This Is Your Chance to Experience a Moonlit Dinner on the River in Arashiyama

By Carey Finn
Updated: September 12, 2023

For hundreds of years, Kyoto’s Arashiyama district has been a top choice for travelers seeking serene surroundings and fine food. This fall, you can experience the best of both, with an exclusive dinner cruise under the bright harvest moon, during Japan’s annual Tsukimi Festival.

For three nights, from September 29th to October 1st, you can partake in a unique “Tsukimi” (moon-viewing) tour that includes private 90-minute sightseeing on a yakatabune, as well as a luxurious meal courtesy of Kyoto’s most sought-after traditional restaurants. You’ll also be able to enjoy traditional Japanese performing arts and shinobue flute performances.


Yakatabune, or traditional “pleasure boats'', are low-slung, open-sided boats that have been ferrying nobility up and down the waterways of Arashiyama and other parts of Japan for centuries. They offer unparalleled views of the moon as it rises between the trees and buildings, its light shimmering on the surface of the river. In Arashiyama, the harvest moon, or chuushu no meigetsu, appears so close you could touch it—just don’t lean too far off the side of the boat!

Each yakatabune boat is reserved for a private group of 2-4 guests, with a limited number of boats departing nightly, for three days only. (That said, groups of 5 or more can enquire about special arrangements.) You’ll be in the company of a knowledgeable guide, dressed in traditional attire, who will provide English translation so you don’t miss a thing. 

You have a choice of three premium packages for the moonlit dinner cruise—the key difference lies in the dining experience. The river cruise and entertainment aspects are almost identical, though precise details may vary depending on the day. 

1. Kyoto Kitcho: Moon-viewing Special Set Dinner Course


This VIP plan features a superb kaiseki dinner by Kyoto Kitcho, a local restaurant that has been serving up world-class Japanese cuisine since 1930. In line with the vision of its founder, Yuki Teiichi, Kyoto Kitcho has, from day one, dedicated itself to achieving culinary excellence—a feat you will see reflected in your unforgettable moon-viewing meal. 

You can expect a full-course kaiseki dinner that includes appetizers and sweet treats in addition to the main dishes. The meal showcases the freshest, highest-quality ingredients available in Kyoto. You might find it difficult to decide whether the presentation or taste is more exquisite. 

The chef at Kyoto Kitcho aims to share the innovative world of Japanese cuisine—and through it, Japanese culture—while preserving traditional values. The restaurant is able to accommodate halal, vegetarian and vegan diets with advance notice. 

The Kyoto Kitcho: Moon-viewing Special Set Dinner Course is limited to jus two groups per day. More details and booking information.

2. Arashiyama Kumahiko: Live Kitchen on the Water Course


This exclusive package is built around an unforgettable banquet by the local restaurant Kumahiko. The high-end eatery specializes in capturing the delicate nuances of the changing seasons, reflecting them in the presentation, taste and accompaniments to their dishes. 

Kumahiko continues the legacy of Tankuma Kitamise, a renowned Kyoto restaurant that was established by Kumasaburou Kurisu in 1928. His son, Chef Masakazu, opened Arashiyama Kumahiko in 1978. 

On the menu, you can expect an elegant arrangement of wagyu beef, fresh seafood and various seasonal vegetable dishes. There is a kids’ meal option, too. 

Each evening, only five boats will be available. More details and booking information.

3. Premium Sukiyaki (A4-rank & above) Course


A delicious sukiyaki dinner is also available, and at a price point that offers outstanding value. Tuck into some of Japan’s finest beef, graded at an A4 or higher rank that guarantees top-notch quality. 

Sukiyaki is a firm favorite on the Japanese menu; a hot pot featuring thin slices of beef in a simmering broth, together with sliced vegetables and other ingredients. In addition to your sukiyaki main, you can expect hearty helpings of veggies, rice, pickles and seasonal fruit, as well as two drinks of your choice—all served onboard the yakatabune (weather permitting). A children’s meal option is available.

This course is limited to 13 groups per day. More details and booking information.

The departure time, for all packages, is between 5pm and 6pm, with the exact time varying each day in line with the rising of the harvest moon. 

We strive to be as accurate as possible and keep up with the changing landscape of Japan's food and travel industries. If you spot any inaccuracies, please send a report.
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Carey Finn
Carey is a seasoned writer who is as passionate about words as she is about food. Originally from Cape Town, she has been kicking around Japan for over a decade.
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