Photo/IllutrationPassengers can feast on sashimi, as well as tempura of “anago” (whitespotted conger), shrimp and other ingredients, while riding a houseboat in Urayasu, Chiba Prefecture. (Mamoru Nagaya)

  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion

URAYASU, Chiba Prefecture--Seeking to ride the waves of success again, a boat association and other parties are offering a shared cruise service on houseboats for couples, families and other small groups on a trial basis.

In addition to the night cruise, passengers can enjoy a seafood dinner and drinks, and views of major landmarks of Tokyo Bay, including Tokyo Disney Resort and a large Ferris wheel at Kasai Rinkai Park.

The cooperative association for pleasure and fishing boats based in Urayasu intends to grasp the needs of customers and make the service a main component of urban tourism of the city.

Urayasu had its heyday as a fishing village, but the city is still home to many boathouses along the Kyu-Edogawa river.

While it is common for anglers to share boats in small groups, houseboats are mainly chartered by larger groups of at least 15 people.

The boat association comprises 11 boathouses that operate houseboats. According to the Urayasu Tourism Convention Association, which works together with the association for the effort, houseboats operating in Tokyo offer shared rides. But in Urayasu, the service had only been available on a limited basis because of unprofitability and other reasons.

The number of passengers of a chartered houseboat per ride ranged between 50 and 60 during the asset-inflated “bubble economy” of the 1980s and early 1990s. However, the figure has since dropped to between 20 and 30.

“The challenge is how we can bring in small groups of customers,” said Kentaro Nishiwaki, 39, head of the boat association.

Shintaro Yoshino, 68, who runs boathouse Yoshinoya, founded in the mid-Meiji Era (1868-1912), added: “We receive a lot of inquiries about use by small groups. We always wanted to give it a try.”

The shared ride service for houseboats is being offered for a total of 16 days on weekdays and weekends until March next year.

On a day when the service is available, passengers can board a houseboat at 7 p.m. at a pier near the Urayasubashi bridge on the west side of Urayasu Station on Tokyo Metro Co.’s Tozai Line and elsewhere. Then the boat travels down the Kyu-Edogawa river and cruises the waters off Urayasu before returning to the pier at 9:30 p.m.

The fee for the 150-minute cruise is 10,800 yen ($97), including tax, for junior high school students or older and 5,400 yen for elementary school students or younger. Sashimi (slices of raw fish), tempura and other foods, as well as free refills of alcohol and soft drinks, are included.

The maximum capacity of each trip is 40 people. The service is offered when there are reservations for at least 10 people.

To make reservations, go to the official website of the Urayasu Tourism Convention Association at (https://www.urayasu-kankou.jp/).