Tarai-bune in Ogi Town, Sado Island

The most unusual vehicle you will ever ride

By Alena Eckelmann    - 3 min read

Ever fancied a ride in a cut-off barrel? Now, this is what the tarai-bune, a kind of tub boat, seems to be. Originally they were practical items used for navigating around the cliffs to collect seaweed and abalone but nowadays they mainly serve to amuse tourists in Ogi Town on Sado Island.

The tarai-bune seem round but actually they are slightly oval. Traditionally, they were made of cedar wood and bamboo. Sadly, the craft of making tarai-bune is dying out as the young generation is not much interested in taking up this traditional craft, nor is there a high demand for these boats in the day and age of plastic and fiber glass.

I went to Ogi Harbor where these boats are for hire for a ten minute ride and I got on the boat with a couple of friends and the “driver”, a local woman in distinctive traditional fisher folks gear. She operated the one paddle moving it back and forth to navigate the round vehicle and make it move in a straight line rather than going in circles.

It seemed easy enough but turned out quite difficult. You have to balance your moves or else you will go nowhere, very much to the amusement of the tarai-bune experienced locals. After trying to maneuver this “large pot”, the local lady will lend a helping hand and safely steer you back to the shore.

There are two places in Ogi Town where you can go for a tarai-bune ride. One is at Ogi Harbor and the other one is close to Yajima-Kyojima (Ya Island and Kyo Island), two tiny islands that are joined by a red-lacquered bridge. The tarai-bune in Ogi Harbor are just cruising around the port area.

Yajima-Kyojima is a well-known spot amongst the Japanese for trying out tarai-bune in a more scenic place than at Ogi Harbor. You might have already seen the scene of the tarai-bune in front of the Yajima-Kyojima islands many times on some promotional adverts displayed in JR stations in Tokyo.

Sitting back and enjoying the ride is nice but steering the boat yourself is the real interesting thing to do. Can you imagine yourself making your way in this boat around some cliffs in rough sea to collect seaweed? This is a sure way to get seasick, but this won’t happen to sightseers.

This boat ride is a nice family activity, or if you are inclined to impress your girlfriend, or your boyfriend for that matter, a nice option for an unusual date. Children will love it, and it is also much fun to watch others trying to steer the boat.

Practical information:

Operators: Ogi Harbor tarai-bune: Tel: 0259-86-03153 (Ja only) / Yajima-Kyojima tarai-bune: Tel: 0259-86-3200

Opening times: Daily throughout the year from 8:30 to 17:00.

Cost: 500 yen per person (350 yen for children) for a 10 min ride. Up to 3 adults may board one boat.

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Alena Eckelmann

Alena Eckelmann @alena.eckelmann

Born East of the Wall and South of Berlin, I am celebrating my 15th year anniversary in Japan in May 2020, the country that I call home now. I lived in crazy Tokyo for 6 years and since 2011 I call the beautiful Kii Peninsula (Kumano, Koyasan and Yoshinoyama) my home.I have been a JapanTravel Partner since the conception of the platform in 2011! In Tokyo I worked in market research at AIP Corporation and in business education at JMEC. For the last 10 years I have been a guide for foreign visitors at Venture Japan, on top of being a Freelance Writer and a Business Researcher.  Apart from work, I trained at the Yoshinkan Aikido Dojo and at the Oedo Sukeroku Taiko Dojo for several years each, and I ran the 1st Tokyo Marathon and enjoyed cycling around Tokyo. During the last 10 years I am working with local authorities to improve their hospitality to foreign visitors and I have participated in many monitors as a media representative.  My current interest is in Japanese nature and spirituality. I love spending time in the forest and mountains, and I love visiting temples and shrines.   I am a licensed guide for the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage trails  and for Koyasan, the Buddhist monastery, in addition to being a practitioner and licensed guide for Forest Therapy (Shinrin Therapy).  As a guide for walking tours, I have taken visitors to walk the Kumano Kodo trails, the Nakasendo trail and the Shikoku 88 temple pilgrimage trail.  Being grounded during this COVID-19 crisis, I enjoy gardening, baking bread in my new Japanese bread-maker and going for walks around 'my' village.  Take care, keep well, stay safe! 

Join the discussion

Kim 2 years ago
This is on my bucket list! I'm hoping to head to Sado Island this fall and ever since I saw about these tarai bune I've wanted to check them out.
Bonson Lam 8 years ago
Wow! all the charm of childhood fairy tale! I always wanted to ride around the lake in a round barrel! And so much history to this beautiful place.