Owning a yacht in Tokyo
I have always wanted to own my boat. Some ten years ago, a Venezian man taught me how to drive a boat. I started driving around in Venice without a license. If I remember correctly, the speed limit was 5km/hour in between islands and less in the canals. Having a boat was a necessity – it was how locals go about their lives traveling from one place to another. Public vaporetti were just inconvenient, and for tourists, downright expensive at 9euros for day pass and 3euros per ride.
Anyway, since summer season is here, and I have got a delicious hangover with our Atami-Hatsushima trip, me and my husband decided to consider buying a boat. There is not much information in English in the internet – I personally don’t know any foreigner who owns a boat around Tokyo. But there are a lot of information in Japanese, which I would like to share in this blog for future boat/yacht owners.
Some twenty years ago or so, when Japanese economy was very good, a lot of people bought yachts and boats. Unfortunately, these people are now retired, old, aged and can no longer use their boats, putting them up for sale. Unfortunately again, not a lot of Japanese now can afford to own and/or maintain yachts/boats due to the bad economy. This caused the prices to dip – in such a way that if you search online by Googling certain Japanese keywords like 中古ボート・ヨット, you can find some motorboats for as low as 10,000 JPY (roughly 100 USD) and yachts as cheap as 100,000 JPY (roughly 1000 USD). Some of these cheap yachts caught my fancy – of course – and I was ready to cough up some cash just to purchase my own yacht and go boating and fishing the waters around Tokyo and beyond.
But of course, before jumping into the water – pun not intended, we decided to do a bit of research. Like all non-burnable trash in Japan, throwing trash is going to cost a lot of money – which of course explains the daily bulk of people offering their free items in Craigslist. Parking – whether on land or in the water (surprisingly) – also costs a lot of money in Japan. So someone who no longer uses his boat would rather sell cheaply – or probably give it away for free – than pay for getting rid of it or parking eternally in the city’s marina.
To give you an idea, the classier marina around Tokyo can cost around 800,000 JPY on parking dues per year. The farther ones around Chiba are around 200,000 JPY+ excluding other fees. Now, IT DOES cost a fortune. For me, it doesn’t make sense to pay eight times of what you paid for your boat/yacht just to park. But this is Japan – and space is a luxury. Parking a car in my building costs 30,000 JPY – but a boat/yacht will tend to be bigger, and the marina are few, plus some of the good ones offer showers and lounges. In the end however, maintaining a yacht is bound to be extremely expensive – which is why there is a surplus of cheap yachts in the internet. Unless one lives in a far flung places where boat parking is free or hardy charged at all.
Two of the yachts I considered are the two in the picture here. The upper 21-foot yacht costs 95,000 JPY ( roughly 950 USD), and the lower 19-foot yacht costs 170,000 JPY (roughly 1700 USD), both made in 1983 by Yamaha. Unable to give up the desire to become a boat/yacht owner, my husband read intensively in the internet and together we checked the bodies of water around Tokyo.
According to information available online in Japanese, illegal boat parking has become a severe issue in Tokyo. In the recent years, a lot of illegally parked boats/yachts have been towed by the government. This is how “legal” and “illegal” are defined in terms of parking : any boat/yacht tied to a pole or whatever that is standing on river banks/ seashore / government constructed jetties / bridges must have the proper permission to do so – unless the land on which the pole or other structure are built are on a private property, in which case you would have to talk to the private owner yourself and have an arrangement. Bad news for us : most of the land surrounding the bodies of water in Tokyo, and of course the bridges and jetties, are government-owned (except for one), and parking your boat in these areas are illegal. If you don’t want that to happen, either you pay for parking (either through a marina or other government-recognized organizations) or you can park your boat in the middle of the water and use an anchor to keep it in place. If you use an anchor and make sure you don’t tie it onto some freestanding government structure, because technically, if you don’t, you are not violating any laws. There is a catch though – and it follows only the line of common sense : you have no right to complain or claim for any damages that may happen to your boat during theft or natural disasters. I have only researched up to this point and have no idea about insurance policies. But before we get there, there is of course another more obvious problem with anchoring your boat in the middle of the river : you would need another boat to get to it.
Which leaves us with two other options : finding a cheaper marine in Chiba or Kanagawa or joining a fishermen’s union. The only disadvantage of parking in Chiba or around the Kanagawa is that it may get quite inaccessible if you don’t have a car. To give you an idea of the price list of marina in Chiba per year, I downloaded this image from the Choshi Marina website and translated the column titles to English
So for either of the yachts I wanted which fell below 8 meters, I will have to pay a yearly hefty fee of 449,000 JPY. And for a yacht that only costs 1/4 of the price!!!
So that was out of the question, our last hope was joining fishermen’s union and hoping that they will let us park.
According to internet sources, fishermen’s union rules vary. Some will probably let non-fishermen in, some will probably not. In any case, it was us to find out.
We went traced the Tamagawa river and took the train and walked some ten minutes towards the river. We were surprised to find absolutely nothing. The marina that we found in Google map turned out to be illegal and already eradicated by the government. This is the narrow part of the Tamagawa, and although we considered the possibility of anchoring the boat in the middle of the river, we abandoned the idea to check out other more feasible solutions.
Our next stop was somewhere farther along the Tamagawa closer to the Haneda airport. Fortunately, we found an old man, a care-taker of the boat parking and managed to squeeze out information from him. According to him, the place isn’t a mooring for boats. It is a parking for illegally parked boats sequestered by the government. The boats can park for up to ten years while they look for other parking. They don’t accept any applications for boat parking anymore. He also told us to walk further to “Ebi Tori Gawa” where we may have some luck. We didn’t know where that was but he just directed us to continue walking.
We walked towards Haneda. To give you an idea of where we are, below is a Google map image and the view towards where we were headed. The white structures farther off is already a part of Haneda airport.
We passed by some areas where boats were docked. There are fishermen’s union parking and the for-hire yukata-bune parking. We didn’t find anyone to talk to, so we took note of the phone numbers to contact. As you can see in the pictures, it is a far cry from the marina around Tokyo. Which is no problem to us, of course. One cannot be choosy if one doesn’t have money. (Or shall I rephrase this to one cannot hope to own a yacht if one doesn’t have money?)
There were no pleasure boats that were so rampant in the marina. Finally, after walking for several kilometers, we found a fisherman tending to his catch of the day and interviewed him. According to him, unless you have had your parking for years, chances of you getting parking is pretty low to nil. Conversely, the government is now actively decreasing the boats and cracking on illegal parking and towing sequestering illegally parked boats. Most boat owners in that area are of course fishermen who have had their boats and their parking for generations. Even if there is space, it is highly competitive and will probably be open only to fishermen.
In other words, new comers will not be given any parking in these areas.
Sad, but I guess unless we move out of Tokyo into more far-flung areas, space will always be an issue and a great cost. Still, we will be going to a boat-dealer near the gym in my area and will be asking for parking options. To be continued..