Cruise the Canals of Kyushu’s Venice: Exploring Yanagawa’s Waterways and Historic Sights


Yanagawa, a city located in southern Fukuoka Prefecture, is often referred to as “the city of water” and “the Venice of Kyushu.” This is due to its extensive network of waterways, covering a total distance of 930 kilometers. Originally built as irrigation channels using the waters of the Chikugo River, these canals now offer visitors the opportunity to embark on slow, scenic cruises on traditional flatboats known as donkobune. These boats are poled along by boatmen dressed in traditional attire, providing a unique and picturesque experience. In addition to its canal cruises, Yanagawa is also home to a historic clan’s residence and offers a local delicacy that should not be missed.

Exploring Yanagawa’s Canal Cruises

Yanagawa’s canals are not only a means of transportation but also serve as a significant part of the city’s history and culture. These canals were fortified when Yanagawa was transformed into a castle town in the 17th century during the Edo period. Today, they provide a relaxing and picturesque backdrop for visitors to explore. Oarsmen with long poles navigate the narrow boats through the canals, sharing the city’s fascinating history and singing nursery rhymes written by Yanagawa’s renowned poet, Hakushu Kitahara. The canals are the focal point of many of Yanagawa’s festivals, including the Hakushu Festival and the Ohina-sama Water Parade. To experience a canal cruise, visitors can book a ride on one of these boats online, and discounted tickets are often available.

Visiting the Home of Yanagawa’s Dominant Clan

A must-visit attraction in Yanagawa is the former home of the Tachibana clan, the dominant feudal lords who ruled the city. The Ohana residence, built in 1738, covers an expansive area of 23,000 square meters and is surrounded on three sides by canals. Its main feature is a stunning garden, constructed in 1910 by the 14th Yanagawa lord, Tomoharu Tachibana. The garden boasts a picturesque lake encircled by black pines, creating a serene and tranquil atmosphere. Overlooking the lake is the grand banquet hall, a spacious Japanese room with tatami flooring. Other notable buildings within the residence include the Western-style Seiyokan and a museum showcasing the Tachibana family’s history. Just a short walk from the Ohana residence is Suitengu, a beautiful riverside shrine that hosts a small festival in May, featuring traditional dancing and singing.

Honoring Yanagawa’s Talented Creative: Kitahara Hakushu

Yanagawa takes great pride in being the birthplace of Kitahara Hakushu, a renowned poet and children’s songwriter from the Meiji era. Hakushu’s contributions to literature and music are celebrated annually during a three-day festival held in November. The festival showcases poetry readings, fireworks displays, musical performances, and evening boat rides. To honor Hakushu’s achievements, his birthplace has been transformed into a museum, allowing visitors to explore the life and works of this influential creative.

Celebrating Springtime in Yanagawa

March and April are particularly delightful times to visit Yanagawa, as the city hosts a range of spring festivals. The highlight among these is the Yanagawa Hinamatsuri Sagemon Tour, also known as the Doll Festival, which takes place every year from February 11. During this festival, intricately dressed dolls are showcased in homes and businesses throughout the town. These dolls depict the fashion of the Heian era, which spanned from the 8th to 12th century, providing a glimpse into japan‘s rich historical past. Some residents open their homes to visitors, allowing them to admire these exquisite dolls up close.

Indulging in Yanagawa’s Local Delicacy: Unagi no Seiro-mushi

No visit to Yanagawa would be complete without sampling the city’s signature dish, unagi no seiro-mushi. Unagi, or freshwater eel, is marinated and steamed over rice, served in a traditional lacquerware dish and topped with a sweet sauce. This delectable dish is said to have been invented by the local restaurant Ganso Motoyoshiya over 300 years ago. Unagi no seiro-mushi can be savored at various restaurants across the city, but it is advisable to arrive early as it tends to sell out quickly due to its popularity.

How to Get to Yanagawa

While public transportation is available, the best way to reach Yanagawa is by car. Yanagawa is located in the southern part of Fukuoka Prefecture, and from Fukuoka, visitors can take a train from Nishitetsu Fukuoka Station to Nishitetsu-Yanagawa Station, which typically takes around 50 minutes. If traveling by car from Fukuoka, the Kyushu Expressway can be taken to the Miyama Yanagawa Interchange, followed by a 20-minute drive to Yanagawa.

In conclusion, Yanagawa offers a unique and enchanting experience for visitors. Its extensive waterways, historic sites, and delicious local delicacy make it a destination worth exploring. Whether taking a leisurely cruise along the canals, immersing oneself in the rich history of the Tachibana clan, celebrating the life and works of Kitahara Hakushu, or indulging in the flavors of unagi no seiro-mushi, Yanagawa has something to offer for everyone. So, plan your visit to this charming city and embark on a journey filled with beauty, culture, and gastronomic delights.

Address And Maps Location:

Yanagawa-shi, Fukuoka-ken

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