It's a clear Sunday morning and a vehicle carrying kayaks pulls into the parking lot of a riverside park in Koto Ward, Tokyo.
Getting out the car is Takashi Fukuda of Courant Marin Trip Co., which has been offering kayaking tours on the rivers of the capital for about five years.
On this day, 39-year-old Fukuda guides four participants over an 8-kilometer round-trip course, starting on the Kyu-Nakagawa river and taking them onto the Kitajikkengawa river and near Tokyo Skytree in Sumida Ward.
Currently, there are numerous tours plying Tokyo's rivers using water buses or large boats.
However, "Kayaking is gaining attention as participants can paddle the boats by themselves and take in views of Tokyo from the angle of the river surface," said Fukuda, adding that an increasing number of foreign tourists has been seen signing up.
Just after the journey begins on the Kyu-Nakagawa, the paddlers are treated to an idyllic landscape with trees lining both banks.
However, upon connecting with the Kitajikkengawa, the scenery changes abruptly.
The view is dominated by low-rise buildings packed together in the old-fashioned shitamachi urban area.
As the kayakers take in the cityscape, passersby on the banks often call out to them.
"That's the life," they call out.
At the midway point, the tour passes right under Tokyo Skytree, where the participants snap photos with their smartphones before gleefully starting the trip back.
"I have some kayaking experience, but this is my first time to paddle on Tokyo rivers," said Shinsuke Watanabe, a self-employed 40-year-old from Itabashi Ward, Tokyo, who took the tour with his wife.
"It was a new experience to see parts of Tokyo from a viewpoint that I'd never had before."
Courant Marin plans to introduce kayaks for children later this year, a rarity in Japan.
"Children may get a different look at the city as they paddle using their own power," Fukuda said.
The guide recommends taking the tour between autumn and spring - rather than during the hot summer - as the rivers become clearer at that time.
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