Swan boats are the ultimate romantic date – or at least that’s what I thought. I’ve always wanted to ride one – so when I heard there were swan boats at Mitaka Inokashira Park, only about a 30 minute bike away from the ICU campus, I was dying to go.
I found out later that if a couple rides together on that lake, they are destined to break up. So maybe they are not the ultimate romantic date in Japan…?
But I also think that’s just a rumor made up by unhappy men who want to break up with their girlfriends and need some justification. And no, in case you’re wondering, Ryosuke and I are still together, thanks for asking, more than a month after we rode the swan boats.
If you and your boyfriend (or girlfriend, lover, friend, child, or parent) want to break that tradition too, here is a fun step-by-step guide to riding the swan boats in Mitaka Park (near the Ghibli Museum, in fact).
1. Find the lake. That’s not too difficult. There is a river, though, so general rule of thumb, you’re at the right place if you see swan boats. It should look like this:
2. Find the boat dock. We ended up on the opposite time and had to hike about 15 minutes around to find the docks. The boats are on the furthest side from the train station, but close to town, so I guess that makes sense.
While we were waiting, we saw a bunch of fishes begging for food. I didn’t know fish could beg for food, but these fish were professionals. If I had had food, I would have given them some in a heartbeat.
(Ryosuke thought they looked really creepy, though)
3. Pick out your type of boat. When we got there, we found out that there were three different types of boats you could rent. The cheapest was a row boat, second was a plain paddle boat, and third – the most expensive but also most adorable – giant white swan boats.
We of course got the swan boat. It cost 700¥for 30 minutes (or about 9 dollars). What can I say, I’m an expensive date! It was a beautiful white, scratchy material that ended up being hollow. The seats were small, but could fit two “adults” comfortably. (I use parenthesis because I don’t think Ryosuke and I are emotionally mature enough to be adults. We’re like children trapped in grown up bodies.)
4. Make sure the number of people you have can fit in your boat. If you’re not sure, look at the “handy” but confusing guide on how to classify people based on gender and age. I’m not sure if I found the sign insulting or amusing. I think it was a little bit of both.
(For a breakdown of who can ride in each boat, look at the picture with the boat descriptions above)
Before we saw this guide, we thought that red meant “man” and blue meant “woman” and were insulted with the classifications. Or at least I was.
We were a boy and a girl, so it was ok for us to ride the swan boat together.
(Us, in our swan boat)
There was also a couple confusing warnings in English about hugging while in the boat. The general rule is- don’t. I found that funny – because most of the Japanese people I’ve met so far aren’t so keen on hugging anyways – but I guess someone must have fallen in during a hug for them to make that rule. Go figure. My long-term goal is still for a rule to be created because of me (don’t worry, that isn’t how this story ends).
4. Buy your ticket at the vending machine
. The boat operator was watching me, so I wasn’t able to snap a picture of the machine – but it looks just like the ramen ticket machine in my last post about つけ麺
(ramen dipping noodles. If you want to read about it, click here
5. Give your ticket to the boat operator and get in your boat. Hurry, though, because the tickets are time stamped. If you’re too late, they can charge you extra.
6. Try to figure out how to paddle the boat.
(It was hard. Our knees were too big!)
7. Give up and make the person you are riding with do all the paddling.
I was our navigator. I wasn’t very good at it, but it’s a lake. How horribly can you mess up? I had fun trying to steer the boat and got to take a lot of pictures… but I never quite got a hang of how the rudder worked.
(This was one of the pictures I took. Ironically enough, about a minute after I took this picture, we nearly crashed into the two girls in that other swan boat. I think if I spent more time steering and less time taking pictures, we would have been fine.)
8. Try not to crash into another boat. We almost did here. Seriously. It was a very close call. Ryosuke was in charge of paddling and I was in charge of steering – and if you make any “women can’t drive” jokes, I’m going to slap you. The steering wheel was hard to move.
(I was trying to take another “couples shot” with my camera timer, when all of a sudden Ryosuke looked up and was like “WE’RE ABOUT TO CRASH!!!” So I started steering again – and forgot about the camera. It ended up being a pretty cool shot, though. I’m happy.)
9. Realize it’s horrifically hot and try to find some shade. We saw this nice couple feeding ducks in the shade, so we paddled on over to join them.
I had mastered steering by then. But once we got deep under the trees and started drifting, we realized that we didn’t have anything to feed the ducks, so they wouldn’t play with us.
(Come on duck! Play with me!!)
10. Get the swan heard stuck between the tree branches and realize there was a reason that none of the other boats with a top (both swan and regular paddle) went under the tree. By the time we tried to get out, we were already trapped in the branches. So we did the “Ryosuke Method.” I steered us straight and we both peddled as hard as we could. It made a horrible scratching sound (everyone was starting at us) and left a kind of nasty scratch on the swan’s neck.
But then again, in our defense, the swan neck was already pretty beaten up to begin with. One of those scratches is ours (on the left side).
11. Realize you only have five minutes to turn in your boat and peddle furiously back. When we turned in our boat, the man didn’t even look at the time. I guess we could have stayed out later, but I get really obsessive over anything involving time limits or money.
Also, the operator either didn’t notice or didn’t care that there was an extra scratch on the swan.
12. Find the funny balloon man and get a cool hat. We watched the end of his performance; he was collecting money for his fare ride home after the performance. We gave him 100¥, and he gave me a Donald Duck hat.
(I’m adorable sometimes)
I loved the hat to death, but it was horrifically awkward to walk around with, so Ryosuke and I gave it to a cute little girl. Then, a couple hours later, when we were walking back home, we saw the same man doing the same routine, collecting the same money for his ride back home. It was rather ingenious – but Ryosuke felt cheated. Oh well.
(He was making someone a Minnie hat too!)
All in all, I hope you get a change to go to Mitaka Inokashira Park and ride the swan boats!