TOKYO - Tokyo is stepping up efforts to revitalize water transportation in the capital to draw foreign tourists as well as to respond to an expected rise in traffic during the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics.
The metropolitan government has been conducting a series of social experiments since fiscal 2015 aimed at resuscitating water transportation routes.
This year, trial cruises were operated on five routes, including a combined tour on the Sumida River in the eastern side of the capital followed by a performance of a Kabuki play in Ginza.
On another such occasion on the night of Dec. 13, a boat with around 10 passengers aboard left a dock near Nihonbashi, a stone bridge built in 1911, for a trip on the Sumida River showcasing night views of Tokyo's skyscrapers and the 634-meter-tall Skytree.
"I'm really happy to look up at Nihonbashi from beneath the bridge," said Tomoko Yano, one of the passengers who paid 1,000 yen ($8.80) for the 40-minute cruise.
The price of the cruise is reasonable given such a rare experience, the 57-year-old housewife added.
Currently, some 50 ships operate on around 10 regular routes connecting such places as Asakusa, Odaiba and Haneda airport. In addition, some cruise ships and houseboats on which people can wine and dine are also available on a non-regular basis.
If the Tokyo government finds the use of water transportation effective, it will consider setting up new scheduled trips in fiscal 2018 or after.
During the Edo period from the 17th through the mid-19th centuries, water transportation played an important role in the distribution of goods and people in the area that is now Tokyo. It faded though, as trains and motor vehicles gradually emerged after the Meiji period.
But it remains uncertain whether water transportation will pay for itself as it is not widely known among the public and most of the docks are inaccessible from train and subway stations.
"We strive to revitalize water transportation to draw foreign visitors to waterfront areas ahead of the Olympics and Paralympics games," a metropolitan government official said.