Houseboats (Yakatabune)

The city of Hita—a popular destination for Kyushu-bound visitors—is nicknamed “Water Town”, as it boasts some of the purest and clearest rivers in all Japan. And the aquatic attractions don’t stop there. Gracing these pristine waterways are a veritable fleet of yakatabune (traditional Japanese houseboats), once the party venue of choice for feudal lords in the Edo period (1603-1868). Nowadays, it’s tourists who board these vessels, relaxing atop tatami mats for hours as they feast on a host of local culinary delights.

A special treat for dinner cruise customers from May to October is cormorant fishing (ukai), with the yakatabune offering the perfect vantage spot. Watch fishermen keep this time-honored tradition alive from small boats, with fires lit at the bows to attract the fish. The specially trained waterfowl dive in and grab the fish, then return and spit most of them out on deck, thanks to a loosely tied rope around their neck which prevents them from swallowing the larger fish.

Some of Hita City’s roofed yakatabune have been transformed for the modern era—with see-through plastic roofs for stargazers being just one example. For those looking to dine in style, wide-ranging menu options are another plus. And another feast—this time a visual one— awaits from the riverside, with over forty houseboats arranged on the water in a truly delightful scene.

Hours: Open year-round, normally for dinner cruising (from around 6:30 p.m.).
(Cormorant fishing season last from May 20 to October 31.) November to April sees boats equipped with shoji (sliding doors) for the winter season.
(Please inquire beforehand to check.)

Address: Hita Ryokan Association/Hita Hot Springs Association
2-2-8 Kuma, Hita City, Oita Prefecture

Airport: Fukuoka International Airport
Kumamoto Airport
(Both around 53 km away. Although Hita City is in Oita Prefecture, these airports are closer.)


+81-973-22-2062 (Hita Ryokan Association/Hita Hot Springs Association)

Reservations required. Normally by charter only.
Whole-boat rentals range from around 28,600 yen (for a 17-seater) to around 71,500 yen (40-seater). Boarding cost per adult is around 3,000 yen. Meals not included.
(Please inquire beforehand to check.)

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