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Saturday, February 14, 2015

Kyushu Spring 2014 九州春季之旅 - Yanagawa River Punting Ride 柳川 川下り

Visited 16.03.2014 (Sun)

Crossed the Taiko bashi to get to Shogetsu Dock, the embarkation point for river punting ride.
Utilised Dazaifu and Yanagawa Sightseeing Ticket (太宰府.柳川観光きっぷ) offered by Ninshitetsu. River punting in Yanagawa is included in this package. From Yanagawa Ninshitetsu Station, exit and turn right to locate the punting information desk. A bus will ferry passengers to the river punting embarkation point at Shogetsu Dock (松月乗船場) which can be easily identified by a red arched Taiko bashi (太鼓橋).

Top left: Squeezed into Shirohori floodgate; Top right: Cafe located on the river bank.
Journey. Yanagawa is referred to as a city of waterways because of the 470 km long canals that run into the city. These canals were constructed surrounding the dysfunctional Yanagawa Castle, more than half a century ago. The punter moves the boat by pushing against the river bed with a long pole. The entire river punt ride takes slightly over an hour to complete; at a decent leisure pace. Punter would provide historical/cultural background of this city and would direct our attention to the scenery or buildings situated along the river bank every now and then - but all spoken in Japanese. The most "thrilling" moments of the punt ride were the times when the punt had to maneuver under the low ceiling bridges. As the boat approached these bridges, the punter would warn all on board passengers to put down their heads or lean forward, and punter himself would have to change from a standing to squat position skilfully and revert after the punt has reappeared from below the bridge every time. There are about 10 such bridges throughout the entire journey. The narrowest passageway was at Shirohori floodgate (城堀水門) where the punter had to adjust the position of the punt such that it would not knock against the stone walls. Passed by a riverside cafe which passengers could request to drop by to order drinks and snacks; plum trees with vibrant colours decorated the banks of the river during the early spring season; spotted ducks waddling leisurely alongside the boats. The disembarkation port is at Okihata; from here, you can make your way to Ohana Villa and Shoto-en, or visit the shophouses located along Inari machi (稲荷町) and Okinohata machi (沖端町).

Top left: Spotted blooming plum blossoms; Bottom right: Punter had to squat when moving beneath the low ceiling bridges.
Bottom left: Strolled down Inari machi and Okinohata machi, on opposite side of the river bank; Right: Disembarkation port.
Festival. Yanagawa celebrates Sagemon Meguri (Yanagawa's Hina Matsuri or Dolls' Festival) from mid February to end March. On the day of our visit, young girls and women, dressed in bright kimono and worn head dresses, rode on the river punts and passed by our punt in the opposite direction (later found out that this event is "Hina dolls water parade" which takes place on the 3rd Sunday of March every year). Colourful sagemon, which are ornaments such as balls, animals and dolls made out of clothes, are unique to Yanagawa and can be found strung together and hung across the canals during this period of time.

Adorable girls dressed in kimono and head dresses occupied rode on the river punts.

Colourful sagemon decorated the canals of Yanagawa.
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Dazaifu and Yanagawa Sightseeing Ticket 太宰府.柳川観光きっぷ

- Priced at 2,930 yen (adults), this ticket can be purchased from both Nishitetsu Tenjin and Yakuin Station. At Nishitetsu Tenjin Station, the ticket counter is located on the second floor, just outside the North Ticket Gate.
- Website (Japanese): http://www.ensen24.jp/kippu/1/; (English): http://www.nnr.co.jp/train/kippura/global/english/ticket/i_dazayana.html

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