Looking for something different to do in the capital? Leave the crowds behind and set sail down the Sumida River or scud across Tokyo Bay, letting the fresh breeze blow away the cobwebs. Tokyo dinner cruises operate throughout the year, but are especially recommended in the summer months.
Boarding a traditional yakatabune or another type of boat is a great way to escape the sticky heat, plus—if you time things right—they can offer front-row seats to some of Tokyo's best fireworks festivals. Read on for a round-up of the best Tokyo night cruises.
What is a Yakatabune?
A yakatabune is a traditional Japanese boat that dates back to the Heian period (which was from 791-1185). Typically small, low-slung and privately-owned, yakatabune have a longstanding reputation as party boats, or "pleasure boats", ferrying merrymakers around bays and along rivers while they eat, drink and enjoy the passing scenery.
Identifiable by their festive red lanterns, these roofed boats are a common sight around Tokyo Bay, as well as on the Sumida River, especially on hot summer nights. Some can be booked for the exclusive use of a private group, while others offer space onboard a shared cruise. You'll also spot yakatabune boats in other parts of Japan, notably Kyoto, where they cruise around Arashiyama.
Best Tokyo Dinner Cruises
A number of companies run dinner cruises in Tokyo (as well as daytime cruises), offering different packages and perks. You can choose from yakatabune boats or bigger, cruise-liner-type ships. Some accept reservations in English, while others are only bookable in Japanese, and don't offer any language support. A few only run cruises during summer, while others operate throughout the year.
Here are some of the most popular Tokyo boat cruise options.
1. Top Yakatabune Choice: Sumida River Dinner Cruise
This Tokyo cruise offers a window into the way the good people of Edo (that's the old name for Tokyo) liked to let their hair down. Tuck into an array of traditional Japanese dishes and enjoy unlimited drinks (alcoholic and otherwise) on a 2.5-hour trip down the Sumida River. Departing from Asakusa, you'll get views of Odaiba, Tokyo Skytree, and the city skyline.
The restaurant boat, which comes complete with traditional tatami-mat flooring, can seat up to 50 guests, making for a festive experience. It's a great way to celebrate a birthday or special occasion. Vegetarian and vegan options are available by prior arrangement. And children are welcome, making it a family-friendly cruise. Booking link.
2. Tokyo Symphony Cruise
The "Tokyo Bay Cruising Restaurant Symphony" is a well-known name in the Tokyo dinner cruise game. There are two boats on the waters of Tokyo Bay, both of which are something like mini cruise liners. The Symphony Cruises run from lunchtime onwards, with separate sunset and dinner options available.
These boats are basically floating restaurants—and there is more than one eatery on each. Guests can choose from various types of food, ranging from sushi to Italian, French and more.
The Dinner Cruise sets off from Hinode Pier (near JR Hamamatsucho Station), and passes Rainbow Bridge before heading to Odaiba and other parts of Tokyo Bay. The trip takes about 2.5 hours.
3. Tokyo Nouryousen Cruise
A popular summer cruise in Tokyo, this is less of a dinner boat and more of an experience in and of itself (and often a boozy one, at that). The penultimate Tokyo party ship, the Nouryousen leaves from Takeshiba Terminal (near JR Hamamatsucho Station) and takes guests around Tokyo Bay, returning to port in just under two hours.
Dinner is a simple bento box, but drinks are unlimited, and there are often music and dance events onboard. Simple izakaya food like karaage and yakisoba is also available. You can get a discount if you wear a yukata, on designated days. The Tokyo Nouryousen operates between July and September.
Tokyo Dinner Cruise FAQs
We answer some of the common questions about night cruises around Tokyo Bay, and the surrounding areas.
How Much Does a Yakatabune Dinner Cost?
The price for a yakatabune cruise in Tokyo ranges from approximately ¥10,000 to over ¥30,000. It largely depends on what kind of meal plan you select. The average cost is around ¥13,000 - ¥15,000 per person.
How Long is a Tokyo Dinner Cruise?
It depends on the operator, but most Tokyo Bay and river cruises take around 2 to 2.5 hours.
How Far in Advance Should I Book a Tokyo Dinner Cruise?
It depends on the season, but it's usually a good idea to book a Tokyo dinner cruise about a month in advance.