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Ine Town - The Quiet 'Venice Of Japan' Just Outside Kyoto

Ine Town - The Quiet 'Venice Of Japan' Just Outside Kyoto

Date published: 22 July 2019
Last updated: 17 December 2020

The boathouses of Ine, found in an area called Kyoto By The Sea in the prefecture's northern region, are an exceptionally popular tourist spot.

The houses appear to float on the sea which surrounds them and offer a scene found nowhere else. From wherever it is viewed, atop a hill, from the town, or on a boat, the town exudes a nostalgic air and is ideal for leisurely walks.

Here we'll introduce what to do in Ine Kyoto and share what incredible scenery you can find there!

Table of Contents
  1. Ine Japan: A tranquil fishing town by the sea
  2. Ine Tourism Association: Best place to go to get information about the town
  3. Ine Bay Sightseeing Cruise: See the row of Ine boathouses from the water
  4. Funaya Shokudo (Boathouse Cafe): Enjoy seafood and an excellent view of Ine Kyoto
  5. Ine Bay Marine Taxi: Take a water taxi to see the boathouses up close from the bay!
  6. Funaya Maruichi: Ine boathouse lodging you can reserve exclusively

Ine Japan: A tranquil fishing town by the sea

Ine Town is in the northern part of Kyoto Prefecture. It is located about 20 minutes by car from the scenic Amanohashidate, one of the three most scenic spots in Japan.

The houses here, known as the "boathouses of Ine", directly front the sea and the first floor is used as a storage place for boats while there are living quarters on the second floor. The houses lining the seafront in the town are of construction unique to this area which is designated an Important Preservation District of Historic Buildings.

Before you look around the town, stop by the Boathouse Village Park first. The view of the boathouses below from atop the hill is excellent. In addition to the observation deck there is also a restaurant and gift shop.

The objects floating in the middle of Ine Bay are different kinds of fish pens. Cultivation of fish, such as yellowtail and red sea bream, is extensive as is evidenced by the many rectangular and round pens in Ine Bay. After enjoying the fine view from the top of the hill, let’s now go down into the town!

  • Boathouse Village Park
    舟屋の里公園
    • Address 459 Kamejima, Ine-cho, Yosa-gun, Kyoto Prefecture
    • Phone Number 0772-32-0680
    • Hours: 9:00 a.m. ~ 5:00 p.m.
      Closed: Tuesdays; December 31; January 1

Ine Tourism Association: Best place to go to get information about the town

Ine Tourism Association: Best place to go to get information about the town

I first visited the Ine Tourism Association to learn more about Ine. It was first located in the previously mentioned Boathouse Village Park, but in order to provide better assistance to tourists and disseminate information about the town, it was moved to its present location near the entrance to the town in April 2018.

▲ Interior view of the association. It also sells original goods.

The building used to house the city’s archives before it was refurbished in a design fusing modern with old-style house that creates a warm and welcoming atmosphere.

The association’s Mr. Yoshida assisted us in our inquiries. As this was our first time to visit Ine, he kindly offered to show us around.

▲ The general store in this town with its Showa era atmosphere. It has a very unique flavor.

First, Mr. Yoshida and I walked to the Nishihirata District on the west side. This area is close to the Tourism Association’s parking lot and one in which visiting tourists enjoy strolling about.

Many buildings from the Meiji to Show eras still remain creating a sensation of going back in time when you walk through the area.

▲You can see the sea beyond the alleyways between the houses. Everywhere there are landscapes that you can only see here.

The main function of the boathouses fronting the sea is as a garage for boats, as was mentioned earlier. So for that reason, the prevalent style is for the main living quarters to be on the other side of the road.

However, because there are tasks to perform after returning from fishing or when preparing to go out fishing, there are living quarters in the boathouses, too, which is how they are today.

Walking on, we came upon this imposing building. This is the Mukai Brewery, the only brewery in the town of Ine. It has quite a long history having been established in 1754

▲Its most famous brand is Ine Mankai [Ine’s Full Bloom]. Red rice, called “ancient rice” in Japan, is used to brew the sake giving it the look and taste of a rose wine.

This brewery is unique among all those in Japan because its master brewer is a woman. This brand has a soft, fruity flavor which even those not partial to sake find quite good. On the day we visited there were quite a few tourists purchasing bottles of Japanese sake presumably for gifts.

And the brewery facing the sea like the boathouses also has a floating dock. I was surprised to learn that this is for customers who come by boat or kayak to buy sake.

The brewery sells snacks, such as fish pickled in rice bran paste, and sweets as well as sake, so when the weather is fine you can sit on the dock and have a small picnic.

▲A view of the row of boathouses from the dock. We caught glimpses of women mending fishing nets and town life from here.
▲ We were also allowed to look in one of the boathouse garages

The Tourism Association also provides guided walking tours during which the history of the town and its culture are explained. You can also to go inside the boathouses, which normally is not possible; I highly recommend this the first time you visit Ine.

  • Ine Tourism Association
    伊根町観光協会
    • Address 491 Hirata, Ine-cho, Yosa-gun, Kyoto Prefecture
    • Phone Number 0772-32-0277
    • Hours: 9:00 a.m. ~ 5:00 p.m.
      Closed: end of the year and beginning of new year
      Guided Tour Fee: 2,300 yen for adults, 1,800 yen for minors (tax included in both fees) * 2 tours daily: 10:15 a.m. ~ 11:45 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. ~ 2:30 p.m. (About 90 minutes)

Ine Bay Sightseeing Cruise: See the row of Ine boathouses from the water

Ine Bay Sightseeing Cruise: See the row of Ine boathouses from the water

After walking around the town, we took a Tour Association car to a dock where we boarded the Ine Bay Sightseeing Boat. The boat will take you around Ine Bay and give you an explanation of the history of the town and its attractions. There is an open upper deck where you can comfortably enjoy the sea breeze.

Seagulls and black kites flock towards the boat. Snacks are sold in the port and on the boat and you can feed these to the birds if you like. The seagulls hover near the boat and take the food in their bills while the black kites swoop down and take it with their sharp talons, so you need to be careful. During our coverage a black kite nicked my finger with its talons which gave me a bit of a surprise.

▲Seagull coming in for a snack. The large number of birds is another photo opportunity.

It was rather exciting because there were many more birds than I had imagined and I became so engrossed in feeding them that the next thing I knew the tour was over and we were back at the dock. I now regret not paying more attention to the explanation of the boathouses and looking at them.

So, my recommendation to those interested in taking this tour is to not get too carried away feeding the birds.

  • Ine Bay Sightseeing Boat
    伊根湾めぐり遊覧船
    • Address 11 Hide, Ine-cho, Yosa-gun, Kyoto Prefecture
    • Phone Number 0772-32-0009
    • Hours: 9:00 a.m. ~ 4:00 p.m. ※ Departs on the hour and half hour (every 15 minutes when there are many guests)
      Closed: always open
      Fares: Adults 680 yen, children 340 yen (tax included in both fares)

Funaya Shokudo (Boathouse Cafe): Enjoy seafood and an excellent view of Ine Kyoto

Funaya Shokudo (Boathouse Cafe): Enjoy seafood and an excellent view of Ine Kyoto

It was after noon when we got off the boat. As we were hungry, we went to the Funaya Shokudo located on the second floor of the Tourism Association building and had lunch.

This opened in April 2018, the same time as the Tourism Association did. The comfortable interior had a pleasing aroma of trees. The large windows offered an excellent view of the boathouses and town.

Most of the dishes on the menu use fresh seafood taken from Ine Bay and the nearby sea, such as in set lunches like the Kaisendon [seafood bowl] and Sashimi [slices of raw fish]. I selected the Kaisendon (1,500 yen including tax).

The bowl came heaped with fresh seafood including Ine salmon, yellowtail amberjack, Spanish mackerel, and Japanese sea bass. The type of fish used varies according to the season and about 7 or 8 types are offered each season. Time to dig in!

Very delicious! Each slice was fresh and firmly textured. Not only was the fresh fish, but the slices were of just the right size making it very easy to eat.

After lunch I had the chef’s special seasonal dessert (400 yen including tax). On this day it was a three-layer mousse. It was a wonderful blend of seasonal apple, strawberry, and matcha. In addition to the lunch menu, there are also breakfast and cafe menus, so if your travel schedule permits, please stop by.

  • Funaya Shokudo
    舟屋食堂
    • Address 491 Hirata, Ine-cho, Yosa-gun, Kyoto Prefecture
    • Phone Number 0772-32-0800
    • Hours: 8:00 a.m. ~ 4:00 p.m. (2nd floor of Ine Tourism Association)
      Closed: Thursday

Ine Bay Marine Taxi: Take a water taxi to see the boathouses up close from the bay!

Ine Bay Marine Taxi: Take a water taxi to see the boathouses up close from the bay!
▲Mr. Shimooka, captain of the Marine. The young handsome captain is a native of Ine Town.

In addition to the sightseeing boat mentioned earlier, I also recommend taking a maritime taxi to get a closer look at the boathouses from the water. Local boat owners often act as guides taking tourists on their boats.

▲The pier for boarding the boats is only a short walk away from the Tourism Association. Once you put on the orange life jackets the boat departs.

After a few minutes we came to a spot recommended by the captain. How did you like it? This view apparently is often used on posters for tourism. You can clearly see the garages of the boathouses. Going a short distance over the gentle waves this intriguing view came into sight.

Ine Bay is formed by the sea being closed in by the Tango Peninsula and Kamejima, which juts out like a peninsula from there.

“See how the mountain seems to plunge straight into the sea? Lots of nutrients flow into the bay providing food for plankton which in turn attracts lots of fish,” Captain Shimooka explained.

"Also, due to the geography, the waves in Ine Bay are always gentle, so the bay has never experienced tsunami or other kinds of disaster ever. Without realizing it, the people living in this area built houses that protruded into the bay." That explains how this photogenic scenery came about.

"They are making pens for Iwagaki oysters. Would you like to take a look?" suggested the association’s Mr. Yoshida who was accompanying me. I said that I definitely would and gave him an OK sign. So the boat headed off in that direction.

▲Iwagaki oyster cultivation work

The fisherman explained, "These oysters are about two years old.” They need to be about three years old until they are of a marketable size. Iwagaki oysters do not have a strong smell because they are raised in clean water and large ones sometimes exceed 500 grams in weight.

▲ I was amazed by the size of this oyster! Summer is the best season for them, so if you are in Ine at that time, you really must try them.

The marine taxis do not follow any set routes, but go to places the captains think would be of interest and this may lead to some interesting surprises. If you should say, “I’d like to see this sort of scene!” the captains would certainly oblige, so this is a great way to enjoy sightseeing from the water. There are several other marine taxis in addition to the Marine in Ine. Contact the Tourism Association if you are interested in taking one.

  • Ine Bay Marine Taxi
    伊根湾 海上タクシー
    • Address Hirata, Ine-cho, Yosa-gun, Kyoto Prefecture
    • Phone Number 0772-32-0277
    • Fee: 1,000 yen for about 30 minutes (depart when there are 2 or more passengers)
      * Hours of operation and holidays vary depending on the boat

Funaya Maruichi: Ine boathouse lodging you can reserve exclusively

Funaya Maruichi: Ine boathouse lodging you can reserve exclusively

If you are going to spend time in Ine, then you should consider staying in one of the boathouses, too. In this final part of the article, we’ll tell you more about one of them, called Funaya Maruichi.

In May 2018 when this article was written there were 13 boathouses renovated to accommodate lodgers. Maruichi is one of these and has an excellent ambiance as well as top-quality food. It is perfect for young people and couples because the entire building can be rented.

The door on the first floor opens into a specious living room holding a large wooden table. The bay is visible just outside the windows affording an excellent view of boats and other boathouses. This first floor was originally a garage for ships. If you go outside and walk around you can see remnants of it.

The second floor is a bedroom. The well-lit room is spacious and has twin beds. Nights spent here are indeed memorable.

There is a space along the window looking out on the bay where you can sit and relax. Watching the boats lightly bob on the water can lull you into a relaxed and comfortable mood.

▲Situated right on the bay, you can also enjoy fishing
▲The smiling faces of the proprietress and her baby daughter

In May 2018 when this article was written only lodging without meals was possible. For meals, you can purchase something at the Funaya Shokudo we mentioned earlier or at other cafes and restaurants. Many places require advanced reservations so you should contact the Tourism Association ahead of time.

  • Funaya Maruichi Boathouse Lodge
    舟屋の宿 まるいち
    • Address 940 Kamejima, Ine-cho, Yosa-gun, Kyoto Prefecture
    • Phone Number 0772-32-0608
    • Check-in: 3:00 p.m.
      Check-out: 10:00 a.m.
      Room rate: entire building for one night, excluding tax, 11,000 yen (meals not included; can accommodate up to 6 people)

The unique scenery and boathouses looking as though they were floating on the sea evoke a lifestyle that has remained unchanged over the years.

Kyoto's Ine Town has a nostalgic feel about it and is like no other place you have visited. It is a great place to go to escape from the hassles of daily life and to relax.

*This information is from the time of this article's publication.
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.

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