During the development and adventure of building Odigo we’ve had the opportunity to meet some exceptional people. Recently we came across Miho and Ben Sato — the owners of Mizuha which is a cruise boat which crisscrosses the arteries and delves into the heart of both historical and contemporary Tokyo. We felt truly blessed to spend a day with them as they gave us a guided tour of a city rarely seen or experienced by water.
I had arranged to meet Miho and Ben at 3pm at the Tokyo Bay Marina. They were both so relaxed and easy to get along with — essential skills when running any kind of city tour.
They explained that about 3 years ago they decided to quit the rat race in the city (Miho was responsible for global business communications in a large company while Ben was responsible for HR development in the food industry) to return to an occupation and livelihood which was essentially more human and natural.
During the boat trip they told me that the structure of the riverboat Mizuha is based on the traditional Yakatabune boat from the Edo period.
The Satos have a little shrine on the boat dedicated to Mizuhanomenokami (goddess of water) which is who they named the boat after. Before each departure they pay respect to her by offering a cup of fine sake.
“We are surrounded by nature so before departure my wife and I invoke the goddess of water, Mizuhanomenokami, to praise her for our safety and pay respect to nature.”
— Ben Sato
The cruise boat was built on the western coast of Izu and then transferred to Tokyo to be decorated by traditional shokunin (artisans). The boat was blessed in a special age-old ceremony by a Shinto priest before being released into the water.
“For the first time in my life I was scared so I visited a fortune teller. He told me God let me choose that name and that I should not be worried about it.” — Miho Sato
After prayers we started sailing into and exploring the city’s canals where we could imagine, through the descriptive and emotive words of Miho and the delicate sailing of her husband, the Tokyo of old when it was named Edo and shitamachi (old towns) were the thriving and bustling heart of the capital.
During our conversation I spotted a beautiful map sealed in the main table of the boat which was elegantly crafted by Miho’s father whose dream it was to be a painter.
Indeed the riverboat Mizuha’s logo was created by Miho’s father and reflects perfectly my idea of Japanese beauty. It’s an aesthetic amalgamation of wabi-sabi mixed with simplicity and modernity.
The logo is composed of 3 items:
- the favourite bridge of Miho san: Kiyosu-bashi
- the Kanji for boat (舟)on the bottom left hand side.
- the 6 horizontal lines stands for the flow of the river (川)
"The damaged stones under Nihonbashi brigde occurred during the great Kanto earthquake in 1923 when burning boats got stuck under.
— Miho Sato
As we arrived in Nihonbashi (the usual departure point for the tour) and looked towards the sky we were reminded of one of the more negative points of Tokyo — the ugly raised highways which scar the city. These hastily constructed highways were built as part of the new infrastructure for the 1964 Olympic Games and were created without the approval of those living nearby since the river is considered a public space. The highways serve as a constant reminder to the current government who, many hope, will be more environmentally and socially aware for the upcoming Games in 2020.
My heart tells me, however, that as long as Tokyo has inhabitants such as Miho and Ben it will be a city which can embrace the new and hold onto the precious remnants of the past. I took the trip in order to see Tokyo from a new perspective and seeing the rivers full of fish and other sea life and the thriving activity in the canals it seems that the city will keep on living, growing and evolving into a true global city that everyone can enjoy.
Check Miho Sato's profile on Odigo and discover a glimpse of their trip on Tokyo's canal and some of their local recommendations here.