Last year, 2021, I saw on my Google Analytics that some new visitors had found my website through a search for “Nagatoro river boating during the SOE?” Ironically, at that time, I had very little on the blog about the river boating in Nagatoro, just a brief mention on the Water Park Nagatoro post, the Nagatoro Autumn leaves post and event post about the kotatsu boat in winter. But I actually have been river boating in Nagatoro a few times, so I thought it was time to give the topic a post of its own. Late as it maybe, for the record, the river boating companies did operate during the State of Emergency!
River boating Nagatoro
River boating on the Arakawa is such a famous activity in Nagatoro there has always been English information online. Even 22 years ago when I first came to Japan. The priority for me, when I started the blog 14 years ago, was to get information up (on this blog) for places with no English. As back then very few places in Saitama had any information in English online. In recent years, largely thanks to the Rugby World Cup and Olympics, there is much more information available about locations in English.
It is now 16 years since my first experience of being ferried down the Arakawa in a Japanese style boat by an experienced boatman, but its time to add my post to the hundreds of others about one of Nagatoro’s top attractions! But, in order to justify this post (to myself, when there is already plenty of English posts about the attraction) I have information about the boat ride that you will not find online, in English, anywhere else!! Read on if you would like to know the best times to take the Line Kudari boat ride in Nagatoro…
Nagatoro Line Kudari River Boating
According to the Nagatoro Official website, the Nagatoro Line Kudari River Boating activity attracts 200,000 visitors each year. I well believe it. Apart from it being a really enjoyable experience, it is very reasonably priced. The scenery is truly breathtaking – unspoiled nature flanks either side of the course. And what better way to see the Nagatoro Valley than by passing through it on a leisurely boat ride. There is plenty to do in the area so you can combine the experience with other nearby attractions. I highly recommend that if you are in the Nagatoro area you visit the legendary and stunning Hodosan Shrine.
Nagatoro’s Iwadatami, at the heart of the Nagatoro Valley, is the key point of all tours. The main and most frequent course starts at the Iwadatami. The six kilometer long Nagatoro Valley is a designated Natural Place of Scenic Beauty AND the Iwadatami are a Natural Monument of Japan. In addition, they are a site of geological interest (geosite) and part of the larger Chichibu Geopark. Nagatoro Valley is one of Saitama’s most famous nature scenes and quite atypical, it is well worth a visit at least once. Most people who visit once, end up coming back time and time again!
Iwa means rock and datami is from tatami, the traditional Japanese flooring made from woven straw. The Iwadatami were thus named because it is said they look like layers of tatami mat. They were formed from erosion that resulted in exposed bedrock on one side of the gorge, whereas on the other side of the valley the rocks were not eroded. That side, that is not eroded, is known as the Chichibu Red Cliff.
Boat Operators and Courses
There are actually three different boat operators that offer the experience of going down the Arakawa in a Japanese style river boat. They are Nagatoro Funakudari, Arakawa Line Kudari and Nagatoro Line Kudari. The latter is the most prominent due to its association with Chichibu Railway. Moreover, they operate the kotatsu boat in winter, which is becoming increasingly popular. I had no idea which ones we have used over the years! We just rocked up, if you’ll pardon to the pun, to the Iwadatami and get on whatever boat is available. But on our most recent trips, we have used Nagatoro Line Kudari, the one operated by Chichibu Railway.
Six Kilometer Course
The longest course is six kilometers. The longest course starts from near Water Park Nagatoro. Arakawa Line Kudari’s boarding area is actually on the grounds of Water Park Nagatoro. Water Park Nagatoro is a campsite in Minano Town, Chichibu District. It is right on the border of Nagatoro hence the name. The campsite also has a day camp area. If you are using Nagatoro Line Kudari, you get a bus at Nagatoro station and they drive you to the boarding area. The six kilometer course starts at / near Water Park Nagatoro and finishes at Takasago Bridge. It takes about 50 minutes and costs 3300 yen. The benefit of this course is that you pass the Iwadatami. If you ride from Iwadatami you don’t actually pass the famous rocks on the course.
Three kilometer courses
If you don’t want to do the full course there are two different three kilometer courses. It is possible to start near / at Water Park and alight at the Iwadatami. Or you can start at the Iwadatami and finish at Takasago bridge. Both courses take about 30 minutes and both of the three kilometer courses cost 1800 yen for an adult and 900 yen for a child aged between 3 and 12 years old. If you are starting up the river, you get a bus from the station to the boarding area. If you are starting at Iwadatami, a bus brings you back to the station when you disembark the boat.
Best times to take Line Kudari
- The boat operators joke that the best time to take Line Kudari is after a typhoon! Only, for safety, the boats actually don’t operate after a typhoon. Also, they normally don’t run when its raining. But after rainfall is prime time! If it has been dry for a long time, the river will be low and there isn’t as much as a thrill when the boat ride hits rapids. After rain the river is higher and you get more of a splash factor!
- November is the absolute best time to take Line Kudari. Because the leaves have / are changing color! Plus, generally in November the water levels are quite good.
- Want to ride a kotatsubune? Nagatoro Line Kudari run a winter boat ride, with kotatsu on the boat, in January and February each year. (A kotatsu is a heater that is used under a blanket hanging from a low table)
- The best time of day to take the boat ride on a weekend is around 2.10 – 2.20 pm. Why? Because when you arrive back to Nagatoro station (either on foot or by bus depending on what course you took) you can see the Paleo Express Steam Locomotive!! On Saturdays and Sundays, the Paleo Express steams into Nagatoro Station at 3.05 pm. You can see it approaching from 3.03 pm and the crossing gates barriers go down at 3.04 pm.
Line Kudari Information
As the Chichibu Railway Line Kudari is the one I am most familiar with, the following information is for their river boating company in Nagatoro.
Address: Nagatoro, Chichibu District, Saitama 369-1305. View on Google Maps.
Hours: 9 am to 4 pm, but they start late / close early if its raining.
Cost: from 900 yen for children, 1800 yen for adults (2022 prices). Detailed more in the main body of text above.
There is a ticket office right at Nagatoro station, but on the opposite side of the tracks as the station house. Its right as you cross over the tracks. There is also a ticket office by the Iwadatami, as you come down the stairs that lead from the “Iwadatami Riverside Lane” (the main strip from the station down to the river). If you are embarking from Iwadatami, it is just a few minutes walk to the boarding area from Nagatoro Station. If you wish to do the full course, you get a bus from the station to the boarding point. The staff will show you where if you purchase your ticket at the little office at the station.