Beautiful Nature in Kyoto

October 17, 2018

by Suguru Takauji, Yuka Yamazaki & Hanami Yanagi

Japan has the world’s most beautiful cherry blossoms, or sakura, which bloom every year in the spring. Kyoto has a lot of shrines and temples, many of which have cherry trees on their grounds. We cannot introduce all of them at once, so in this article, we chose to focus on three that we think are some of the best places to see the amazing sakura.

Maruyama Park

Maruyama park is the oldest park in Kyoto. It is located on the east side of Kyoto, about 15 on foot from Kawaramachi station. There are many temples and shrines near the park, so you can see many different ones in a single day. Best of all, there are many kinds of cherry trees in the area. In fact, it is said that there are about 1,000 individual cherry trees blooming each spring.

During the sakura season, many Japanese go to Maruyama park, find a place to sit down, and start drinking and eating. There are lot of small shops open there selling fried potatoes and other snacks. Tons of people visit and enjoy the scene while wearing kimono. If you want to go cherry-blossom viewing and sit down while you do it, you can borrow a picnic blanket in the park.

The most famous cherry tree is called Gion Sidare or ‘Night Cherry Tree of Gion’. This impressive tree is about 12 meters tall, and the root circumference is about 4 meters. It blooms in April and it is even lit up at night by numerous lights. It is an expression of the time when people enjoyed it over 1,200 years ago. It is truly an amazing tree that people come from all over the world to see

Gion Sidare

Further inside Maruyama Park are two bronze statues, one of Ryoma Sakamoto and the other of Shintaro Nakaoka. Ryoma Sakammoto is a man of patriot. He tried to face-lift in Edo era. Shintaro Nakaoka is also man of noble patriot. They were assassinated. They buried at the Maruyama Park. Therefore, their bronze statues were built in here. Near to the road is named ‘Ryouma-zake’. If you like Japanese history, be sure not to miss these statues.

Ryoma Sakamoto & Shintaro Nakaoka

In the center of the park, there is a large pond surrounded by a traditional Japanese garden. The view changes in accordance with the seasons. Not only are the sakura beautiful, but so are the wild flowers that grow there.

Right next to Maruyama Park is the famous Yasaka Shrine. It is called Gion-san by the local Japanese people.

The most impressive thing is its ‘Seirou-mon’. This is the gate. It is symbol in here. It is found a Muromachi era. The viewing of ‘Seirou-mon’ gaze up from stone step is beautiful. This shrine is the head temple and spiritual place of disease-free.

North of Maruyama Park is a famous temple called Chion-in. It is the oldest temple made of wood in Japan. Its giant sanmon gate stands in the entrance. Next to it, there are several large, beautiful cherry trees. When their petals land on the steps, it is so beautiful.

In sum, the area in and around Maruyama Park is filled with opportunities to experience the wonderful sakura in bloom.

Kitano Shrine

Kitano Shrine is a well-known Shinto shrine located in the Kamigyoku area of Kyoto, and can be reached by a 30-min bus ride from Kyoto Station.

This shrine is associated with the god of study, so many Japanese students come to pray before they are having big exam. This is the most powerful study god in Japan. This shrine’s history goes all the way back to the Heian period, over 1,000 years ago. Since then people have been praying here for good results in their studies and exams.

Kitano Shrine

Kitano Shrine has a very nice garden with many kinds of trees. One of them is a species unique to the Kitano Shrine, called a Kitano Cherry Blossom. When it is in bloom, the color for the sakura petals is white. However, it slowly grows pink day-by-day. Finally, at the end of its bloom cycle, it has become dark pink. Isn’t that beautiful? The interesting thing is that people didn’t know it was a unique species until they researched it in the past few years.

The oldest tree on the grounds is 120 years old. How cool is that? The cherry tree is 120 years old, so it knows the end of shogun history and saw what happened in Japan during WW2 in 1945. These days, like a number of other shrines and temples around Kyoto, Kitano Shrine lights up its sakura tree collection at night. They are so beautiful.

You can not only enjoy the lit up cherry trees, but also the traditional shrine buildings. The main shrine building is such a cute structure. When night falls and it is lit up with a nice color, it is amazing.

In Autumn, Kitano Shrine has different appearance. Cherry blossoms don’t bloom this time of year. However, there are more than 300 maple trees in the garden. Their leaves turn darker in the fall, to colors like orange or brown. It is also quite lovely. It is called koyo in Japanese. Colored leaves fall down from the trees and cover the walking path. There are tons of leaves all over the place. It is amazingly beautiful. It is seems like leaf rain.

In the winter season, if you are super lucky, you can see the building covered by snow. It is also very beautiful.

As you can see, you can enjoy the Kitano Shrine in each season of the year, as each offers us a different appearance. But our recommendation is Spring. Don’t you feel romantic surrounded by 120-year-old cherry trees that get pinker day-by-day? We hope you visit there one day.

Sanzen-in Temple

Sanzenin is in the silent mountains in the countryside north of Kyoto city, in a small village named Ohara. The way to Sanzenin is a gentle slope with rice cracker shops and Japanese pickles shops along the way. Therefore, I recommend you go to Sanzenin by checking out these shops. You can enjoy Sanzenin throughout the year because the viewing is so beautiful every day. Especially, cherry blossom and hydrangeas are most famous flowers in this place. For example, several thousand hydrangeas are planted at Sanzenin. The peak bloom period is June to July. As you pass under the main gate, there is Japanese traditional garden covered with the moss. At first glance, maybe you think it has a messy appearance. However, the all positions are calculated.

Japanese traditonal garden

Also, there are a large number of miniature Ozizou-sama on the moss. Ozizou-sama is the target of belief in Japan. They are called warabe-zizou by Japanese people. The meaning of Warabe is child in Japanese. All waraze-zizou face and the body plans are different. I recommend you find your favorite one.

Inside the temple ground, there is Ojo Gokuraku in. This is temple.You can’t take pictures there, so you have to observe the rules. However, the scenery from Ojo Gokuraku in is so beautiful, and there is an old-world flavor. Although the garden is covered with green, in the autumn, you can see autumn colors. In addition, the autumn leaves fall upon the ground, so the scenery changes.

At the Yu-seien temple, there is Ougonsui of water. It is a kind of water that Japanese people say gives us long life. If you touch this water, you can get happiness. Near Sanzenin is Housen-in, a small temple where you can eat Japanese cake and green tea. This temple has a irori. Irori is Japanese traditional fireplace, that gives you a Japanese feeling. Moreover, you can see a Japanese traditional garden from the temple in which bamboo and Japanese cedar are planted.. The scenery is different from that of Sanzenin. However, it is hidden in a notable spot, so you can enjoy the silence of Kyoto there.

So that brings us to the end of our article. Remember, Maruyama Park is the oldest park in Kyoto. Therefore, you can learn about ancient Japanese culture and enjoy the same beautiful cherry blossoms that people of long ago enjoyed. At the Kitano shrine, you can enjoy viewing cherry blossoms and plums. Finally, at Sanzenin temple, in addition to cherry blossoms in the spring, you can enjoy the colorful hydrangeas in June during the rainy season.

A Kyoto Sightseeing Plan for Spring

By Erica Wada & Yumika Fujii

The four seasons in Japan are defined clearly, so visitors can enjoy each of them in Kyoto. We would like to introduce good ways to spend time in Kyoto during its spring season.

Special sightseeing plan for spring 

spring

 

Spring comes to Kyoto in April. The average temperature for April in Kyoto is around fifteen degrees Celsius. The maximum temperature is over 30 degrees and the minimum is around zero, so we suggest that you bring a few layers of clothing such as cardigan or a light jacket as it may get chilly at night. Kyoto is famous for sokobie, which means freezing cold in Japanese, so you may feel more cold in Kyoto than compared to other prefectures in Japan. This is because of the high humidity in Kyoto. Moisture tends to collect in this basin.

Cherry blossoms are very popular in Kyoto, so you can enjoy cherry-blossom viewing in many places. Among the best ones are along the  Kamogawa River (鴨川), in Umekoji Park (梅小路公園) and at Toji Temple (東寺).

The Kamo River

The long rows of cherry trees along the banks of the Kamogawa river are a symbol that tells us that spring as arrived in full force. There are Prunus yedoensis, weeping cherry trees, (しだれ桜) and fresh green trees, and the combination of those trees is fantastic. You can take a walk along the river for several kilometers. Also, a good point is that you do not need to pay any admission—because  nature is free.

Kaikado Café – coffee and dessert

You can enjoy a stylish open-air cafe that was renovated from the Showa period. If you get tired walking, you can have a rest here and drink a cup of coffee (810 yen) or eat some Kaikado cheese cake (540 yen). It is South of Gojo Street on the west side to the river.n

Umekoji Park

 “Satozakura street” is surrounded by a grassy area in Umekoji Park. The street has a fine view that includes Mt. Atago in western Kyoto. So it is best to visit on a clear day. The entrance fee is 200 yen per person.

 Toji Temple

In this temple, there is weeping cherry blossom tree in front of the Five-story pagoda, which has been designated as a National Teasure, and is the tallest pagoda in Japan. We strongly recommend that you visit Toji after dark because the cherry blossoms will be lit up from the middle of March to the middle of April. You can visit the precincts of temple for free, but you have to pay if you want to view the cherry blossoms at night (500 yen). Other temples that feature light-ups in spring are Kodai-ji and Tenju-an. Toji Temple is just a ten-minute walk southwest of Kyoto Station.

Tatehara 

This is a meat shop that always has a line of customers at lunchtime. Here, you can eat a hot croquette, Japanese-style deep-fried kabob and so on. The croquette costs only 60 yen, and surprisingly, they do a discount on Saturdays and on the 21st of every month. You can walk and eat, so it is perfect for a light meal on the stroll. Tether is on Hachijo Street and on the way to Toji Temple from Kyoto Station.

In conclusion, there are many wonderful spots that you can visit and feel spring in Kyoto.

Glamping in Kyoto

by Sakina Nishitsuji, Nami Shinkado, & Shiho Tojo

Glamping is a term combined from the words ‘glamorous’ and ‘camping’. It is a new camping style where people can experience some luxurious and comfortable services. It’s like being in a hotel in nature, where guests don’t need to take any camping equipment or pitch a tent. There are glamping areas all over the world these days, as glamping has become so popular recently. It is said that the origin of glamping is in Africa in 1900s. Then, rich Westerners luxury-camped to have adventures in Africa. In short, the high-quality outdoor adventure resort that targeted the well off in the West existed since before the term ‘glamping’ was born.

Why has glamping become so popular recently? There are two main reasons why glamping has become so popular. The first is that glamping targets a wide audience. If you are an indoor person or one who hates insects, you can still enjoy camping comfortably there. Of course, if you are an outdoor person, you will like it, too, because you don’t need to prepare anything in advance. Also, glamping lets you feel as if you were in a foreign country. In nature, you can spend relaxed time.

The second reason is SNS applications. Recently, many people have been using Instagram. People always try to take wonderful photographs to share on Instagram. In glamping, people can take very fashionable photographs because there are very stylish tents, nature, food, beds and so on. It is so popular for Instagram users.

How to spend time glamping

Morning

You need lots of equipment to do normal camping, for example, tents, cooking tools, and so on. But with glamping, you do not need anything at all. Everything is provided, such as barbeque sets, cooking tools, and tents. You do not need to buy these. You need only a bag.

Lunch-time

Most glamping experiences include a barbeque. You do not need to bring your barbeque tools, as they are provided. Therefore, you can eat a delicious barbeque. You can also use a Dutch oven to roast, boil, steam or fry something. This allows you to enjoy lunch time without preparation.

Free time

In your free time, you can enjoy various activities, for example, canoeing, horseback-riding, and marine sports. And glamping provides not only the outdoor experience. You can also enjoy yoga indoors. You can have some wonderful experiences glamping.

Night time

At night, you can enjoy sitting around a campfire outside. You can drink coffee and alcohol while surrounded by fire, talking with your friends in a relaxed mood. If the skies are clear, you can see the stars. It is a very beautiful view.

What makes glamping unique in Kyoto?

As you know, Kyoto is a famous, cultural city with many sightseeing spot. Therefore, if people go glamping in Kyoto, they can see the sights of Kyoto on their way home. This is why glamping is so special to do in Kyoto as opposed to other places in Japan. Besides, the nature in Kyoto is very beautiful.

GRAX

One well-known glamping spot in Kyoto is called GRAX. It is located in Rurike, Nantan-city, Kyoto Prefecture. It was established recently and is at present the only glamping spot in Kyoto. There are also different types of structures to sleep in, for example, glamping tents, lumiere cabin, trailer houses, camping junior suite, camper’s glamping tipi, and delux cabin. Each option costs a different amount per night. Which to stay in might depend on the time of year. You can stay there comfortably in the winter, because that rooms are provided some beds and home heater. Glamping tents are the cotton tent which natural lights come through the window. It prepares a kotatsu only in winter. Lumiere cabin is a very comfortable room. They have air conditional and some beds. Trailer house is like your house, so you can relax and spend a day in the nature. Camping junior suite is only winter, it has kotatsu. You should talk with your partner in the kotatsu at camping junior suite. Camper’s glamping tipi is really simple tent. Delux cabin is a two stories building. You can stay here with many people. In this way, GRAX has many types of rooms, so I think you will found your favorite room.

GRAX has many attractive features. First, there is very good hot spring nearby, called Rurike Hot Spring. It is a natural hot spring, so is has always been a popular place to take a bath in nature. You can relax at Rurike Hot Spring for a small fee of 700 yen to 850 yen. Of course GRAX has a bath and restroom, but they are not per person. A bath and restroom are in a common space. Next, you can enjoy eating a BBQ at GRAX, because they provide fresh vegetables and meat. Although it is a little expensive at about 5,000 yen per person, it is delicious and will give you good memories. However if you do not want to eat BBQ, you should take food from your home. This is because GRAX is very much in the countryside, so there are not restaurant nearby GRAX. Next, GRAX provides breakfast. It is depends on a day, for example burger or toast bread. No matter which you make, you will be satisfied with it. Finally, GRAX is lit up in the night. This is very beautiful, as you are able to see a star-filled sky there. And if you stay in the summer, you can sleep outside your tent under the stars. In this way, if you stay at GRAX, you can enjoy not only glamping itself, but also the surrounding area. You can enjoy time in nature with your friends, partner, and family at this most excellent glamping spot.

GRAX operates seven days a week, fifty-two weeks a year. If you stay at GRAX, you can check in between 2:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m., and check out between 8:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. GLAX also offers parking. It takes about 1 hour to get there from the Keihanshin. The address is Sonobe, Kawachi, Nantan-shi, Kyoto Hiroya 1-14.

In conclusion, recently glamping has become popular in Japan. There are a lot of glamping spot in Japan. Among them, Kyoto has a very good glamping spot, called GRAX. We recommend this glamping spot for everyone. We hope you will go there with the people you care most about. It truly is glamourous camping!

Hozukyo Gorge ~a wonderful place~

by Ayaka Murai, Hikari Yanai, Daichi Hatakuyama

I have one recommendation in Kyoto.  It is an amazing place. If you spend your holiday in Kyoto with your family, friends, or love ones, I recommend going there.  The place called Hozukyo Gorge. In Kyoto, people called it Hozukyo.  I expect that everyone think, “Really?”  But Hozukyo has many appealing points, one which will not make you bored.  I would like to tell all about.

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Hozukyo is a famous gorge leading Kameoka city to Togetsukyo placed in Arashiyama Ukyo Ward, Kyoto City.  It is filled with nature. Hozu-gawa River running through Hozukyo is also famous.

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There is a hiking trail of Hozukyo, and you can see beautiful nature throughout the year.  So it is a tourist spot where a lot of people visit.  In the spring, it is blooming with cherry blossoms, so a lot of tourists and local people go there for picnics.  In the summer, a lot of people enjoy Hozugawakudari. It means going down Hozu-river by a small boat.  You will be surrounded by great nature and you can feel the nature directly on the boat.  In addition, rafting has become popular recently.  During Hozugawakudari a boatman rows the boat, but rafting lets you control the boat yourself.  It is very thrilling and getting popular.  In the autumn, all kinds of trees take on color.  So you can enjoy seeing colorful scenery.  In the winter, the nature is blanketed in snow.  It is remarkably attractive viewing.  So, you will press your camera’s shutter release button in spite of yourself.  Thus Hozukyo is a great spot with many attractive points.

 

JR Hozukyo station and train Hozukyo station are the nearest station from Hozukyo.  You can arrive at JR Hozukyo station, which is very famous for cherry blossom in spring.  You can set to train Hozukyo station about 10 minutes from tram Saga station.  This train is also one of the sightseeing features.  The interior has motif of Japanese style.  The train’s seat is made of wood seat for a natural feeling.  Autumn is the best season on the outskirts of the tram Hozukyo station.  Many tourists visit to see the autumn colors.  The train is overcrowded in the autumn, because it is very popular.  However, if you are lucky, you can ride it.  If you can’t ride it, you can walk westward along the railroad.  It’s also nice and you can see beautiful autumn colors.  

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Hozukyo is often used in movies, and filming is shoot on location.  Hozu-gawa is flowing under the Hozukyo.  A lot of people often barbecue, hike on the banks of the Hozu-gawa and so on.  People come to here for these reasons. Therefore, you can feel nature in Hozukyo.  In addition you can arrive at Arashiyama, which is a tourist spot near the Hozukyo only minutes from JR Kyoto.  Please go to Arashiyama after you go to the Hozukyo.  If you want to feel Kyoto in four seasons and spend your holiday in Kyoto with your family, friends and loved ones, please go to Hozukyo. 

Iwatayama—Kyoto’s Monkey Mountain

By Kazauki Kume and Yoshiki Kawauchi

Arashiyama, in Kyoto, is one of the most famous tourist attractions in Japan. Not only Japanese but also many foreign tourists visit this part of Kyoto city every year. Arashiyama has many different kinds of sights and is famous for temples, shrines, a huge bamboo grove, autumn leaves and the Togetsukyo Bridge. Arashiyama is surrounded by nature and so visitors can enjoy different scenes as the seasons change. In the middle of such a sightseeing mecca, there is a monkey paradise called Arashiyama Monkey Park Iwatayama.

 

Arashiyama Monkey Park

This monkey park was begun after Japanese monkeys (nihonzaru or the Japanese Macaque) living there were fed for research by Kyoto University in 1954. After that, the area became a park and was opened to the public in 1957. Currently, about 120 monkeys live in their wild state. However these monkeys have come to recognize that human beings do not pose a threat to them because there are strict rules for visitors. Therefore, even if humans come nearby, the monkeys are not afraid. But you must not gaze at their eyes or touch them because they recognize these actions as aggressive behavior and will retaliate. In their view, you are taking a threatening attitude toward them.

About Japanese monkeys

Japanese monkeys are well known for appearing in old folktales in Japan. In their natural habitat they live in groups of about a dozen individuals and their life expectancy is said to be around 30 years. Among monkeys, the Japanese Macaque is the northernmost most species. Since monkeys are usually distributed in tropical regions, Japanese monkeys, especially those living in the northern snowy areas of Japan, are called “snow monkeys.” They usually live in deep in the mountains. Therefore, researchers around the world are very surprised because they can see monkeys here.

Access, Fees and Information

The park entrance is about fifteen minutes from the Hankyu Arashiyama and Keifuku Arashiyama train stations. In addition you have to walk a mountain path for about ten minutes from there. You should wear good walking shoes or boots and not high heels. Sports shoes or sneakers are best. There are no free exclusive parking for visitors, but there are pay parking lots nearby the entrance.

The admission fee is 550 yen for each adult and 250 yes for children (children nder three years of age are free). There are a group rates for parties of thirty or more. If the group rates apply, the fee becomes 450 yen for adults and 200 yen for children. If you want to feed the monkeys, you have to pay 100 yen on the top of mountain. You can buy apples, pineapples and peanuts for 100 yen.

The Monkey Park is open throughout the year. However on days of heavy rain days or heavy snow it is closed. If you want to check if the park is open, you can call 075-872-0950. Business hours are 9:00~16:30 in summer (March 15~September 30) and 9:00~16:00 in winter (October 1~March 14). But sometime the monkeys return to the forest later in the day. So you should visit the park at an early time.

Foreign Impressions of the Kamo River

By Hiroto Shima and Aina Sasaki

Is there a river where you live? Do you often go for a walk there? We are familiar with Kamo River, because our school is in Kyoto. There are paths along both banks where people walk, jog and bicycle. When we come to Kamo River, we always see foreigners there. So, we tried a questionnaire.

First, the Kamo River is the main river that runs through Kyoto, from the north to the south.. In the old days, the Kamo flooded its banks many times during typhoons but now such natural disasters are rare since high banks have been built. Now the river is a place of rest and Kyoto people can spend time there slowly. The Kamo river has some charms. One famous charm is its abundance of nature. Many creatures, such as the giant Japanese salamander and ayu sweetfish are living in the river . There are also many birds—ducks, white egrets, blue herons, cormorants and seagulls in winter.

The Kamo River has many beautiful views and can be recommended in every season. In spring many cherry trees are blossoming on its banks, so it is a popular place for cherry-viewing parties. So the Kamo is loved by many people including locals and foregin tourists.

Cherry tree

Cherry tree

 

The Kamo River is located near the Kyoto Station. The Kamo is a good geographic landmark, so it can help visitors navigate the city. It is good place to have lunch on a bench, take a little break or have coffee at a riverside café. We can often see local people walking or jogging on the mornings and evenings. The Kamo river is one of the symbols of Kyoto. More tourists will visit Kyoto in the future and they are sure to visit the Kamo River.

Jogging at Kamo river

Jogging at Kamo river

We met three foreign people at the river and asked them the following questions:

1. Where are you from?

2. What have you seen at the Kamo river that you will remember?

3. Do you have a river in your hometown? How similar or different to the Kamo river is it?

Their answers were so wonderful that we would like to relate them here:

First of all, we will introduce the answers of a French woman. She said that she recalls the memory of playing in the river when she was young. She lives in Lyon in France and they have a river too. The river is divided into two branches that are named la Saone and la Rhone. There people can run, chat together on riverside benches, play on the grass, skateboard—many people use the river as a place to relax. Her image about Kamo river is that it is more natural and at the Kamo river we can see cherry blossom and autumn leaves and feel the four seasons. Both rivers are similar in that they are places to relax and people can enjoy themselves without spending much money.

The second person we met lives in Finland. She said when she saw the Kamo river she thought that Japan is very beautiful place. Finland has a lake named Uthah lake, it is not river but many people relax there. She said she has never seen the people playing beside the Kamo, but Uthah lake has a lot of people playing. And also she said both are loved by many people.

The third person we met is from America. When she came to the Kamo river it reminded her of her boyfriend. Her boyfriend is not Japanese but he lives in Japan so when they meet in Kyoto, they definitely come to the Kamo River. She told us about a river in Minnesota: it is used only as a place for walking or jogging, whereas the Kamo is a good spot to chill out. Because there are cafes and convenience stores nearby,  the Kamo is very convenient. She also said the Kamo has great nature and is a good place to relax.

Kamo river at night

Kamo river at night

 

 

Japanese Traditional Fishing Method

by Hosono Natsumi and Haruka Onishi

Cormorant Fishing at Night

Ukai, or ‘cormorant fishing’ is a traditional fishing method using a cormorant bird to catch ayu (sweetfish). The season for cormorant fishing is from the middle of May to the middle of October of each year. Interestingly, ukai is often practiced at night. Fishermen make a fire on the fishing boat because ayu have a habit of gathering in lighted places in the dark. This allows the cormorants to catch the fish more easily. However ukai is never practiced on the night of a full moon, because the ayu do not gather around the light of the fire so well. The people who train and control the cormorants are called ‘cormorant fishermen’. The number of cormorants used at one time differ by region and fisherman, but the average number is five to ten. Cormorant fishermen have to know exactly when cormorants swallow the fish so that they can call the cormorants back to the boat and have them regurgitate the fish into a basket.

History of Cormorant Fishing

Cormorant fishing in Japan has a long history. It is unknown who began cormorant fishing. However, a history book published in 712 A.D. mentions cormorant fishing. This suggests that it has been practiced for at least 1300 years or more. Not only do Japan and China have a history of ukai in their cultures, but surprisingly ukai was practiced as a sport in Europe from the 16th to 17th centuries. The fish caught by cormorants lose consciousness in esophagus of the cormorant without injury. This keeps the fish fresh and uninjured, making them highly valued in the marketplace. However, due to its inefficiency in comparison with standard methods of fishing with nets and hooks, the popularity of cormorant fishing gradually decreased over time. Now, it is mostly done in Japan for the tourism industry.

Cormorants

Cormorant in Kyoto

Cormorants are highly intelligent birds and can understand hierarchical relationships. They are about 80 cm in length and have a sharp crooked bill. Therefore they are suited for fishing. Cormorant craftsmen catch wild cormorants.

Wild cormorants are well-trained. Cormorant fishermen take care of them every day for 2 or 3 years. In general, the longevity of a cormorant is from 4 to 5 years, but the cormorants used in Ukai are treated carefully. For this reason, their lifespan is from 15 to 20 years. Cormorant fishermen do their work with the birds around the noon. This practice is what is often shown to the public.

What is the life cormorant fishing like? In the morning, after checking the condition of their birds, the fishermen decide which cormorant take to fishing. In the afternoon, fishermen give the birds free time to relax in the water. The fishermen don’t feed them so much because hungry cormorants can catch their own fish quite well. In the evening, fishermen take chosen cormorants fishing. It is important not to tie their throat too strongly because it will decrease the birds’ motivation. On the other hand, if the rope is too loose, most of fish get swallowed completely. After fishing, fishermen feed and stroke their cormorants to thank them for their efforts.

Cormorant Fishermen

Most cormorant fishermen are born into their craft via long lines of cormorant fishermen. Still, they need a long training period to become fully qualified. First, they need a strong grip and skillful hand movements because the power of cormorants pulling the ropes is quite strong. In addition, it is difficult to make cormorants eject the fish from their throats. This is done by holding the birds’ throats in just the right way. Although cormorant fishing is done only in during the warmer months of the year, fishermen must still take daily care of their birds year round. They have to feed them, take care of their bills, and clean their cages with love.

Where to Observe Cormorant Fishing

The best ukai season is in the summer evenings. If you are interested in observing ukai, you should reserve an ukai tour in advance because it is very popular and crowded. Moreover the road to the spot is also crowded, so you ought to arrive as early as you can.

In Japan, there are about a dozen famous ukai locations, one of them being Kyoto. Kyoto actually has ukai areas, one of them is near the Uji River and the other is near Ooi Arashiyama. But it is the one near Arashiyama that is the most popular.

Getting to Arashiyama

From Kyoto station, take the JR Sagano Sanin Line (#3) to Saga Arasiyama station. It takes about 15 minutes and it costs \240. From the Randen station (Keifuku train), take the train to Arasiyama station, the last stop on that line. On the other hand, if you have One-Day Bus ticket, take the No. 28 bus, which takes about an hour from Kyoto station.

Reference

Ukai

Arashiyama

Autumn Leaves in Kyoto

by Hikari Yanagihara, Kazuki Nakamoto, and Haruna Masuzaki

Every year in the late autumn, the leaves in Kyoto turn beautiful colors of red, yellow, orange, and brown. This colorful display is called kouyou. At this time of the year, the leaves change with the drop in temperature from autumn to winter, showing the power of nature. Every year the leaves turn different colors. The beauty of kouyou is amazing in some years, but less spectacular in other years. For example, some leaves turn red, while other leaves turn yellow. The resulting color depends on a variety of conditions, such as the species of tree and the conditions in the environment, such as temperature, sunlight, and water. The most important factor is the temperature. When the change in temperature is larger, the leaves become more beautiful. In addition, the quality of color in kouyou can be effected by typhoons from the summer or early fall. Therefore some leaves turn red early, while others later in the season.

The leaves in Kyouto turn beautiful colors of many colors.

Kouyou

Kouyou Charm in Kyoto

Japanese kouyou is famous for its beauty, not only amongst Japanese people, but also foreigners. And one of the most famous places to see the beautiful kouyou in Japan is Kyoto. One reason is because there are so many temples and shrines with gardens in Kyoto. These places are an important part of traditional Japanese culture, so they are protected carefully and taken care of well. Therefore, people love to visit Kyoto in the fall to see the autumn colors and to experience Japanese tradition. When kouyou and Japanese tradition are combined in this way, it makes the experience of visitors much more special. This is something very hard to experience outside of Japan.

There are many places to view kouyou in Kyoto.

Japanese Kouyou

There are many places to view kouyou in Kyoto. For example, visitors can see the beautiful red leaves of trees at the famous Kiyomizu temple at night because they are lit up. It is a special experience. Also, they can enjoy riding a well-known kouyou viewing trolley in the well-known Arashiyama district on the west side of the city. The most appealing points of kouyou are both the variety of tree species, and the way the view is different each year. Much of the beauty of the leaves is difficult to capture in a photo, so you should come to Kyoto to see it with your own eyes.

Autumn Leaf Types

In Japan, there are two different words used to refer to the trees that produce the most beautiful colors in the fall: momiji and kaede, both of which refer to species of the maple tree family. Typically their leaf color is a deep red in the fall.

Momiji (Japanese maple tree)

There are many species of maple in Japan, but one particular species is native to Japan: the momiji (Acer palmatum). Japan is like a treasure house of momiji. In fact, the kanji for kouyou (紅葉) can be read as ‘momiji’ or ‘kouyou’, so momiji are symbolic of the kouyou experience in Japan.

There are many species of maple in Japan

Japanese Momiji

One of the best places to see momiji in the fall is in Kinkakuji (The Golden Pavillion). The best time to see momiji there is generally from mid-November through the first ten days of December, a peak window of about one week. That window depends entirely on environmental factors as discussed previously. If you go to see kouyou too early, they are still green. But the deep red color begins to emerge in November.

Kaede

Kaede is a more general term for ‘maple tree’ in Japanese language. It can refer to all maple trees, including the momiji. However, the term ‘momiji’ typically refers to maple leaves that are small, sharp, and 5-pointed. On the other hand, ‘kaede’ often is used to describe maple leaves that are larger and 3-pointed, like a frog’s hands. In fact, the origin of the word ‘kaede’ means ‘frog’s forlegs’.

Kaede is a more general term for maple tree.

Japanese Kaede

There are a lot of kaede – along with a few momiji – in the world famous Kiyomizu Temple complex. The scale is huge, with more than 1,000 trees. The best time of the year to see kaede at Kiyomizu Temple is from the middle ten days of November to the first ten days of December. What is special about this collection of maple tree is that visitors can view them at night because they are lit up from November 15th to December 8th. However, because Kiyomizu Temple is such a popular destination for tourists, it is very crowded during kouyou season.

Best Places to View Kouyou

There are many temples and shrines in Kyoto, but some in particular are better for viewing the autumn leaves than others. Below are 3 places we recommend for experiencing the beauty of kouyou.

Hosenin

Hosenin is a small temple complex outside of Kyoto in the hills north of the city. Because of its distance from the city center, not many people know about this temple. There is also lot of nature in Hosenin, making it a great place to see the momiji in the fall. The kouyou at Hosenin is really beautiful. In the garden, sightseers can see bright kouyou, and can view them while drinking powdered green tea and eating cakes. The fresh green bamboo of the garden and the contrast of the red autumn maples are very beautiful. Moreover, the place is lit up in the night, so it’s just too good to pass up. Visitors can see the green bamboo and kouyou, which seem to float in darkness. Also visitors can be healed by the sound of a water harp. Visitors find it hard to take their eyes off of the view of kouyou reflected on the surface of water in the pond. It is mesmerizing.

This is a small temple complex outside of Kyoto.

Housenin

Access:
From Kyoto station, you should the train bound for kokusaikaikan and get off kuramaguchi station.Then, walk about 6 minutes straight.

Enkoji

For tourists interested in taking photos, we recommend Enkouji Temple. Enkouji reflects the changes of each season well. The kouyou colors in the autumn are especially beautiful in the gardens of the temple. In fact, the gardens there match well with the outside scenery, so we can take beautiful photos. Many gardens of Kyoto are too crowded with people, so it is difficult to take good pictures. However, at Enkoji, monks keep certain areas of the garden clear of people, so visitors can take beautiful pictures. Moreover, the kouyou at Enkoji are varied, so people can see many different bright colors, making for a fantastic view. One of the gardens is named “Garden of Ten Cows” and had particularly bright kouyou. Also, Enkoji is known for its fallen kouyou. Even after the leaves have fallen onto the ground, it is still very beautiful. For this reason, many people visit Enkoji een after the kouyou have fallen.

For tourists interested in taking pictures.

Enkouji

Access:
From Kyoto station, you should take the bus of the five section.

Kiyomizudera

Kiyomizu-dera temple is perhaps one of the most famous temples in Kyoto and in Japan. It was originally constructed in 798 by Sakanoueno Tamuramaro, and is known for its large wooden balcony. The main hall of the Buddhist temple, which stands up upon a cliff in the hills east of the city, was rebuilt in 1633 by Iemitsu Tokugawa. From this location, visitors can get a magnificent view of the whole city of Kyoto. Kiyomizumeans “pure water.” The water at the temple is said to have the power to heal the soul and also to make the dreams come true of those who drink it. The kouyou at Kiyomizu-dera temple are very beautiful. Every year lots of people visit during the autumn season. The foilage is also lit up at night during the kouyou season, which is beautiful, like a dream. So, not only can visitors get a nice view of the city from the great balcony, but also we can see the temple surrounded by kouyou in full color from a different view. It is a scene right out of a painting.

This is perhaps one of the most famous temple in Kyoto.

Kiyomizu temple

Access:
From Kyoto station, you should take the No,206 city buses bound for higashi-dori-kitaoji bus terminal.

Kamogawa River Wildlife

by Koudai Kobayashi & Akari Mihashi

KamogawaThe Kamogawa River is the fourth longest river in Kyoto, with a length of 31 km. The source of the Kamogawa is Sajikigadake, which is located in the northern part of Kyoto prefecture. The water from the Kamogawa is mostly used for agriculture. In addition, there are five famous bridges crossing the Kamogawa, lots of beautiful views, and many kinds of animals living there.  Furthermore, if you stroll along the banks of the Kamogawa, you can feel the spirit of traditional Japan, not only in its scenery, but also in its atmosphere.

Animals of the Kamogawa

Many kinds of animals inhabit the Kamogawa River. There are not only fish, birds, but also, surprisingly, mammals. For example, from any bridge over the water, you can see various types of fish swimming below, such as ayu and the Japaense Catfish (zacco platypus). You can also see birds almost anywhere along the river. In addition, there are several species of rare wildlife that you seldom see in Kamogawa River. Now, we will introduce some rare wild animals.

Fish

There are many fish in Kamogawa River, for example, the Pale Chub (zacco platypus) the Japanese Catfish. The adult of the Pale Chub grows to about 15 cm in length. And on the spawning male, you can see a beautiful design along the length of their bodies. The female is slightly smaller, and the color of their bodies is silver and silver-white. There are many Pale Chub in the Kamogawa, so you can see schools of them in the shallows. In the winter, Pale Chub are targeted by fishermen for their tasty meat, which is usually grilled. It is very delicious. However, we recommend that you just watch them and enjoy the nature.

In case of the Japanese catfish, the length of their body ranges around 40 cm.  They are good eaters, so they gobble up any food you give them.  Japanese catfish can’t be usually seen, so you should try to observe them when you have an opportunity to go to the Kamogawa.

Pale Chub (zacco platypus)

Zacco playpus

Japanese Catfish (Silurus asotus)

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Birds

There are also many fish in Kamogawa River, for example, the Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo) and the Grey-headed Lapwing (Venellus cinereus). The Great Cormorant is a bird, which has recently increased in number. The adult of Phalacrocorax carbo grows to about 80 to 85 cm in length, and their wing span is about 31 to 34 cm. The female is slightly smaller, but it’s hard to make out the difference. It look blacks on the surface, but basically its color is emerald green.

The Grey-headed Lapwing is as big as a pigeon and it has long feet. The color of its head is a mottled grey and their beak is bark-colored. When they are flapping, we can see the beautiful contrast of black and white. In Japan, they make their habitat around the Kinki area.

The Great Cormorant
Phalacrocorax
The Grey-headed Lapwing
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The Giant Salamander

Giant salamanders can be seen in the Kamogawa sometimes. The length of their body ranges from 50 to 60 cm. They have many bumps on their head and slimy skin. When they are irritated, they excrete a sticky liquid, which has a peculiar smell. They appear in the upper stream of the Kamogawa and are registered as a nationally protected species. Originally, giant salamanders didn’t exist in this river. The reason why they inhabit the river now is because someone introduced giant salamanders from China. Originally they were brought over for food, but now they are getting wilder. Moreover, the genetic crossing between Japanese giant salamanders and their Chinese counterparts has become a big problem. So in the Kamogawa, there are now three kinds of giant salamander: those indigenous to Japan, those that came from China, and genetic crosses between the two.

However, now almost all giant salamanders are mixed breeds, because their genes are strong. According to a recent survey, of 11 recently captured giant salamanders, 13% were of Chinese origin, while 44% were mixed breeds. So the problem is the decreasing the number of giant salamanders of purely Japanese origin. Japanese giant salamanders are conserved and displayed in the Kyoto aquarium, and there you can experience the true character of a giant salamander.

Giant salamander

Black-headed gull

Along the Kamogawa you can find black-headed gulls during certain times of the year. The length of their body is around 40 cm, while their maximum wind span reaches 100 cm.  They have a red beak and red feet. Interestingly, their heads change to a blackish brown color when summer comes. However, their heads turn white when winter comes. That’s their peculiar characteristic. Black-headed gulls arrive to the Kamogawa at the end of October, and they stay to the beginning of May. They are famous as seasonal tradition. Usually we can’t see black-headed gulls, but you occasionally see them when winter comes. But long ago, we could only see at most 10 black-headed gulls along the Kamogawa River. Nowadays, we can see over 5,000 black-headed gulls. That’s a rapid increase. The food shortage in the winter is a big threat for migratory birds. However, because of urbanization the birds are now fed in the winter by Kyoto residents. That’s why black-headed gulls have increased along the Kamogawa River recently.

Black-haded gull

Nutria

Nutria are similar to beavers. The difference between nutria and beavers is the size of the tail. Nutria’s tail is rounder and not as flat as beaver tail. In fact, nutria seem to be more like big rats than beavers. The length of their body is around 80 cm. They are mammals, who are good at swimming. They can hold their breath under water for over 5 minutes. They have orange-colored front teeth and small ears. That’s how you can distinguish between a nutria, beaver, and muskrat. Recently, the number of nutria has been increasing. It is in fact an invasive species. So since 2014, in a strategy of capturing nutrias had started in earnest.

nutria

Recommendations

As you can see, in addition to its beautiful views, there are also different types of wildlife inhabiting the Kamogawa River. When you come to Kyoto, you will be satisfied with seeing just the Kamogawa River itself. But we recommend that you try to observe some of its rare birds, mammals, and other nationally protected species with your own eyes. That would be a fantastic experience, and one that you will enjoy for sure. Come to see what kind of animals inhabit the Kamogawa River by all means.

Sources
http://gw-daisen-hiruzen.com/tt/hanzaki/han2.htm
http://www.pref.kyoto.jp/kamogawa/1232411453216.html
http://kasenseitai.nilim.go.jp/index.php/%E3%83%A6%E3%83%AA%E3%82%AB%E3%83%A2%E3%83%A1
http://www.kc-center.co.jp/suishitsu/column/kamogawa/

The Kamogawa Delta

By Mao Osako and Yuina Terasaki

Most people think of Kyoto as a place to see temples, shrines, and geisha. However, Kyoto is more than that. In this article, we will introduce a place that many tourists don’t know about: the Kamogawa Delta. After describing its history, we will tell you how to enjoy it. We hope that after reading about it, you will want to visit it yourself.

History of the Kamogawa Delta

Kamogawa Delta form is triangle.

The Kamogawa Delta is in the shape of a triangle (source).

 

The Kamogawa Delta is a part of the Kamo River, the main river in Kyoto that runs from the north to the south, right through the center of the city. From its source in the mountains north of the city, it runs for 31 km to the south, where it merges with the Katsura River in Fushimi Ward. The Kamogawa Delta is located at a place called Demachiyanagi, where the Takano River meets the Kamo River in their journey southward.

The word ‘delta’ means ‘triangulation point’, and indeed a triangular shaped piece of land between the two rivers is the result of many centuries of water flow. The delta was formed gradually by sand carried from the upper stream of the river being deposited where the two rivers merged. Over time, the deposited sand got hard and became solid ground.

The Kamogawa Delta is home to the forest of Tadasu of the famous Shimogamo Shrine. This place is sometimes called the ‘tip of a blade’ because the Y-shaped resulting from the two merging rivers is similar to the point of a sword. Historically, the river north of the delta was written with different kanji (賀茂川), whose name derived from the Kamo Clan, whose home was in mouth of the valley in the north, leading into the city in ancient times. Meanwhile, the southern portion was written (鴨川), meaning ‘wild duck river’. Both kanji compounds are pronounced in exactly the same way.

The Kamogawa Delta Today

As you may know, Kamo River is a really famous landmark in Kyoto. However not only the river, but also the Kamogawa Delta is a popular place. Local students and residents often use it as a place of rest and relaxation. On the weekends, they enjoy playing musical instruments, practicing sports, or doing something what they want.

Another common name for the Kamogawa Delta is simply, Demachiyanagi.  It is located next to two train stations, one on the Eizan Densha line and the other on the Keihan line. Both are named, Demachiyanagi. From there, you can easily find the triangular shaped delta just a few meters to the west.

One of the most interesting things you can do at the Kamogawa Delta is walk across the river on stepping stones. Even more intriguing is that the stepping stones have differing levels of difficulty, with some stones being more challenging than others. So if you are confident in your sense of balance, you should try stepping on the more difficult ones. If not, then it would be wise to stick with the easy ones. Also, you will find some of the stones in the shape of turtle, if you look closely.

Kamogawa Delta have stepping stone. There are famous some movies and animations.

Kamogawa Delta have stepping stone. There are famous some movies and animations (source).

 

In addition to being filming location for the occasional scene in a Japanese movie, the Kamogawa Delta is also an active spot for visitors to the annual Daimonji festival in Kyoto each summer. On August 16th, thousands flock to the delta to get a good view of the bonfires set into the mountains surrounding the city, all in the shape of a meaningful Japanese kanji. The name of the festival is the Great Bonfire Event on Five Mountains in Kyoto (五山の送り火). From the Kamogawa Delta, you can get an unforgettable view of several of the fires. That is why the Kamogawa Delta is so crowded on the 16th of August each year.

If you find yourself at the Kamogawa Delta, don’t forget to visit the nearby Shimogamo Shrine which is famous throughout Japan. It is a shine built on the delta itself, just north of the confluence of the two rivers. The Shimogamo Shrine is famous as a place that can help you realize your dreams and wishes. The shrine even appears in The Tale of Genji and The Pillow Book, both famous classical novels written over 1,000 years ago.

Because Kyoto’s land slopes downward from the north to the south, the best way of walking in Kyoto is to start at the north and make your way south. Along the way, you can enjoy memorable seasonal scenery as you walk along Kamo River. When you reach the Kamogawa Delta, you can stop and enjoy the scene. Now you can understand why the Kamogawa Delta is so wonderful. Why don’t you visit this unique area during your visit to Kyoto?

Access

By train: Get off at Dematiyanagi station of Keihan and go to Exit 3

By bus: Get off at Kawaramachi imadegawa. You must ride No.3, 4 or 102 .