Since coming to Osaka, I’ve noticed that there are a lot of sightseeing cruises here. This time, I tried one with a unique experience most tourists probably don't know about. That is, the Naniwa Exploration Cruise with Rakugo Comedian (Loop Line River Course) close to Namba. In this cruise, the guide not only shares history and information about the places you see, but they do it through “rakugo”. I'm assuming most of you probably don't know what that is, so I'll explain shortly.
▼This was the boat, just as it came in to dock! It's really flat!
Rakugo, what is it?
First, I’d like to explain why I was interested in this cruise. A couple years ago, I watched a special drama called “Akamedaka.” It featured Kazunari Ninomiya, who’s a member of Arashi, the top male idol group in Japan. They talked about rakugo comedians and I learned that it takes intense training to become one. Because of this, I wanted to see it first-hand.
Anyway, as for what rakugo is, the word literally means “fallen words” in Japanese. Originally, rakugo focused on a kind of punchline called the ochi (meaning “fall” or “drop”). The character can also be read as raku, which is where you get the name. There are different styles, but generally a single performer plays all of the roles. The parts are distinguished using only changes in pitch, tone, and expression. Traditionally, the only props are a paper fan and a small cloth. It may seem simple at first glance, but it’s actually really deep!
Now that we have an idea of what we’re getting, let’s go over the details.
All aboard! To the lively area of Namba
▼My friend and I started from Nishiumeda Station, so we took the Yotsubashi (Blue) Line to Namba.
▼Go out through the North gate, and keep going straight until you see exit 26-C.
Take the stairs up, and go straight until you cross the signal.
▼There'll be a bridge in front of you. Without crossing, make a left and you should start to see the pier.
▼After you arrive, get your tickets from this ship. (Right)
(My friend and I thought this was the cruise ship, but it turned out we were wrong...lol)
▼Here's where you'll get onboard. (Bottom Left Corner)
And we’re off!
▼Once you have your ticket, you’re ready to start the adventure!
It felt like we were boarding a submarine.
▼The blue marks the Loop Line course, and the pink marks the Yumesaki course.
Mr. Kintaro here was our guide. The yukata* really suits him, and it was a nice Japanese touch (Check out the video).
*Traditional Japanese clothes similar to the kimono.
We went in December, so it was a bit chilly out. The boat's already heated, but the staff also gave us blankets, just in case we were still cold. No problems here!
Feel free to take all the pictures and video you want. Some seats have outlets on the table so you can charge your phones and cameras too. (*Please bring necessary adapters)
▼The blankets (Left). The outlets (Right).
What’s special about this cruise?
We passed a lot of bridges, and some of them would've been impossible to go through with other ships. Why? Find out in the video!
Mr. Kintaro told us about notable places along the river like the floodgate, Kyocera Dome Osaka, Osaka Municipal Wholesale Market Honjo, Osaka City Central Police Hall in Nakanoshima, etc. You can check all these places out up close on foot, but the cruise lets you see them in comfort and in a fraction of the time.
▼Kyocera Dome Osaka & Osaka City Central Public Hall
Things I want to see next time!
Unfortunately, fall had just ended when we took the tour, so we missed out on the beautiful colors of the leaves. If you come at the right time, you can enjoy the seasons. Mr. Kintaro says that the view near the Japan Mint is especially stunning when the cherry blossoms are in full bloom. They have a “Special Sakura Cruise” for that, and I definitely want to come back to try it.
There was construction going on with the floodgate around the Dotonbori area, so we couldn't take the regular course. (We were told that's the most popular area on the route, so it was a bit unfortunate. But our detour took us past the iconic Osaka Castle, so everything turned out all right.)
▼“Special Sakura Cruise” (left picture), Dotonbori area (right picture)
As we approached the castle, the boat surprised us with a trick up its sleeve! The whole passenger area started to rise, and the roof opened up to give us a better view! It was a little cold, but the view was so good, I think it'd be absolutely amazing during spring or fall.
We were having such a great time that we were already back at the pier before we knew it.
We got a picture with Mr. Kintaro at the end. All in all, we made some good memories.
My first-hand rakugo experience
This was my first time seeing rakugo in person. Because everything was in Japanese, there were parts that I couldn’t quite follow. But being able to see the sights of Osaka at the same time, made it a very fun experience and I really enjoyed it.
If you don’t understand Japanese, most of the material will be lost, but personally I thought the performance was interesting enough that you'll probably get some laughs out of it anyway.
▼Mr. Kintaro telling us about the history of Osaka through rakugo.
At first, I honestly thought an hour and a half boat cruise would be a little long, but it actually felt like it was over in an instant. Next time, I want to learn more about Osaka so I can enjoy the cruise even more.
Ah, I almost forgot to mention! There's an option for a special (bento) lunch set. The thing is it needs to be ordered at least 2 days before the cruise. Sadly, I didn’t know about this earlier, so I couldn't try it. It looked really good, so it's definitely something I want next time. (The contents/ingredients may change depending on the time of year)
・No smoking aboard the ship
・No outside food or drink
・Same day reservations are possible only if seats allow
・Depending on tidal conditions, floodgate operation times, accidents, etc. changes to the course may be made even when the route through Dotonburi is otherwise okay
・Depending on weather, tidal conditions, floodgate operation times, accidents, events, etc. course changes, use of roofless boat, delays, and/or suspension of operation may occur
・Reservations cannot be made for specific boat models
・Depending on the condition of the boat, a roofless model may be used
・Depending on the number of passengers, you may need to share a table with others (Seating arrangement will be decided by staff)