On a sunny Sunday morning in September our family went for a walk along the Uzuma River in Tochigi City and much to our delight, we found boat tours.
We parked behind the Meiji era Tochigi City Hall. From there, we ambled along the scenic waterway adjacent to the parking lot until we reached the Uzuma River, lined with Edo-era storehouses and willow trees. Just as we came upon the carp decorated bridge, we encountered a group of parasol-touting ladies. They stood on the bridge, under flags promoting the boat tours. At the same time, we could see a couple of flat-bottomed boats downstream being poled along the river by standing oarsmen wearing conical shaped straw hats. What fun!
My husband located the ticket counter inside an old building adjacent to where some boats were docked. A big box at the dock contained the hats, which we donned happily as did the parasol touting ladies. They also kept their parasols open on board. Some boats had overhead shades but not all.
My three year old son, who boarded for free, was given a child-sized life jacket. To board these fiberglass skiffs, one needs to go down some steps, step out of your shoes once on board, and sit on the tatami with legs stretched towards the center of the craft.
We boarded the same boat as the parasol ladies. Our guide/oarsmen rattled off some history of the area, and got everybody to cheer him on as he pushed us upstream to that carp decorated bridge, where we turned and leisurely floated back downstream again, under a bridge and to where a lots of greedy carp waited. A small bag of carp pellets costs Y100 but is well worth it if you come with kids. A gentleman from the shore also banged on something and threw out huge chunks of bread that splashed just in front of us, and had the carp writhing, splashing and churning the water.
On the way back, the oarsman lead our group in singing a song about Nikko which is printed on the ticket.
After a tasty lunch set just upstream, my son who was never really into taking a family walk, requested taking another boat ride. Tickets are honored all day, so we enjoyed the whole thing once more at no extra cost. The second time, just our family boarded the boat. We chatted with the oarsman, fed carp and sang again.
Tochigi is a great city with scenic views and museums, but if you are with kids, the boat tour is best of all.