashiki (tatami room) for use in festivals and enjoying food on a ship. It is also called as a rosen (a roofed pleasure boat).
The original form was present from the Heian Period and was used to entertain nobles. It was used for viewing cherry blossoms, the moon, and fireworks by feudal lords and rich merchants, and prospered during the Edo Period when there was advancement in river bank development and management. The yakata-bune of the Sumida River were especially lavish, decorated with gold and silver lacquer. It reached a peak around 1680 and started to deteriorate under the decree against building big ships imposed in 1682.
It was popular even after the Meiji Restoration, but its popularity started to decline due to the 'change of culture' and 'deterioration of rivers' (water pollution) after losing World War II.
Due to the bubble economy at the end of the Showa period and the improvement of water quality, yakata-bune became greater in number and continue to the present.
Yakata-bune was used as a place to exchange information for main characters, Ukon HAYAMI and Shogen MUKAI, in Yabure Bugyo, a historical television drama based on Fukagawa, Edo.
It was used as a place for secret talks between a corrupt bailiff and a merchant, or where a bad guy raped a girl in other historical dramas.
It has a complete length of approximately 20 meters and can contain 15-80 people. Most of it is guest space except for some work space (navigation and kitchen).
The way of the usage
The whole ship is usually chartered, but there are boats that are shared.
Other than reserving it directly at the boat-keepers, it could be hired by nearby hotels or bus tours (such as hato bus in Tokyo).
Many routes include the cherry blossom viewing on spring afternoons, fireworks at night for summer, and night view during spring and fall. The boat ride lasts two to three hours and sake or meals are usually served. There is often a special fee required on the day of fire works.
The boat houses around Sumida River in Tokyo have many courses that tour around Sumida River, Odaiba, and Rainbow Bridge.
There are many boat houses around Sumida River, Hamamatsu Town, and Shinagawa River in Tokyo. They also operate in the cities of Sakata, Nagoya, Osaka, Fukuoka, and Niigata.