The Venice of Japan: Ine no Funaya
Many places can claim to be the Venice of Japan from Kurashiki in Okayama Prefecture with its white-walled storehouses and picturesque canal to Ogaki in Gifu Prefecture famous for its old waterways. Recently a new off the beaten track destination has risen to challenge the title from Kyoto Prefecture.
Kyoto Prefecture is famous for its rich culture, traditional architecture and delicacies such as wagashi (traditional sweets) and Uji Matcha green tea. The prefecture is best known for Kyoto City, which was the ancient capital of Japan from 794 to 1868 and one of its must see tourist destinations with thousands of shrines and temples.
Ine no Funaya, located in Ine-cho in the northern tip of Kyoto Prefecture is a spectacular hidden tourist destination that is one of the most beautiful villages in Japan. The sleepy little fishing village about 3 hours’ drive from Kyoto City has been called “The Venice of Japan” as it appears to be floating on the sea. It offers you an off the beaten track destination that you are unlikely to experience anywhere else in Japan with breath-taking bay views and crystal clear waters.
Funaya means “boathouse” in Japanese and along the shore of Ine Bay you can find around 230 funaya built on the water’s edge. The traditional wooden boat houses are picturesque and are a unique blend of home, warehouse and boat garage. You will find the houses have living quarters upstairs and workshops and garage-like space underneath to moor boats. The unique townscape has been designated as an “important preservation district of traditional buildings”.
The houses developed out of necessity to maximise the limited amount of space between the mountains and sea in the local area. The village had to adapt meaning the houses are wedged on a strip of land about 20 meters wide. The unique style of wooden architecture of the houses is possible due to its location in the bay which provides protection from storms and sea swells as well as having little tidal movement.
The Ine area was once primarily a fishing village and remains so even today with the locals going about their daily business sorting the day’s catch and dying the fish in the wind. Urbanisation in modern Japan has seen many of these traditional fishing villages disappear, so a visit here allows to you feel the spirit and tradition of these old villages.
The first boathouses started appearing in Ine during the Edo Period (1603-1868) and the area has even been mentioned as a possible origin for the 15th century legend of Urashima Tarou.
The best way to experience and see the traditional boat houses of Ine no Funaya is from the sea on an Ine-wan Meguri tour boat. A 25 minute cruise will show you views you can only see from the water of the boathouses as well as the fish farming area and small islands of the bay. Funaya no Sato Park a short walk from the village offers you stunning views of the area and Ine Bay.
Funaya no Sato is slowly becoming famous as a tourist destination with many of the boathouses being converted into beautiful lodgings for visitors, restaurants and ‘izakaya’ (Japanese style pubs). An overnight stay here on the water with its picturesque boathouses and fresh local seafood from the Sea of Japan is an experience that you will soon not forget.
Address: Hirata, Ine-cho, Yoza-gun, Kyoto Prefecture 626-0423
Tel: 0772-32-0277 (Tourist Association)