A sightseeing boat is being operated until Saturday between Tokyo's Akihabara area and Haneda Airport on a trial basis, in a bid to convey the capital's charms as a city of water to foreign tourists and others.
The Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry, Zeal Co. and other entities began conducting the trial tours between Manseibashi bridge in Akihabara, Chiyoda Ward, and Haneda Airport in Ota Ward last Saturday.
They aim to regularly operate boats between those locations by the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, five years from now.
The project was the brainchild of local residents who wanted to utilize the boat slip at Manseibashi. The slip has been used in the past for the Kanda Festival, in which a boat carrying a mikoshi portable shrine sailed around, but normally it is not used at all.
The tourism ministry and the Chiyoda Ward government also became interested in opening a water route between the airport and Akihabara, based on their desire to connect Haneda Airport and the centre of "Cool Japan."
It takes about two hours and 30 minutes for the 40-seat boat to travel the 20-kilometer course. It travels at the speed of a bicycle and makes a stopover at Tennozu in Shinagawa Ward on the way.
The boat passes yakata-bune pleasure boats tied up in the Kandagawa river and sails along the Sumidagawa river with Tokyo Skytree and many skyscrapers in the background. Near Haneda Airport, passengers can see airplanes taking off and landing.
Another highlight of the tour is that the boat goes under more than 30 bridges, including the Ryogokubashi, Kiyosubashi, Kachidokibashi and Rainbow bridges. A guide explains the history and origins of the bridges.
The tours are cancelled when the weather is stormy, as the boat has no roof. It is operated by Zeal, which is based in Minato Ward, Tokyo.
"We'd like to plan boat courses in which passengers can experience the beauty of the four seasons in Tokyo from a boat, such as cherry blossoms in spring and red leaves in autumn," said Zeal President Takumi Hirano, 51.