Monday, July 14, 2014

Kato-zu's 12 Bridges Boat Ride

"No, no, no. Never. 
I have never fell into the water"
reply from the lady
on the "sappa-bune" boat

The platforms for the boat rides along the 12 bridges in Kato-zu area.

First, we get our tickets here.

Sawara is a little town in the Katori district of Chiba prefecture, about 70 km northeast of Tokyo. A town full of old world charm, Sawara is often referred to as "Little Edo". Recognised by the Tokugawa Shogunate as a distinct area, Sawara was led by a new merchant class that self-governed the area about 300 years ago. The Tone and Ono rivers that connected and facilitated business between Edo and Sawara, also facilitated daily cultural exchange between them. The Sawara community, supported by a growing river-based commerce, continued to grow in sophistication that drove a greater demand for higher culture.

Located within the proximity of Sawara, the northeastern part of Chiba Prefecture and the southern part of Ibaraki Prefecture region was recognized as Suigo Tsukuba Quasi-National Park in 1969. This area, called "suigo" (riverside district), has been changing its shape of land through time under the natural effects of water. The waterfront, ruffling in good harmony with the tide of the water from river, lake and sea, is certainly a great place to get away from the daily stress of work.

Cute cartoon cushion of the greedy cat, to offer a more comfortable experience in the boat.

The lady signalling us to tug our seat-belts as we were taking off very soon.

Beautiful hydrangeas and sakura trees along the waterway.

The 12 bridges will be visible once we take the left turn here.

That is the first of the 12 famous bridges of Kato-zu area.

One word - simply breathtaking (photo credit: Tooru Ishikawa).

There is one area, called Kato-zu, which is located in a vast paddy field zone in the south of the Suigo Sawara Aquatic Botanical Garden. One of the most popular sightseeing spot here is its 12 small bridges across the small streams. In the old times, this area used to have a lot of narrow and short bridges over a network of streams for the convenience of the village people. Boat rides along this waterways that run criss-cross, used to be the main mode of transport for the people who lived in this area. There are 12 small bridges along the main waterway, that connect the houses on both sides.

Visitors can get a superb close-up views of the waterside. by taking a ride on flat-bottomed sampans, called "sappa-bune" (さっぱ舟). These boats are skillfully oared by local ferry women in traditional costumes, which allows visitors to enjoy the breathtaking view of the irises and hydrangeas through the narrow waterways. This boat ride is commonly known as the "Kato-zu Jyuni-kyo Fune-meguri" (加藤洲十二橋舟めぐり). The name of 12 bridges (Jyuni-kyo) comes from the fact that the amount of the bridges was twelve (Jyuni).

It looks a little bit like the floating market in Thailand, doesn't it?

Lets take a closer look at what's on offer.

There are several grocery shops along the waterway, and visitors can stop by to grab some souvenir home.

Besides the hand-made handkerchief, key chains, and various other beautiful souvenirs for visitors, there are also local snacks like home-made mochi dessert.

And it was time to head back home. Thanks a lot for the wonderful ride.

The boat ride starts at a short pier set at the side of "Lake Yoda Ura" next to the Aquatic Botanical Garden. However, the boat rides are seasonal and the best time to go is in May and June, when the irises and lotuses are in full bloom.

 Took a photo with two of the ladies. The one on the left made sure she pose with the "peace" sign hahaha! 

12 Bridges Boat Ride in Kato-zu Area (加藤洲十二橋舟めぐり)
Address: 1837-2 Ogishima, Katori City, Chiba Prefecture, Japan (千葉県香取市扇島1837-2)
Opening Hours: Not fixed
Cruising Time: Approximately 50 minutes.
Ticket: 6,500 yen per boat (one boat fits up to 5 people; for more than 5 people, 1,300 yen per person).
Website: (Japanese only)
Tel: 0478-56-2280 (Oku Suigo Kanko Kyodo Kumiai; 奥水郷観光協同組合), 0478-56-0183 (Yodaura Kanko Kumiai; 与田浦観光組合)
Parking: None
Access: From JR Sawara Station (about 90  minutes from JR Tokyo Station), take the Kantetsu Kanko Bus via Yodaura  towards Itako for 25 minutes, then get out at the Suisei Shokubutsuen  Iriguchi bus stop, and walk 5 minutes (during the Blood Iris Festival  time, there is a shuttle bus); Car: 30 minutes from Higashi-Kanto Expressway Interchange

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