The ferry boats in Edo ( watashi-bune ) do not use oars or paddles. Instead, they are propelled with either a long bamboo pole, or with a broad rudder that the ferry pilot sweeps back and forth like the tail of a fish. Both of these techniques require a certain amount of skill, especially when traveling on one of Edo's crowded and busy canals. Ferry pilots are viewed as relatively low-class workers, but they usually can earn a pretty good living.

The most well-known watashi (river crossings) in Edo are on the Tama river to the West of the city and on the Ara and Edo rivers to the east. There are also many smaller rivers and hundreds of canals and moats which criss-cross the city itself. In fact, Edo has been referred to as "the Venice of the East", because it is often easier to get from place to place by boat than by foot. In particular, most goods are transported through the city by boat rather than by road.