Tokyo Guides: Tokyo Kayaking
Kayak the Capital: Tokyo's canals offer a fresh perspective on urban life and history
Tokyo is a relatively young metropolis. Its downtown and harbor districts were built on land reclaimed from Tokyo Bay over the past four centuries, dating back to when the Tokugawa Shogunate created a new capital, Edo, out of swampland.
Access to Edo was primarily gained through an incredibly intricate canal network that rivaled anything in Venice or Amsterdam - almost all commerce came to the capital on these waterways.
Decline of Tokyo's Canals
As wheeled transport, particularly the railways, developed, Tokyo's rivers and canals entered a long period of neglect and decline. Because these waterways (those that have not been paved over) lie mostly in grubby industrial districts - literally the backwaters of the city - they have traditionally been ignored as a cultural asset, much less a tourist destination.
In recent years, however, Tokyo's main river - the Sumida - has been cleaned up, and river traffic is on the increase again. Both Tokyoites and tourists are taking an interest in the city's lost waterways.
Tokyo Kayak Tours
The brainchild of the Tokyo Great Cycling Tour company, newly started kayak tours are the perfect way to experience the Japanese capital from the water, and learn something of the city's fascinating history. Lasting between four and five hours, they're suitable for kayakers of all abilities.
"The east bank of the Sumida is an area criss-crossed with canals, which were once used to bring goods into Edo," explains kayak tour leader Yukiko Koezuka. "Chief among these waterways is the Onagi River, which is spanned by the Mannenbashi Bridge. This bridge was once made of wood, and its tall form and arched shape were immortalized in ukiyo-e woodblock prints created by artists such as Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849) and Ando Hiroshige (1797-1858)."
Tokyo's Landmarks from the Water
Kayaking Tokyo's canals also offer glimpses of more modern landmarks, such as the Tokyo Skytree, Tokyo Tower, the coffee-colored headquarters of the Asahi Shimbun, and the elegant Chuo Bridge. During the cherry blossom season in Tokyo many of the canals are lined with rows of flowering trees, and picnics beside the water are a great way to take in these oases of tranquility amongst Tokyo's hustle and bustle.
Tel: +81 (0)3 4590 2995
Tokyo Skytree seen from one of the capital's canals