Fukuoka: Drift in Canals with Toasty Toes

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Tourists keep warm in a kotatsu boat as they are ferried down a canal.

YANAGAWA, Fukuoka — Kotatsu boats are back for the winter in Yanagawa, Fukuoka Prefecture, where visitors can take in the canal waterfront while warming their feet.

A kotatsu is a low table covered by a blanket with a heat source underneath. The heat source is now typically an electric heater, but old-fashioned charcoal braziers are used on the boats.

The boats will run until late February next year.

Originally, Yanagawa was a marshy area. Ditches were dug to improve drainage, and it is believed this led to the city’s canals. Eventually, the canals ribboned through much of the city and were used for agricultural purposes. Some of them were designed as moats for Yanagawa Castle.

The river cruises have become a tourist draw for Yanagawa, and the kotatsu boats were introduced to attract visitors in winter some 50 years ago.

On the morning of Dec. 1, the first day of the winter service, a stream of Japanese sightseers and tourist groups from South Korea and elsewhere boarded the boats.

According to the city, as pandemic restrictions were relaxed, foreign tourists from Taiwan, South Korea and other countries returned, and their numbers have continued to grow this year.