New Boat a Breath of Fresh Air in Virus-battered Industry

The Yomiuri Shimbun
The Azuma yakatabune boat sails off the Odaiba Marine Park in Minato Ward, Tokyo.

A new type of vessel has emerged in the yakatabune pleasure boat industry, which has been hit hard by the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Amitatsu, a boat tour operating company in Edogawa Ward, Tokyo, established in 1916, launched a pink yakatabune boat dubbed “Azuma” last November.

Conventional yakatabune boats typically feature Japanese-style roofs and tatami rooms, in which passengers can hold parties and dine while on board. Many of them also boast an ivory or brown exterior.

Azuma, originally built in 1992, was refurbished by Amitatsu, which repainted its hull a bright pink and added a fresh design called a “Marua pattern,” in which the first hiragana letter, a, is written within a polka-dot pattern. The Marua pattern was created by Azumaya, a leather accessory manufacturing company in Sumida Ward, Tokyo, established in 1914, taking inspiration from the surface of the Sumida River.

Azuma is equipped with a dining area where passengers can taste galette, salads, soups and sweets made by a famous pastry chef, rather than the typical cuisine served aboard yakatabune boats such as tempura and sashimi. Azuma also differs from regular yakatabune boats in that it operates during the day, whereas the latter are usually run at night.

“Yakatabune boats are said to have gotten their start during the Heian era [794-1192] as a form of recreation for women who served the Imperial court,” said Namiko Takahashi, Amitatsu’s proprietress. “This is a concept that was conceived long before the coronavirus crisis and we wanted to return to yakatabune’s roots and have people outside of our conventional clientele ride with us. We took on this new challenge thinking that now was the best time.”

“We may be able to overcome the coronavirus crisis through working with a positive attitude,” she added.

“[This boat] has a very stylish feel to it that was different to another yakatabune boat I rode one night,” said a company employee from Tsukuba, Ibaraki Prefecture, who joined an Azuma tour with her daughter. “As the boat tour took place during the day, I was able to see the outdoor views well. And because the inside of the boat was also bright, I could better enjoy the beautifully served lunch and dessert.”

The Azuma boat tour, which takes about two hours, runs about twice a week, mainly during the weekend. The fee is ¥8,800 per person, including tax. Reservations can be made online or by phone. Amitatsu has taken thorough steps against coronavirus infection, such as limiting the number of passengers per tour and installing partitions on board.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Partitions are used when necessary to prevent infections with the novel coronavirus and ensure privacy.