About kotatsu
5 Kotatsu boat experiences in Japan!
1. Mogami Gorge (Yamagata)
2. Nagatoro Gorge (Saitama)
3. Yanagawa River (Fukuoka)
4. Matsue Castle (Shimane)
5. Geibikei Gorge (Iwate)
Check out Sanriku Railway’s kotatsu seats!
Kotatsu Train (Kita Rias Line)
Western Kotatsu Train (Minami Rias Line)
Conclusion

There are all sorts of boat tours in Japan, where you can hop on a boat and enjoy the surrounding nature, architecture or whatever your tour specializes in. During the winter season, there are kotatsu boats.
Kotatsu are low wooden tables with a built-in heater and covered with a thick blanket, and have kept Japanese families warm for centuries. Kotatsu boats are just that; boats with built-in kotatsu tables.
This winter, enjoy Japan’s scenery while staying warm and cozy on a kotatsu boat!

About kotatsu


Kotatsu

A kotatsu is a low wooden table with a built-in heater. It is covered with a thick blanket, and people on the floor cover their lower body with the blanket to feel the warmth.

It is said to have originated around the Muromachi Period (1336 – 1573), with an irori (hearth) used as a heater.


Irori (hearth) used in the original kotatsu

Charcoal was used as the heat source for kotatsu, but after the war, electric kotatsu became the norm. They were explosively popular in the 1970s, but are now on the decline due to the usage of air conditioning systems with built-in heaters.

Nevertheless, kotatsu are an essential part of Japanese winters, and are still loved by the Japanese as it keeps families warm and cozy.

5 Kotatsu boat experiences in Japan!

Kotatsu boats are a perfect way of sightseeing outdoors while staying warm. Below are 5 kotatsu boat tours that you can experience during the winter.

1. Mogami Gorge (Yamagata)


Mogami Gorge Basho Line Tour (Credit: 山形県庁広報広聴推進課)

Mogami Gorge locates in Yamaga prefecture. It is on the middle area of the Mogami River in the northern part of the prefecture. The gorge is known for its seasonal sights, such as its cherry blossoms, fall foliage and more.

There are boat tours year-round at Mogami Gorge, but between December and March, there are special kotatsu boat tours held three times a day (from 10:50a.m., 12:50p.m. and 2:50p.m.)

The entire boat is covered in glass, so the inside is kept nice and warm.


Kotatsu boat (Credit: 山形県庁広報広聴推進課)

See the snowcapped mountains and the stunning winter scenery whilst staying cozy under the kotatsu. Enjoy the boatman’s singing and storytelling, too.

【Information】
・ Kotatsu boat: December 1 to late March
・ Times: 10:50a.m. / 12:50p.m. / 14:50p.m.
・ Fee: ¥2,450 for adults and ¥1,230 for children
*Round-trip discounts available
*Times and prices as of December 2018

Check out Mogami River Basho Line Kanko Corporation for more information.

2. Nagatoro Gorge (Saitama)


Nagatoro during the winter

Nagatoro Gorge, in northwestern Saitama prefecture, is just a 2-hour train ride from metropolitan Tokyo.

Here, you can find the mouth of the Arakawa River. The riverbank is rocky and dynamic.

The iwadatami is a must-see. Iwadatami are the rocks by the river, which look like layers of thin sheets of rocks.


Iwadatami

From the spring to autumn seasons, rafting is a popular activity at Nagatoro. The rafting course is quite fast, and the ride is rocky and fun.


Rafting

You can ride the kotatsu boat between December and late February. The ride is about 20 to 30 minutes, and allows you to take a good look at the iwadatami.


Nagatoro Line Tour

Nagatoro will let you escape from the busy city life and immerse you in nature.

【Information】
〈Arakawa Boat Tour〉
・ Kotatsu boat: Early December to mid March
・ Times: Between 10:30a.m. and 3:00p.m.
・ Fee: ¥1,450 for adults and ¥750 for children
*Online reservation discounts available
*Times and prices as of December 2018

〈Nagatoro Line Boat Tour〉
・ Kotatsu boat: January to February
・ Times: Between 9:00a.m. and 4:00p.m.
・ Fee: ¥900 for adults and ¥500 for children
*Times and prices as of December 2018

3. Yanagawa River (Fukuoka)


Yanagawa River Donko Boat tour

Yanagawa River locates in southern Fukuoka, and the area was a thriving castle town.

During the Edo Period (1603 – 1867), a 60-kilometer waterway was created in the town to prevent enemies from invading.

You can hop on a donko boat and tour the waterway to explore the traditional Yanagawa area.

Usually, the boats have regular seating, but between December and February, kotatsu are set up on the boat. The kotatsu are powered by heated charcoal.


Yanagawa River’s kotatsu boat

Donko boats are paddled with a bamboo pole. During the tour, you will be able to see ruins of the castle town and other retro buildings.

【Information】
〈Yanagawa Kanko Kaihatsu Tour〉
・ Kotatsu boat: winter months
・ Times: Between 9:40a.m. and 4:40p.m.
・ Fees: ¥1,600 for adults and ¥800 for children
*Times and prices as of December 2018

〈Suigo Yanagawa Kanko Tour〉
・ Kotatsu boat: December to February
・ Times: Between 9:00a.m. and 5:00p.m. (reservations required for tours after 5:00p.m.)
・ Fees: ¥1,500 for adults and ¥800 for children
*Times and prices as of December 2018

Visit their homepages for more information:
Yanagawa Kanko Kaihatsu
Yanagawa Kanko Kaihatsu

4. Matsue Castle (Shimane)


Matsue Castle River Cruise

Matsue Castle, in Shimane prefecture, is a national treasure, and has been designated as one of Japan’s 100 major castles.

The castle keep of Matsue Castle remains from when it was built. There are only 12 original castle keeps in Japan.


Matsue Castle

The castle is surrounded by a moat, which helped it keep enemies out. It is rare to find a castle in Japan with both the castle and the moat remaining.

On the Horikawa Castle Moat Sightseeing Boat Tour, you can see the castle up close. The tour is about 50 minutes long.

The boat tour is available year-round. Between early November and early April, all of the boats become kotatsu boats. The fire used in the kotatsu is started every morning by the boatman.

There are three districts you will encounter throughout the tour: the Nature District, Inner-City District and the History District. Each of the districts has their own distinct charms.


Going under a bridge…

There are four bridges on the route, and every time the boat goes under them, the roofs are lowered. The boatman will tell you when to duck, too.

【Information】
・ Kotatsu boat: Between November 10 and April 10
・ Times: 9:00a.m. – 4:00p.m. (until late February)
9:00a.m. – 5:00p.m. (from March)
・ Fees: ¥1,230 for adults, ¥610 for children
*Fees are for one-day passes
*Times and prices as of December 2018

For more information, check out Horikawa Pleasure Boat

5. Geibikei Gorge (Iwate)


Geibikei Gorge

Geibikei Gorge locates in the southern portion of Iwate prefecture, and is 50 meters in height and spans about 2 kilometers. Here, you can tour the Satetsu River, which runs through the gorge.

The kotatsu boat on Satetsu River runs from December to February.


Geibikei Gorge’s kotatsu boat

One unique option of the tour is to have hotpot on the boat. The Kinagashi-nabe hotpot is a traditional dish, with vegetables and chicken cooked in a miso broth.

Enjoy the view of the snow-covered gorge with some hotpot, while you sit in your kotatsu!


Geibikei Gorge in the winter

【Information】
・ Kotatsu boat: Between December 1 and late February
・ Times: Between 9:00 and 4:00p.m.
・ Fees: ¥1,600 for adults, ¥860 for children
*Reservation required for hotpot course (plus additional fees)
*Times and prices as of December 2018

For more information, check out Geibikei Gorge Homepage.

Check out Sanriku Railway’s kotatsu seats!


Sanriku Railway

Kotatsu can be found on trains, too.

Sanriku Railways, which runs on the Sanriku Coast of Iwate prefecture, consists of two lines: the Kita Rias Line and the Minami Rias Line.

The Sanriku Coast suffered heavy damages from the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake, but regained its popularity as a tourist destination after the success of the drama “Amachan”, which was set here.

Aside from the regular trains, there are a few special trains, such as the Ozashiki Train, where you can enjoy a fancy meal, and the Christmas Train, where the train interior is done in a retro style with Christmas decorations all around.

In the winter, there are two types of kotatsu trains on the Sanriku Railway lines: the Kotatsu Train and the Western Kotatsu Train.

Kotatsu Train (Kita Rias Line)


Kotatsu Train on Sanriku Railway(Credit: 岩手県観光協会)

The Kotatsu Train runs on the Kita Rias Line. It runs twice a day on weekends and public holidays between mid-December and late February.

You can choose between the free seats or the ozashiki seats, which are reserved seats.

If you reserve your seat by 1p.m. two days before your trip, you can reserve a special meal, such as a seafood rice bowl.

The train runs on Iwate’s coast, and the area between Horinai Station and Shiraikaigan Station have especially breathtaking views of the ocean. The train makes stops at spots with amazing views.


View spot

【Information】
Kotatsu train: Between December 15 and February 24
Time: 12:07p.m. (from Kuji) and 2:40p.m. (from Miyako)
Fees: Between Kuji and Miyako
   One-way: ¥1,850 (+¥300 for reserved seats)
*Times and prices as of December 2018

Western Kotatsu Train (Minami Rias Line)

The Western Kotatsu Line opened in late 2018. It is inspired by train cars from the early Showa period (1926 - 1989). All of the seats are reserved seats.


Inside the retro train

The train operates only on 14 days between late December and mid February.

You can enjoy a special lunch set, delivered to you by an attendant dressed in retro attire.

【Information】
・ Kotatsu train:
2018: December 22, 23, 24
2019: January 13, 14, 19, 20, 26, 27 / February 2, 3, 9, 10, 11
・ Times: 10:55a.m. (from Sakari) and 12:05p.m. (from Kamaishi)
・ Fees: Between Sakari and Kamaishi
One-way: ¥1,380
*Times and prices as of December 2018

Check out Sanriku Railway’s homepage for more information.

Enjoy Japan’s winter scenery from the comfort of a kotatsu!

Sightseeing during the winter has never been cozier thanks to the kotatsu boats and trains. Hop on a kotatsu boat or train and have a warm, hearty sightseeing experience!