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Goin’ Japanesque!

Yanagawa River Boat Tour: Atmospheric Trip Along the Castle Moat

The riverside area of Yanagawa, located in the southern part of Fukuoka Prefecture is sometimes referred to as “Venice (City of Water) of Japan”. Even in this modern age, there is a relaxed feel to the flow of time here; something you wouldn’t experience in the city. One of the highlights of sightseeing you can experience here is the boat trip down the river. It lets visitors fully experience the history of Japan. This article introduces the full experience of the Yanagawa River boat trip from start to finish. Photo:

See here for the other “Venice (City of Water) of Japan”: The Traditional Boat Houses of Ine: Historical Homes in a Waterside Village


Touring the Castle Moat (Ohori meguri)


The castle town of Yanagawa is well known as the birth place of Hakushū Kitahara (poet and writer of children’s songs; important figure in modern Japanese literature). The appeals of the area are the castle moat and grid work-like waterways that run across the area, which have a lot of history. The most popular way of touring the area is to take about an hour ride on the small boats called donko-bune. It takes you along the castle moat while listening to the songs of the boatmen. The moats were made 300 to 400 years ago at the time Yanagawa castle was built and these man-made moats still remain today. So, if one were to use maps from those times today, one would still be able to find their way around the area. It is a tourist spot where you can really feel the deep history of the area.


The Moat Tour Flow

1. Starting Point: Mihashira Jinja Shrine



The tour takes a leisurely start from the crimson bridge “Shogetsu Josenjo (Boat Landing)”

2. Yanagawa Castle Moat Floodgate (Yanagawa Jo Hori Suimon)


This is the only floodgate that offers access into the Yanagawa castle. In case of crisis, this floodgate will be closed and water will be released from the levy upstream. This then floods the area around the castle offering the best wall of defense. So you see this is an important floodgate with great mechanism and functionality.

3. Ryujobashi Bridge


Makes you wonder if people back in the day passed under the bridge like this. There are a few other opportunities to pass under bridges.

4. Cul-de-sac

It’s almost like a tunnel of green. The streets in this area have historically been made like an intricate maze with dead-ends so as to defend against enemies. It’s a structure that’s made to be confusing.

5. Bronze Statue of Military Commander Yoshimasa Tanaka



6. Yahe-e-mon Bridge


This is the oldest and most narrow bridge. It was intentionally made narrow in order to increase the water pressure. This is indeed the real-live experience of tourism and it’s very thrilling indeed; a different perspective from if you were to see it from the bridge above.

7. House of Totoki-shi


This is the remains of a samurai residence. The building has many entrapments to defend against enemies.

Related: 6 Highlights Specific to Myoryuji aka Ninja Temple and A Word of Caution

8. The Machiboke Monument


The monument of “Machiboke (waitin in vain)”, a song by Hakushū Kitahara, is placed in front of the House of Totoki.

9. Ohana (The Former Villa of the Tachibana Family)


The tour goes past Ohana, which was built by Tachibana Sadayoshi of the Yanagawa Clan.  The surrounding nature and pond has been preserved from its original. The place can also be used as a venue for weddings.

10. Tono no Kura (Tachibana Museum)


Going around the Ohana building there is the Tono no Kura (Warehouse of the Lord). It is a building with ‘Namako-kabe wall’ (style of wall covered with square tiles joined with raised plaster). Inside, there are displays of items such as the Tachibana family treasures, so it would also be a nice trip to separately visit the facility by land-route.

11. Final Stop: Okinohata


Yanagi or willows sway on both sides, concluding your Ohorimeguri tour around the castle moat. The one hour experience of your historical trip of Japan comes to a close a little too soon.


A different donko-bune experience by season


In the spring, you get to take the small boat ride while enjoying the view of the cherry blossoms. In the summer it becomes an illuminated boat. In the winter, they even have a kotatsu-stove ready on the boat. What this means is that depending on the season, you get to enjoy a different experience. Information: Map

And we continue on to Part 2. What other activities can you experience in this area? Yanagawa River Boat Tour: Sightseeing Nearby and Local Foods

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