Yanagawa is a small agricultural town in Fukuoka Prefecture, northwest of Kyushu Island. The particularity of this city is that it has hundreds of kilometres of canals, which are both the remains of a crop irrigation system and an ancient defensive arrangement built around what was once Yanagawa Castle. Being navigable, these canals are an opportunity to take a trip in boats guided by boatmen in traditional dress, which is the main tourist attraction of the city, often nicknamed “the Venice of Kyushu”.
Yanagawa is only 70 km from Fukuoka, the capital of the prefecture. From Fukuoka airport, it is easily accessible by train (46 minutes). It is therefore recommended, to go from Tokyo, to fly to Fukuoka (about 2 hours by direct flight) and then to reach Yanagawa by train.
Like many cities in Japan, Yanagawa developed around its castle in the 16th century. If it has not played a major role in the history of Japan, more considered a quiet small country town, and although its castle was destroyed in the 17th century by Ieyasu Tokugawa, the canal system when it remained, allowed it to considerably develop its agriculture. Today, it is a major city in Fukuoka Prefecture.
The main attraction in Yanagawa is the gondola ride (Donkobune). The 40 to 70 minute walk around the city (Kawakudari), passing under the bridges, and the gondoliers tell anecdotes and sing traditional songs: a magical experience. If you choose to walk along the banks of the canals, you can admire the willows and traditional houses.
Another of the city’s attractions is the Tachibana (Yanagawa Ohana) clan villa, a Western-style mansion with a beautiful garden and museum dedicated to the history of the clan. You can also visit a Japanese style annex, Seiyokan.
Yanagawa is also famous for its festivals, including the Hinata festival (dolls festival), or the festival organized in honour of the local poet Hakushu Kitahara. You can also visit Hakushu Kitahara’s house all year round.