1. Symphony Tokyo Bay Cruise
    Photo: Symphony Tokyo Bay Cruise
  2. Yakatabune Amitatsu
    Photo: Yakatabune Amitatsu
  3. Yokohama SUP Club
    Photo: Yokohama SUP Club
  4. Tokyo no Kaba
    Photo: Tokyo no Kaba
  5. Tokyo Great Kayaking Tours
    Poto: Kisa Toyoshima

Tokyo on water: best cruises, boat rides and water sports in Tokyo

Dinner cruises, rowboat rides, SUP paddling or kayaking – explore Tokyo's waters with these fun and exciting activities

Tabea Greuner
Kasey Furutani
Written by
Tabea Greuner
Kasey Furutani

With its sprawling cityscape, it’s easy to forget that Tokyo is a city defined by water: you'll find Tokyo bay to the east while rivers and canals snake through the concrete jungle into the mountains. From water sports to sightseeing and dinner cruises, here’s how to explore another side of the metropolis through these scenic waterways.

RECOMMENDED: Our guide on going out safely in Tokyo

Leisure cruises

  • Things to do
  • Asakusa

Centuries ago in Japan, yakatabune were the pleasure boats of wealthy merchants, aristocrats and military leaders, and they were lavishly decorated, often with tatami mats and low tables for dining. Nowadays, these traditional wooden longboats are seeing a revival as private entertainment vessels for groups to enjoy Tokyo’s night scenery over food and drinks.

However, this doesn’t mean yakatabune are off limits to casual tourists. Yakatabune Amitatsu, which has been in business for over a century, also caters to couples and smaller groups on one of their eight ships, all equipped with a sky deck. Make a booking for the Odaiba-Skytree Cruise, which takes you from Tokyo’s heritage centre, Asakusa, to the modern pleasure island Odaiba. The two-and-a-half-hour cruise comes with a bar and a Japanese dinner that includes tempura and sashimi, and there’s a vegetarian option, too (pre-book during reservation).

In spring, Amitatsu also offers a special sakura tour that takes you to some of Tokyo’s most picturesque riverbanks, all flanked by cherry blossoms.

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  • Yokohama

The Yokohama cityscape is picturesque, but you’re really here for the ‘Blade Runner’-esque vista in the neighbouring city of Kawasaki. The Keihin Factory Zone, to be specific, is made up of massive industrial units, power plants, warehouses and cranes set along canals – and come nightfall, the steely industrial zone is all lit-up, creating post-apocalyptic scenery that looks like it’s lifted straight off a sci-fi flick. It’s a mesmerising sight, especially with the vista reflected in the water.

The 90-minute night cruise departs from Osanbashi Pier, located between Yokohama’s Minatomirai waterfront and Chinatown. It’s a small group on a small boat that’s all the better for navigating through the narrow canals.

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  • Nihonbashi

A boat ride into the past, Funaasobi Mizuha introduces you to the city’s history through the four main rivers in Tokyo: Nihonbashi, Kamejima, Sumida and Kanda. During the 90-minute tour, you’ll discover the ancient stone walls of the old Edo Castle, historic bridges and railway-related heritage sites, plus ancient waterways excavated about 400 years ago, which go to explain how and why Tokyo is really a city of water.

It’s an illuminating journey that reveals a side of Tokyo few visitors get to appreciate. There’s a knowledgeable English-speaking guide on board and you can bring along food and drinks for a little picnic on the boat. Each reservation comes with a small souvenir and guide to Tokyo’s waterways.

  • Restaurants
  • Takeshiba

This is not your standard tourist tootle out-and-back, but a relaxing sightseeing cruise that gives you a brand new perspective on the city. There are multiple sessions from morning to night, taking you out to Tokyo Bay for spectacular views of the iconic Rainbow Bridge, the bustling man-made island Odaiba – which is known for its shopping malls and amusements – and Haneda Airport.

You might just want to enjoy the cruise, but you can turn it into a waterborne meal at one of the boat’s restaurants; options range from French and Italian to Japanese cuisines and there’s even an international buffet. Otherwise, there’s a bar if you want to drink in the view with, well, an actual drink. Park yourself on the open deck and watch the buildings parade past like an architectural catwalk show.

Note that the buffet restaurants are temporarily closed until August 31.

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  • Odaiba

Every major city seems to have its own gimmicky duck bus, including Tokyo, except here it’s reimagined as the ‘Hippo of Tokyo’ (Tokyo no Kaba). Popular with kids, the journey starts on land in Odaiba and hits the water with a huge splash, with an enthusiastic tour guide narrating as you go. The bus-boat takes a leisurely journey through Tokyo Bay, passing Odaiba Beach, the Rainbow Bridge and the futuristic architecture of the Fuji Television headquarters.

Tours run during daylight hours but adults will appreciate the sunset on the last tour of the day. It might be a trip catering to children, but we’re all kids again when the bus-boat splashes into the water.

Until August 31, Tokyoites can board the water bus for just ¥2,800 (¥1,200 for primary school students and children aged4 or older). To get the discount, reserve online and bring proof of your address.

Water activities

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  • Kayabacho

You’ve explored Tokyo by train, on foot, possibly even on two wheels – but what about on water? Tokyo Great Tours lets you travel by kayak and see the city from its canals and rivers. Beginner-level to advanced courses have kayakers paddling under historic bridges, beside train tracks and on the Sumida River, where you’ll get an unparalleled view of Tokyo Skytree. At some point you’ll want to lay down your paddle, lean back and realise you’re floating in the middle of Tokyo.

We recommend ‘Route C’ for beginners: you’ll paddle under highways and the historic Nihonbashi Bridge, and see Tokyo Skytree. You’ll also be a sight to behold yourself: wide-eyed salarymen will wave at you from bridges and fascinated children will point from boats. Hopefully you’ll stay upright for the duration – but as an experience it’ll capsize your whole image of Tokyo.

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  • Koganecho

Stand-up paddleboarding, or SUP, has grown from its humble origins in Hawaii to become an international sport. Home to Chinatown and the Minatomirai waterfront, Tokyo’s seaside neighbour Yokohama has an SUP scene of its own, with the Yokohama SUP Club educating both beginners and more serious SUP paddlers, and hosting events and a monthly river clean-up.

The certified guides and instructors will teach proper form and paddling techniques so you’re not too sore the next day. You’ll stand-up paddle down the Ooka River, which empties into Yokohama Bay, and see famous sightseeing spots like the Landmark Tower and the giant ferris wheel Cosmo Clock 21 along the way.

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  • Ome

White-water rafting? Been there, done that, and so last decade. Adrenaline junkies can now immerse themselves in the water with only a helmet and a life jacket by canyoning, a relatively new adventure sport that uses natural canyons as a real-life adventure park. Tour operator Canyons offers the two-hour Big Holy Canyon tour, where you’ll slide down waterfalls up to 25m tall, zip-line down rivers and jump off precipices from a height of six metres, all in the middle of Okutama’s lush nature (Okutama is just 90 minutes from central Tokyo).

Looking for a bigger rush? Combine it with a packrafting tour and speed down the white water of the Tama River. However, if you prefer to ease into something less strenuous, opt for the relatively milder Holy Canyon tour – the jumps aren’t so tall and you’ll have time to chill in the river. Be aware that under-13s cannot participate in the Okutama tours; they can, however, join the rafting tours in Minakami, Gunma prefecture.

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  • Komatsugawa

Morning workouts might sound drab while on holiday, but how about exercising while seeing Tokyo from water? Sports Club Zac offers stand-up paddling (SUP) tours for beginners and advanced paddlers – you’ll give your arms and core a good workout as you paddle through Edogawa’s Kyunaka River and get a rare view of Skytree without the crowds. If you’re completely new to SUP, don’t worry – the shorter courses stick to calm waters.

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