“I’m going to Sakata. Stay strong and healthy.
Don’t catch your death of flu. I’ll come back soon”
Such was the sad lament of the Mogami River boatmen as they set off down the river, carrying rice and safflower on their long trip to Sakata, years ago.
The Mogami River is 229 km long and is said to be one of the three fastest running rivers in all Japan. Its source can be found at Mt. Azuma, very close to the Yamagata / Fukushima prefectural border. The river flows north through the areas of Okitama and Murayama, and then heads west near the outskirts of Shinjo City in the Mogami region. It continues west entering Shonai and finally joins the Japan Sea at the port city of Sakata. The river passes through all four regions of Yamagata Prefecture.
The Mogami River is no longer used primarily to transport food and goods. It now transports people, giving them a picturesque view of the Mogami Gorge on the one-hour, 10 km boat ride. Boatmen and women guide their passengers down through the beautiful scenery wearing period dress and they help pass the time singing this now traditional song, the first verse written above, called the, “Mogami-gawa Funa Uta”. This song can be viewed on YouTube sung by different chorus groups.
The majestic scenery of the area was captured in the world famous NHK Taiga Drama “Oshin” (1983) and in 1689, the very famous poet, Matsuo Basho visited the Mogami River and wrote this haiku:
“Swiftly flowing, all water from early summer rain, Mogami River”
The boat ride itself can be experienced many times due to the difference in the change of seasons.
In spring, the cherry blossoms contrast with a carpet of new green.
In summer, the wind helps cool everyone down against the hot sun.
In autumn, the explosion of colour due to the changing of the leaves is just breathtaking.
In winter, everyone sits under blanketed heated tables (kotatsu) while the cold wind strikes the faces of those looking out on a sparkling, white wonderland.
The ride ends at the Shiraito Waterfall and there are restaurants and places to buy beverages and souvenirs once you alight.
Shiraito WaterfallInformation for visitors
●Address / 86-1 Furukuchi,Tozawa-mura,Yamagata Prefecture
●Passage Fare /￥2,200 / per adult /￥1,100 / per child
※group reduction (more than 15 people) / ￥1,980 / per adult /￥990 / per child
●Access / about 30 minutes by car from JR Shinjo station MAP←Basho's Narrow Road to the Deep NorthTop Page