Cruise the Canals of Kyushu’s Venice, Explore a Feudal Clan’s Home, and Try a Local Delicacy
Yanagawa, a city in southern Fukuoka Prefecture, is often referred to as “the city of water” and “the Venice of Kyushu.” The city is known for its extensive network of waterways, which were originally built as irrigation channels using the waters of the Chikugo River. These canals stretch for 930 kilometers and are a popular attraction for tourists visiting Yanagawa.
One of the best ways to experience the beauty of Yanagawa’s canals is by taking a slow, scenic cruise on a flatboat known as a donkobune. These boats are poled along by boatmen wearing traditional attire, providing a unique and authentic experience for visitors. As you cruise along the canals, you can admire the picturesque scenery and learn about the history and culture of Yanagawa from the boatmen.
During your visit to Yanagawa, make sure to explore the former home of Yanagawa’s dominant clan, the Tachibanas. The Tachibanas ruled the city during japan‘s feudal era and their residence offers a fascinating glimpse into the city’s past. The residence covers a vast area and is surrounded by canals on three sides. Its main feature is a beautiful garden, which was built in 1910 by the 14th Yanagawa lord, Tomoharu Tachibana. The garden features a tranquil lake surrounded by black pines and is truly a sight to behold.
In addition to the canals and the Tachibana residence, Yanagawa is also famous for its local delicacy, unagi. Unagi, or freshwater eel, is a specialty of the city and is prepared in a unique way. It is marinated and steamed over rice, served in a lacquerware dish, and topped with a sweet sauce. This dish, known as unagi no seiro-mushi, has been a local favorite for over 300 years and is a must-try when visiting Yanagawa. The eel has a rich taste and is packed with protein, making it especially popular during the hot summer months.
When visiting Yanagawa, there are several attractions and activities that you shouldn’t miss. One of them is taking a cruise around the city’s willow tree-lined canals. These cruises offer a peaceful and relaxing way to explore the city and take in its beautiful scenery. Another must-see is the Ohina-sama Water Parade, which takes place in early spring. This festival features a parade of boats decorated with dolls and is a unique cultural experience. And of course, no visit to Yanagawa would be complete without trying some of its famous steamed eel.
Getting to Yanagawa is relatively easy, with car being the best mode of transportation. However, public transportation options are also available. If you’re coming from Fukuoka, you can take a train from Nishitetsu Fukuoka Station to Nishitetsu-Yanagawa Station, which takes about 50 minutes. If you prefer to drive, you can take the Kyushu Expressway to the Miyama Yanagawa Interchange and from there it’s just a 20-minute drive to Yanagawa.
Yanagawa’s historic canal cruises are a highlight of any visit to the city. These canals were fortified when Yanagawa was transformed into a castle town in the 17th century. Today, they provide a peaceful and scenic way to explore Yanagawa. The oarsmen who navigate the boats through the canals are not only skilled boatmen, but they also serve as guides, sharing the city’s history and singing nursery rhymes penned by Yanagawa’s famous poet, Hakushu Kitahara. Many of Yanagawa’s festivals, including the Hakushu Festival and the Ohina-sama Water Parade, take place on the canals and offer a unique cultural experience.
Another must-visit attraction in Yanagawa is the Ohana residence, the former home of the Tachibana clan. This historic residence was built in 1738 and covers a vast area. Surrounded by canals on three sides, the residence’s main feature is its stunning garden, which was created in 1910. The garden features a beautiful lake and is the perfect place to relax and appreciate the natural beauty of Yanagawa. The residence also includes other buildings such as the Western-style Seiyokan and a museum that showcases the history of the Tachibana family.
Yanagawa is also known for being the birthplace of the Meiji-era poet and children’s songwriter, Kitahara Hakushu. Every November, a three-day festival is held in Yanagawa to celebrate Hakushu’s life and accomplishments. The festival includes poetry readings, fireworks, music performances, and evening boat rides. The house where Hakushu was born has been transformed into a museum dedicated to his life and works, offering visitors a chance to learn more about this talented creative.
If you’re planning a visit to Yanagawa, the months of March and April are highly recommended. During this time, the city hosts several spring festivals, the most notable being the Yanagawa Hinamatsuri Sagemon Tour, also known as the Doll Festival. This festival takes place every year from February 11 and involves displaying dolls dressed in the style of the Heian era in homes and businesses throughout the city. It’s a truly enchanting sight that transports visitors back in time to Japan’s historic past. Some residents even open up their homes to visitors, allowing them to see these intricately crafted dolls up close.
In conclusion, Yanagawa is a city filled with history, culture, and natural beauty. Its extensive network of canals, historic clan residence, and unique local delicacy make it a must-visit destination in Kyushu. Whether you’re taking a leisurely cruise along the canals, exploring the Tachibana residence, or indulging in a delicious meal of steamed eel, Yanagawa offers a truly unforgettable experience. So, plan your trip to Yanagawa today and discover the charm of this “Venice of Kyushu.”
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