A ferry passes through Tokyo Bay.

A ferry passes through Tokyo Bay. (Jim Schulz / S&S)

A ferry passes through Tokyo Bay.

A ferry passes through Tokyo Bay. (Jim Schulz / S&S)

Passengers on one of the many ferries cruise around Tokyo Bay.

Passengers on one of the many ferries cruise around Tokyo Bay. (Jim Schulz / S&S)

Rather than taking an everyday train ride to Asakusa or Odaiba, how about taking a breezy ferry ride? And even have a beer or some ice cream while on board.

You can discover Tokyo on this “small voyage” on the water. During the day, Tokyo’s panoramic skylines are clearly etched against the sky, and during the night, the sparkling lights of the metropolitan area and the Tokyo bay with the Rainbow Bridge spread before you.

A total of 500-passenger ferries, with indoor and deck seats, run regular daily service, connecting “old” Tokyo with the newly developed waterfront Tokyo.

The Sumida River cruise runs to and from Asakusa and Hinode Pier, where most ferries depart. On this 40-minute cruise, you can get a glimpse into the old Tokyo of the Edo period (1603 to 1867), including passing under 12 unique bridges that span the river.

This area is known for the famous Ukiyo-e artist, Utagawa Hiroshige, as well as Haiku poet, Matsuo Basho.

The ferry also cruises by such historic sites as the National Sumo Arena, Kokugikan and Tsukiji fish market — known as the “Kitchen of Tokyo” for serving 90 percent of Tokyo’s seafood.

Ferries stop at Hama Detached Palace Garden or Hamarikyu. The garden was an official hunting ground for the Tokugawa Shogunate in the 1600s, and then the second residence of the shogun, or national military leader, in 1704. The garden also was where the Meiji Emperor met visiting U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant. To stop at the garden, you need to purchase a park admission ticket for 300 yen, or about $2.50.

And while you’re riding take time to appreciate the ferries themselves. The ferry has it’s own place in the history of the bay. The service started in 1885 using steam boats but they were replaced in 1920 by diesel boats. While the service stopped during World War II, it resumed in 1950.

The ferry rides now in the Tokyo Bay area are trips into modern Tokyo. The Odaiba line takes visitors across Tokyo Bay to the popular water front site, Odaiba. A 20-minute ride — which passes under the Rainbow Bridge ends at Odaiba — a large shopping and entertainment area.

Other lines connect Hinode Pier with water front areas such as Kasai Sealife Park, Museum of Maritime Science, Shinagawa Aquarium, Tokyo Big Sight and Palette Town.

In the ferries, loudspeaker announcements guide visitors in both Japanese and English through the ride.

Snacks and drinks are available such as bottled water for 160 yen, (about $1.40); beer for 350 yen, (about $3); ice cream for 160 yen, about ($1.40); and eight postcards of the ferries for 520 yen, (about $5.40).

Ferry rides cost from 200 yen to 880 yen (about $2 to $7.40). An all-you-can-ride day pass is available for 1,800 yen, or $15. Costs for elementary school students and younger children are half price. For time schedules and detailed information, check Tokyo Water Cruise’s Web site at:

author picture
Hana Kusumoto is a reporter/translator who has been covering local authorities in Japan since 2002. She was born in Nagoya, Japan, and lived in Australia and Illinois growing up. She holds a journalism degree from Boston University and previously worked for the Christian Science Monitor’s Tokyo bureau.

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