Nishikyogokusogo Athletic Park

September 8, 2014

Nishikyogokusogo Athletic Park

Ikki Kato, Sota Mori & Makoto Hachiya

The Park

This park is located in Ukyo-ku in Kyoto. It is roughly 180,000 square meters in size, and there are various buildings related to athletics: an athletic field also used as a football field, Wakasa stadium, a sub-athletic field, Kyoto Aqua Arena, and the Kyoto City Gymnasium. The athletic field is also used as a football field and the sub-athletic field is used for track and field, soccer, rugby, and American football. There are many competitions held here, including the home games of Kyoto Sanga Soccer team, Japan rugby top league games, Kansai student’s American football league games, and so on. However Wakasa stadium is only used for baseball. The Kyoto City Gymnasium is used for tennis, table tennis, badminton, basketball, and futsal. We can take classes at this gym, which includes tennis, table tennis, badminton, dance, etc. Kyoto Aqua Arena has two purposes, and the use of this facility changes by the season. It is used as a swimming pool in the summer, but in the winter, the main pool and jumping pool are converted into ice skating rinks. The main pool also meets the criteria for staging world level swimming events. In addition, there is an archery field range in a park called Green Hill, and this is free to use. You can see many people running or training here, but there are also many people walking with a dog or strolling, so the park is a place of recreation and relaxation for citizens. Nishikyogokusogo athletic park has actually been designated as a refuge in case of natural disasters, and can accommodate 36,000 people. The park was designed as an athletic park in 1930 to celebrate the marriage of the Showa Emperor. At present, it helps citizens lead a healthy life and makes the Nishikyogoku area very lively. Do you want to visit now?

The Main Stadium (above and right) and Wakasa Stadium (below)

IMG_1201 The Main Stadium (above and right) and Wakasa Stadium (below)

IMG_1214

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Actions of the park for the environment

According to the Kyoto-shi Physical Education Association (managers of the Nishikyogoku General Exercise Park), many actions for the good of the environment are carried out in the facilities of the park. I will introduce some of the actions carried out here:

The park installed a box called “Eco station” from 2009 to collect PET bottle caps, paper packs, dry cell batteries, and tennis balls. 430 plastic bottle caps are worth 10 yen, and the caps money is donated to buy polio vaccine, which costs 20 yen for one dose. 9,550,111 caps have been collected between February, 2009 and May, 2014, raising enough money for 1,166 polio vaccine doses.

The park also collects used tennis balls and sends them to schools, where they are set on the legs of desks and chairs to reduce noise. 75,680 tennis balls have been sent to facilities such as schools between September, 2008 and May, 2014.

6,223 paper packs, such as milk cartons, have been collected between August, 2009 and May, 2014, and this is the equivalent in recycling terms to 1,037 rolls of toilet paper.

In addition to this, the park installed a box to collect used small consumer electronic items and this contributes to the recycling of rare metals.

A great and rare thing I also found when I walked in the park was a box to collect dog poo with a plastic bag.

All these ideas really help the users of the park and make the facilities more comfortable. It also makes sure the users’ cooperation is vital to keep the park a happy and fun place.

Dog poo collection box

Dog poo collection box

Kyoto Sanga

Nishikyogoku sports park can be used for many kinds of sports such as baseball, track-and-field, and of course, soccer. A professional Japanese soccer team named “Kyoto Sanga” uses a facility here as its home stadium.

Kyoto Sanga is a team now in the Japanese professional soccer league. They are the oldest team in existence since the Japanese professional soccer league was organized. The club was founded in 1922, but at first the name was different. The club’s former name was Kyoto Shikou Soccer Club, and Shikou meant purple light. That’s why the color of their uniform is purple. In 1993 they changed the name to Kyoto Purple Sanga after a popular vote. The word purple comes from Shikou, and Sanga is from Sanskrit (in Sanskrit Sanga is Samgha) and means buddy. Sanga also means rivers and mountains in Japanese. Especially in Kyoto, there are some clean rivers and a lot of beautiful mountains, which represents Japanese nature.

Kyoto Sanga is now fighting for the people of Kyoto and for the people who cheer them on. Their original mascots, Pasa-kun and Kotono-chan also cheer for them. They are not purple though, but red. You may think, why are they red? The answer is the color red stands for passion and the ability to take action. This is based on the actual spirit of the team and their motto, “Never give up to win”. Of course their staff and players still wear the purple uniform. Also a very famous Japanese company is supporting them, because Nintendo is their sponsor. Many people love the team, Kyoto Sanga, and they are trying their best to respond to their fans’ hopes and dreams.

Access

By bus

From Kyoto Station C5 bus terminal: Take Kyoto Public Bus No.73 to “Nishikyougoku-sougou-undou-kouen-mae”. Approximately five minutes’ walk from the bus stop.

From Uzumasa Tenjin-gawa bus terminal: Take Kyoto Public Bus No.80 to “Nishikyougoku-sougou-undou-kouen-mae”. Approximately five minutes’ walk from the bus stop.

From Shijo-Kawaramachi No.9 bus stop: Take Kyoto Public Bus No.32 to “Nishikyougoku-sougou-undou-kouen-mae”. Approximately five minutes’ walk from the bus stop.

From Shijo-Kawaramachi No.3 bus stop: Take Kyoto Public Bus No.80 to “Nishikyougoku-sougou-undou-kouen-mae”. Approximately five minutes’ walk from the bus stop.

By Train

Take the Hankyu Railway Kyoto Line to “Nishikyougoku” station. Approximately 5 minutes’ walk from “Nishikyougoku” station

Takaragaike Park

 

Marino Takeuchi & Nao Mochizuki

 The History of Takaragaike and the Park

Takaragaike is a small artificial lake made in the middle of the Edo period, and its original purpose was for drawing water into the surrounding fields. At first, it was only a small pond, created by damming spring water, but it is said to have become as large as its present size by the end of the Edo period. During World War II, a plan for the development of Takaragaike Park was made. The park area was originally planned to be a Bouku Ryokuchi, or an evacuation area, for people to avoid air raids and to prevent fire from spreading into urban areas. In 1958, bicycle racing, which had been held at the Kyoto Bicycle Racing Track here, was discontinued and instead the playground “Paradise for Children” (Kodomo no Rakuen) was built on the site. In 1961, the construction of the Kyoto International Conference Center was decided upon, and after that many facilities such as the Forest of Rest and Relaxation (Ikoi no Mori), the Forest of Wild Birds (Yachou no Mori) and the Forest of Cherry Blossoms (Sakura no Mori) were introduced. Today, the grounds including these facilities and the lake is called Takaragaike Park, and covers an area of 62.7 hectares.

The Lake

The Lake

Facilities in the park

The “Paradise for Children” playground (Kodomo no Rakuen) is a place which is surrounded by a thickly wooded area and is a special place for children. There are three areas for youngsters here:  the playground which is set up with playground equipment and a sandbox, a large open space with grass and a rest area, and an experience area, where people can touch a lot of living things and plants. This park can only be used by young children and their parents, and people who are more than junior high school student age (except children’s parents) may not enter.  The Forest of Rest and Relaxation (Ikoi no Mori) is a place where one can observe wild birds and was formerly the home for a racing stable exclusively for the use of the Heian cavalry.  The stables of the Kyoto Prefectural Police Department are here now, and you can see horses which are used for patroling and traffic safety campaigns. There is also an experience of riding the horses on offer to children up to nine years old.

Takaragaike    

This lake is surrounded by a lot of nature even though it is inside the environs of Kyoto city. In the lake, there are creatures such as turtles, carp, frogs and birds. Various plants border the water’s edge, and you can enjoy seasonable scenes whenever you go. Especially in spring, many people come here to view the cherry blossoms and the park becomes quite crowded. There is a promenade around the lake, and many people like walking, jogging and running marathons. You can rent a rowing boat or pedal boat, and buy food to feed the fish at the shop near the lakeside.

Koi carp

Koi carp

The Promenade

The promenade

 Surrounding area

Located on the edge of the park are some famous buildings such as the Grand Prince Hotel Kyoto and the Kyoto International Conference Center where the Kyoto Protocol was signed. There are also a lot of eating places, such as cafés, restaurants and so on.

Access to Takaragaike park

The closest station is Kokusaikaikan Subway Station, on the Kyoto City Karasuma subway line, which is located right outside the north entrance to the park. It is also about 10 – 15 minutes north on foot from Matsugasaki station on the same subway line.

Ohara

 

Akiho Kamijo and Shiho Iwasaki

Ohara Area

The Ohara area of Kyoto is about one hour by bus from Kyoto Station. It lies in the western foothills of Mount Hiei, one of the holiest mountains in Japan.There are a number of famous temples here, and the scenery changes by the season. In the spring, the cherry blossoms are incredible, and in the autumn the leaves offer a riot of vivid color. We will now introduce a few of the most interesting aspects for tourists to see and discover.

Sanzen-in

Sanzen-in

Sanzen-in

Sanzen-in, a temple of the Tendai Buddhist sect, is located here, and is famous for its elegant beauty and peaceful atmosphere. It was founded by a very famous monk called Saicho, and is a Monzeki temple, which means it was connected to the Japanese royal family. In the temple grounds, there are three distinct and important buildings; Ojo Gokurakuin, Shinden and Kyakuden.

The Ojo Gokurakuin Hall

The Ojo Gokurakuin Hall was first built at the end of the 10th century and is the oldest building in Sanzen-in. It was rebuilt in the 12th century, however, and this is the structure you can see today. The most important treasure of Sanzen-in is housed here, and this is the statue of Amida Buddha. There are also two other very important statues of gods that accompany Amida in the hall, and they are Seishi and Kannon.

The Shinden Hall

This is the main hall at Sanzen-in, and there is also another statue of Amida Buddha here. There are also two more statues to the left and right of him, and these are of Kannon and Fudo Myo. Outside of this hall is a spectacular moss garden, with Ojo Gokurakuin in the center.

The Kyakuden Hall

Built by Hideyoshi Toyotomi, this is really a guest hall for receiving visitors, and is the first main building you go through when entering the temple. There are some beautiful examples of Japanese artwork and calligraphy on hand, especially the Fusumae, which are paintings or calligraphy on sliding doors. It is also possible to view the impressive Shuheiken Garden from here, which features a rather lovely pond.

 

Other Temples

momiji

Two of the many other interesting temples in the Ohara area, are Jikko-in and Shorin-in. Jikko-in is actually a sub-temple of Shorin-in, and is most notable for its gardens. These gardens feature elegantly shaped ponds, and have some very rare trees and plants in them, including Fudan-zakura, an exquisite variety of cherry blossom. Shorin-in is also known as Motoji Temple, and has a strong connection to traditional Japanese music. There are many historical documents and artifacts related to this temple, but the most valuable treasure here is probably the Bonsho, or Buddhist temple bell, which hails from the Fujihara era and is recognized as an Important Japanese Cultural Property.

Ajisai Matsuri (Hydrangea Festival)

ajisai

The Ajisai Matsuri, or Hydrangea Festival, is held annually at Sanzen-in from mid-June to mid-July. More than 3,000 blooms are on display each year, and there are many varieties in a host of different colors. Although this event takes place at the height of the rainy season, it is worth the trip from Kyoto City, as the flowers can look even more impressive in a light rain or drizzle. There is an entrance fee to the gardens, but no reservation is required.

Oharame

Oharame was the name given to the women of Ohara who used to sell their farm products in the surrounding areas, and Kyoto City, using a rather unique method of delivery. Basically, they would carry everything on their heads, from firewood to flowers to vegetables. This custom lasted for about 800 years, from the Kamakura Period to the early Showa Period. It was not unusual for these women to walk over 20 kilometers in a day often with loads of between 30 and 50 kilos. They were most distinctive, however, for the dark blue kimono they wore, with the sleeves tied up with ‘tasuki’, a special kind of string.

Ohara is a small, but very interesting hamlet just outside a major city, and with all the hidden delights on offer, is a really cool place to visit for a day, or even overnight. There are several places where you can stay here, and they have hot spring baths! Please take the time to come and enjoy Ohara.

Access

From Kokusaikaikan Station on the Karasuma Subway Line – Take the Kyoto Bus No 19 to Ohara (approx. 20 minutes)

From Kyoto Station – Take Kyoto Bus No 17 to Ohara (approx. 60 minutes)

 

 

A Visit to Hiei

by Airi Kinoshita

About 1200 years ago, when Emperor Kammu established Heian-kyō (the former name of Kyoto city) as the capital of Japan, Mt.Hiei in the northeast of the city was regarded as the only defect in the city‘s wealth of natural advantages. No one would come near to the wild mountain as it was rumored that demons and evil spirits were hanging out there, so Emperor Kammu ordered the building of Enryakuji temple to appease or expel these demons and strengthen Kyoto’s defenses. Northeast is believed to be an unlucky direction in the Shinto religion, which accounts for why people often built temples or shrines in the northeast to create barriers against anything evil.

Now, Mt.Hiei is no longer the horrible place that troubled Emperor Kammu so much, rather, it has become a popular tourist spot. Many hotels and restaurants have been built in neighboring areas, and there is a cable car and a ropeway service also available. You will find many options open to you on your visit, but I would like to introduce two that I think are quite special.

The Garden Museum


The first spot is The Garden Museum on Hiei. The museum grounds are designed using the artworks of French and Dutch impressionists like Monet, Renoir and Van Gogh for inspiration. Visitors will be welcomed by about 100,000 flowers of 1400 varieties including roses, lilacs, water lilies, daffodils and so on. One of the most popular gardens is the Water Lilies Garden, which was inspired by the artwork of Monet. Monet admired Japanese sense of beauty so much that he made a great Japanese style garden, including a lake with floating water lilies, around his residence, and drew several pictures of it. I am sure you will understand why this type of garden fascinated Monet so much when you visit here. Afterwards, when you got tired of walking, you can always stop in at Café de Paris and enjoy a drink from their selection of herb teas. Moreover, Maison de Fleur, a souvenir shop in the museum, not only sells French general goods or aroma oils but also provides workshops on how to make original herb soaps.

The Cafe de Paris


The second spot I feel is most worthy is Hiei-zan Enryakuji. I have already introduced the origins of the temple, but now it has become a far more visitor-friendly place. The temple welcomes visitors who lead busy lives and are in need of some peace and quiet, and allows them to experience zazen or shakyo. Zazen is a style of meditation done in a cross-legged position, and shakyo is the transcribing of sutras. Both require you to put all other thoughts out of your mind and concentrate on self-identification. In the clean, fresh air and nature of Mt.Hiei, you will be able to forget all that troubles you in daily life and feel as if you are reborn.

Enryakuji Temple

Hiei autumn colours

Kyoto Prefectural Botanical Gardens

by Namiho Nakazawa

The Kyoto Botanical Gardens are located directly north of the Kyoto Imperial Palace, on the corner of Kamogawa and Kitayama streets.  The peaks of the Kitayama mountain range can be seen to the north of the gardens, with the Kamogawa river running on their western side.  Recently, these gardens have become quite the focus of attention in Kyoto, as there is a nice residential quarter and a good number of fashionable shops on Kitayama Street where the main entrance is located.

↓This is the main entrance to Kyoto Botanical Gardens.

main entrance to the botanical gardens

 

History

Kyoto Prefectural Botanical Gardens were originally intended to be opened as part of an exhibition to commemorate the coronation of Emperor Taisho in 1913.  Omori Shoichi was the governor of Kyoto Prefecture at the time, and he acquired the site in order to hold the Expo there.  However, he was forced to change his plans halfway through.  He finally managed to establish the gardens after receiving a donation from a member of the aristocratic Mitsui family, Mitsui Hachiroemon.  In 1917, work started on the botanical gardens, and following six years of commitment, they were eventually opened to the public in 1924.

the fountain in the botanical gardens

 

More Details

The gardens cover approximately 240,000 square meters in total area and are home to a collection of about 12,000 types of plants, flowers, shrubs and trees.  There is a vast lawn area here, plus a lot of cherry trees, a rose garden and the forest plant ecological park of Japan.  In April 1992, the huge greenhouse was opened, and is truly the pride and joy of these botanical gardens.

the huge greenhouse

These gardens provide a great place of recreation and relaxation for people living in Kyoto, and they help to raise the general education of the people through appreciation of the plants here.  There is also a real emphasis on research into botany.  The greenhouse also displays an image that is not unlike that of another great Kyoto treasure, Kinkakuji Temple, which is a temple that seemingly floats on a pond.  The total floor area of the conservatory is about 4,612 square meters and rises to a height of 14.8 meters at its tallest point.  The interior consists of nine zones, and the visitor can proceed along a route of up to 460 meters with no steps to negotiate.  The plant exhibits number approx. 25,000 in total, and are representative of around 4,500 species.

a lotus pond in the gardens

Opening Times
Open 9:00 am  –  Closed 5:00 pm (last entrance 4:00 pm)

Greenhouse Opening Times
Open 10:00 am –  Closed 4:00 pm (last entrance 3:30 pm)

Days Closed
December 28 to January 4

Entrance Fees
・ Adults  =  200 yen
・ High school students  =  150 yen
・ Elementary and Junior High School students  =  Free

Greenhouse entrance fee
・ Adults  =  200 yen
・ High school students  =  150 yen
*  People over 60 and the registered disabled  =  Free

There are also group discount fees and multiple-entry passes available

Access

By Subway
Kitayama Subway Station (for the main entrance)
Kitaoji Subway Station, and a 10-minute walk east (for the south entrance)

By Bus
Bus No.1 from Demachiyanagi Keihan Station
From Kyoto sation take the Kyoto Bus to the main entrance (the stop name is “shokobutsuenmae”)

One Day in Arashiyama

A Midsummer Walk in the Serene

 Mountains of Northern Kyoto

by Yuka Yamazaki

Look at around you. What do you see? Through the window might be towering skyscrapers and noisy roads congested with traffic. Your coworkers might be clearing those last stacks of files and shutting down their computers as they get ready to vacate the office, or perhaps a group of screaming, hyperactive kids are playing among a jungle of toys strewn across your living room floor.

Had enough? I know just what you need: a peaceful retreat where you can relax, breathe the fresh air and feel at ease in your mind.

Arashiyama in Kyoto, Japan, is a very popular tourist destination, and therefore might not seem to be a place where one can easily relax and escape the hectic urban lifestyle, but I will show you that there is another way to enjoy this beautiful scenic location.

Now, let us begin our day-long midsummer walk in Arashiyama.

We disembark at Hankyu Arashiyama Station and make our way to Togetsu-kyo Bridge, about 10 minutes away. Togetsu-kyo in Japanese means ‘Moon Crossing Bridge’, and was named such by the Emperor Kameyama in the 13th century. It is a famous sightseeing spot in Kyoto, so while the surrounding landscape might be lovely, the sight of so many tourists and vendors on and around the bridge makes you feel queasy. It’s time to take a different route. So, let’s cross the Togetsu-kyo bridge.

Let us follow the river. As you progress farther down the winding path, there are fewer and fewer people around. What a relief! Sit by the bank and enjoy the lush greenery reflected in the river. Perhaps you will catch sight of a crane taking flight.

Continue down the path and eventually you will come across some small stone stairs leading up to Kameyama Mountain. There are some great views from up here. Take a deep breath and savor the scent of fresh, new leaves.

Walk further up the mountain…
Keep going…

…Stop! You feel the presence of someone, something…

 

You realize that they are welcoming you with spotlights, dancing on the stony path at your feet.

By the time the light show has ended, you have reached the summit of the mountain and another performance awaits you: this time it is the artistic vocals of the hototogisu, the Japanese cuckoo. Time to take a seat on one of the benches. Peer up at the vast expanse of blue sky, down at the boats silently floating along the Hozugawa River from which you have come, and chill to the sweet background music.

Wait a minute! You have noticed something. Is that a little village you see, on the other side of the river?  Let’s check it out. Now this feels more like an adventure.

Let’s go back down the mountain. Can you remember the way you came?

Let’s hope so! Don’t forget to say farewell to the company you have encountered on your stroll.

Head back towards the Togetsu-kyo bridge and cross it. There will be another smaller bridge, named Togetsu-kyo ko-bashi, and next to it a small lane next to that bridge which runs parallel to the river. This dark, mysterious path that runs deep into the mountain entices you. Where does it lead?: Arashiyama Mountain, after which this touristic region takes its name.

You stumble across a strange, handwritten sign with an arrow pointing left. If you can read Japanese, you will know that it says that there is a special viewing point nearby.

According to the sign, the person or group who wrote it goes by the name “Daihikaku.” Who is that, I wonder?

You continue down the lane in the direction of where the sign is directing you and wonder about that strange sign you saw for a while, but very soon you will soon forget about it as you a greeted by beautiful little cascades streaming out from the mountainside.

You continue your leisurely walk down the lane deep into the mountain, taking in the scenery and feeling the light breeze on your face.

This is a small urban adventure in relatively unexplored areas of Arashiyama that you can experience with little effort and, not to mention, courage. All you need is a pair of comfortable shoes and a bit of curiosity to venture off the beaten track!

You might say, “But Yuka, there are no temples or shrines on this walk, and I am in Japan after all!” Well, do you remember that sign you passed earlier? That is an important clue: you have to find out where it leads to on your own!
If you are tired with your daily life, you will certainly appreciate Arashiyama. Enjoy!

How to get there

There are several ways to get to Arashiyama from Kyoto Station.

①    By Train

Take JR Sagano line (also known as JR Sanin line) to Saga-Arashiyama Station (15 minutes). Togetsu-kyo Bridge is a 10 minute walk away.

②    By bus

Take the bus No. 28 to Tenryu-ji Temple. This temple is located in the center of Arashiyama district, and Togetsu-kyo Bridge is close by. However, the journey takes much longer than by train and you may also get stuck in traffic.

③    By bicycle

You can also access Arashiyama by bicycle. There are many shops where you can rent bicycles in Kyoto.

Cherry Blossoms

by Rina Hashiguchi

Cherry blossoms are special flowers for Japanese people and a symbol of spring in Japan. From now, I will introduce cherry blossoms and some places you can see beautiful cherry blossoms in Kyoto.

Why do Japanese people love cherry trees?

This is because ancient people thought that the god of agriculture dwelt in the cherry tree. In addition, the flowering of cherry blossoms was a guide for people to start planting rice. For that reason, people were grateful for the cherry tree and loved it. Another reason is that Japanese people love its evanescent life. Cherry blossoms soon fall, so they think that the life of cherry blossoms resembles the life of a human. Also, cherry blossoms were a symbol of the way of the samurai because they had to die gracefully for their master. Japanese people  love its beauty.

What is ‘Ohanami’?

‘Ohanami’is to enjoy viewing cherry blossoms while drinking and eating with our family, friends, and colleagues under the trees. During the Heian era (794-1185), Ohanami was only observed by the emperor and the nobility. From the Edo era(1603-1868), ordinary people were allowed to take part and people have enjoyed Ohanami every year since then. Generally, people bring their own lunch box and dumplings that have three colors: pink, white and green. The pink represents cherry blossoms that symbolize the coming spring; the white represents snow that symbolizes  the remaining winter; and the green represents a mugwort that symbolizes an omen of summer.  Why don’t you try ‘Ohanami’ next spring?

Beautiful cherry blossoms in Kyoto

There are a lot of places you can enjoy viewing beautiful cherry blossoms in Kyoto. I’ll introduce some of them to you.

Maruyama Park

Maruyama Park

Maruyama Park

There is a big weeping cherry tree in this park. The first weeping cherry tree died, so there is now a second tree. During the Ohanami season, it is lit up at night. You can see a fantastic cherry blossom.

Illuminated cherry blossom at Kodaiji Temple

Illuminated cherry blossom

Kodaiji temple

There is a weeping cherry tree in this garden. Illuminations of this tree are very famous and beautiful. Its color and brightness change every few seconds, so you may not be able to take your eyes off it.

Hirano Shrine

Hirano Shrine

Hirano shrine

There are no less than 50 kinds of cherry trees in this shrine. Also, you can see rare cherry trees, only present at this shrine. In the Ohanami season, a lot of outdoor stalls are lined up just as at a festival in this shrine. That’s why it is so lively. You can enjoy viewing, while drinking and eating.

Ninnaji Temple

Ninnaji Temple

Ninnaji temple

There are uncommon cherry trees in this temple. They are called ‘Omurozakura’. Common cherry blossoms come out at the beginning of April, but Omurozakura come out in the middle of April. They come out the latest in Kyoto, so you can enjoy seeing cherry blossoms for a long time.

Finally…

There are a lot of other places you can enjoy seeing cherry blossoms in Kyoto. I have only introduced some of them. I would like you to enjoy walking around Kyoto while viewing cherry blossoms.

Bridges of Kamogawa River

by Mirai Ikei

The bridges along the Kamogawa River

The bridges along the Kamogawa River

A Special River in Kyoto

The Kamogawa River is the fourth longest river in Kyoto and its source is the 895.8 meter high Mount Sajigatake (located in the northern part of Kyoto). It runs from north-eastern Kyoto and flows down south-west to Katsuragawa River. It is about 33 kilometers long and the basin is about 208 square meters in area. The water is used for both agriculture and industry. A section of the water flows into Kamigamo-Jinja Shrine and is turned into sacred water. People in Kyoto have used the water from the Kamogawa River for a long time.

Five Bridges on the Kamogawa River

In this article, you will find out about five special bridges: Marutamachi-bashi Bridge, Nijo Ohashi Bridge, Sanjo Ohashi Bridge, Shijo Ohashi Bridge and Nanajo Ohashi Bridge, on the Kamogawa River. Can you imagine that you are now walking beside the Kamogawa River in fine weather, such as warm sunshine and soft breezes? The goal will be Nanajo Ohashi Bridge, near KyotoTower.

Marutamachi-bashi

We are starting off from Marutamachi-bashi Bridge. The Kamogawa River was known for flooding repeatedly in olden times. In those times it was called ‘Abare-Gawa’. Here, on the site of of today’s Marutamachi-bashi Bridge, people built a wooden bridge and crossed the overflowing river. Walking down from Marutamachi-bashi Bridge, you will see Kyoto Gyoen National Garden, which includes court nobles’ houses and gardens, lots of trees, and many people having a rest in such a peaceful place.

Nijo Ohashi

The Misosogigawa

The Misosogigawa

Go down from Marutamachi-bashi Bridge for about 500m, and you will see the next bridge, Nijo-Ohashi Bridge. The Misosogigawa is an artificial watercourse which is located to the west of Nijo Ohashi Bridge. Famous cooling off places along the way are ‘Noryo Yuka’, which are wooden terraces connected to restaurants, where you can eat traditional dishes. People can go there and enjoy their meal in a little more luxury than usual during the summertime. (They are open from the beginning of May to the end of September.) Apart from the Noryo Yuka, let’s have a closer look at Nijo Ohashi Bridge.

Steppingstones

Stepping stones across the river

In the past, there was no bridge at Nijo Ohashi. The place was once the site of a battle. A defeated general had his head cut off and his neck was kept on public display with a bulletin board. (The victor was making an impact on people by doing this.) This place is also known for a famous notice board which was written by people who complained about the chaotic government. There are stepping stones across the river. The stones are shaped as plovers, turtles or ships. It is fun to try to cross the river by hopping on the stones.

Sanjo Ohashi

Sanjo Ohashi Bridge

Sanjo Ohashi Bridge

Now we pass Oike Ohashi Bridge and onto the next bridge, Sanjo Ohashi Bridge. Beloved by Kyoto people, it was built by Hideyoshi Toyotomi (a famous general in the Sengoku era [16th century]). Have you ever read the funny story ‘Tokaidochu Hizakurige’ written by Jippensha Ikku? The Sanjo Ohashi Bridge is the start point of the western part of Tokaido Gojusantsugi which are the 53 post stations of the Tokaido. (The Tokaido was one of the five highways in the Edo era [1600-])

Yaji-san and Kita-san

Yaji-san and Kita-san

There are two statues of Yaji-san, and Kita-san who are the main characters from ‘Tokaidochu Hizakurige’ near the bridge. Besides these ‘Yaji-Kita Statues’, there is a stone, called ‘Nade Ishi’. People who stroke the stone will find good fortune. Let’s walk across the bridge and experience the feeling of standing at the crossroads of people’s lives in old Kyoto city.

Shijo Ohashi

Maiko-san

Maiko-san

The fourth bridge is called Shijo Ohashi Bridge. Everyone must have walked across this bridge when they visited Kyoto. It functions as an entrance to downtown Shijo Kawaramachi. There is one practice hall for Maiko and Geiko at Pontocho Street. In May, the event ‘Kamogawa Odori’ (traditional dance performance by Maiko and Geiko) is held. Their performance is so beautiful, like a dream. If you walk down east a little more, you will see Yasaka Jinja Shrine. It is a major sacred place of the Gion Matsuri which is a famous festival held every July. Yasaka Jinja Shrine is also famous as a place which is used for other important rituals – people grieved here and held memorial services for those who had died of plague because of the repeated floods. We could say that Shijo Ohashi is a bridge that connects people who are alive and the spirits of people passed away.

Nanajo Ohashi.. and five more

Finally, we will talk about the last bridge, Nanajo Ohashi Bridge. Before starting this, I want to tell you, briefly, about five more bridges which we have been skipping.

Oike Ohashi: built in 1964

Oike-dori is the street which connects Shinsen-en Temple. In the past, the pond of Shinsen-en Temple never ran dry so people called it Oike. (In Japanese, Oike means a ‘Great-pond’.)

Donguribashi: built in 1963

This bridge’s name originates from a big chestnut (a chestnut means ‘donguri’) tree. The Ayu-fishing begins in July.

Matsubara-bashi: built in 1959

Benkei and Ushiwakamaru

Benkei and Ushiwakamaru

Originally, here was the ‘Gojo Ohashi’ which was moved south by Hideyoshi Toyotomi. In the Heian-Era (about A.C.794-1192), it was called Gojo Dori where the Matsubara-bashi is located today.

Gojo Ohashi: built in 1959

The place of the famous episode of Ushiwakamaru (Yoshitsune Minamoto’s childhood name) and Benkei (followed Yoshitsune after this battle)

Shomen-bashi: built in 1952

The name came from the street, Shomen Dori, which is located in front of the Daibutsu-den (Great Buddha Hall) of Hoko-ji Temple. (By Hideyoshi Toyotomi)

*all of the years indicate the latest year of rebuilding

'Secession' style. A pattern with arrow motifs

'Secession' style. A pattern with arrow motifs

Shall we go back to the story of Nanajo Ohashi Bridge? Nanajo Ohashi is the oldest of all of the bridges on the Kamogawa River. It dates from 1913. It has been renewed once and the design of the handrail is based on Sanjusangen-do Temple’s first ‘bow-pulling’ of the year. If you walk down south a bit more from here, you will see Kyoto Tower, one of the most popular tourist spots in Kyoto.

Our Suggestions

Now, we have talked to you mostly about our favorite bridges. Thank you for reading to the end. Lastly, we have a few suggestions for you before you start your own exploring. Here you go:

Mind the birds!

Mind the birds!

  1. Please look at the nature beside the river.
  2. Get some background information before going. It will make your walk more fun!
  3. Mind black kites, the birds flying over your head. They might snatch your lunch from you. One of us lost his lunch after just one bite.

 

Arashiyama Bamboo Grove

by Maki Mitsumata and Nami Murakami

What is Bamboo?

Arashiyama Bamboo Grove 1 Bamboo is found in regions with a warm climate. It exists from the north of Hokkaido through to Northern Australia, and west to India and the Himalayas. It also exists in central Africa. It is not so common in North Africa, Europe, or North America. Bamboo is one of the fastest-growing plants in the world. Some species can grow up to 100 cm in a day! The number of species differs according to various sources. It is said that there are approximately 600 to 1,200 species in the world, while in Japan there are between 150 and 600 species. Dry bamboo is hard and flexible, and is used in various ways. For example, paper is made from bamboo fiber. It is also used to make vinegar and charcoal, as well as for building and industrial arts materials.

The Most Famous Bamboo Grove in Kyoto

Arashiyama Bamboo Grove 2 There are many bamboo forests in and around Kyoto. The most famous bamboo grove in Kyoto is in Sagano, near the famous Arashiyama region on the west side of the city. This bamboo grove has a road that runs through it for about 100 meters, from Nonomiya Shrine to Okochi Cottage. If you walk slowly down this path, you can smell the scent of bamboo and feel the rays of sunshine that come from down through the foliage above. You can forget how time flies while walking through the bamboo grove, or you can just walk there without thinking about anything in particular. The path through the bamboo grove is flooded with many tourists on holidays. Therefore, you should go there on weekdays so that you can walk slowly and in peace. If you plan to go on holidays or weekends, an early time would be best.

In addition to the lovely sights, the rustle when the wind goes through the bamboo grove is a very pleasant sound to Japanese people. In fact, the Japanese Environmental Agency chose this as part of its list of 100 selections of Japanese sound scenes to be saved. Therefore, the bamboo grove is one of the most poignant symbols of Japanese sensibility. You can listen to this pleasant sound in the following video:

Currently, this famous bamboo grove is maintained and supported by a managing group of people who own property there. Kyoto city also helps to manage it.

Hanatoro

Arashiyama Bamboo

by Chee Hian

The Kyoto-Arashiyama Hanatoro Festival is held in mid-December around Sagano and Arashiyama. In this festival, about 2,500 oriental lamps are lit and people enjoy the night walk. This is a sightseeing event on the theme of ‘light’ that started in December of 2005. It had over a million visitors in 2011. Many temples and shrines are lit up, as is the bamboo grove road running between Nonomiya Shrine and Okochi Cottage. These nighttime lights create a fantastic scene.

If you go there in person, you can see experience much greater beauty than these photos represent. Moreover, you can sample delicious Japanese cuisine nearby. If you are interested in bamboo forests, why don’t you go with your family, friends, or special someone?

Iwatayama Monkey Park

by Mayo Yoshikawa; Yuka Minato

Iwatayama Monkey Park:
Kyoto’s Wildlife Haven

Do you like monkeys? If so, you’ll love Iwatayama, the mountain which rises from the riverside in picturesque Arashiyama, a popular spot in western Kyoto. You are guaranteed to see numerous monkeys up there!

◆ Our Story

We went to Iwatayama in early July, under a cloudless blue sky on a very hot day. Climbing up the mountain, we became wet with perspiration. Along the path, we saw signboards (see details below), some with quizzes and others with information about Japanese macaques — the monkeys we would soon meet.At the summit, we found a large troop of macaques, and there was a rest house. Walking inside, we were still dripping with sweat, but the staff gave us cold towels so we could cool down.We bought sweet potato, and from inside the building we fed it to the monkeys through the windows. When we got close to the monkeys to feed them, they reached their hands towards us again and again. Even when they were eating, they extended fingers towards us, eager for more food.Outside the house, many monkeys were grooming each other. And some monkeys were drinking water from a pond or swimming in the pond, like you can watch in this movie.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wXvyWsCgreg



◆ Quiz signboards

As we said, along the path there were three quiz signboards. We took a picture, and here is a translation.
Q1: Which of these is the rare thing that monkeys living in Iwatayama eat?

① Stone ② Soil ③ Chilopoda (Centipedes)

Q2: In which area are there no Japanese monkeys in Japan?

① Okinawa ② Kyushu ③ Shikoku

Q3: How many kinds of foods do monkeys living in Iwatayama eat?

① 50 ② 150 ③ 200
Sorry, but we don’t remember the answers clearly! If you are interested and have a chance to go there, please check the answers yourself by pulling the black handle-grip.

◆ Information on Japanese macaques

You will see a sign like this.This signboard explains the monkeys’ emotional signals. Japanese monkeys have a human-like, hairless face and expressive eyes. In the picture on the left, the monkey is angry and in the right one it is scared. Please be careful to observe the monkeys’ facial expressions. Again, here is a translation.
Attention!

  • Don’t stare into the eyes of the monkeys.
  • Don’t touch the monkeys.
  • Don’t feed them outside.
  • Don’t leave any items unattended outside.

You can reach the monkey park by walking approximately 15~20 minutes up the trail and then you can watch monkeys, including tiny infants playing. Inside the house, you can feed them, and buy monkey’s feed. It is safe to feed them, because the outside walls of the house are covered with wire fencing, so monkeys can insert only their fingers. There are three types of monkey feed: sweet potato, cucumber and peanuts. Each bag costs 100 yen.Usually, monkeys are inside and humans are outside in a zoo, but at Iwatayama you are inside the house and monkeys are outside when you feed. It is unusual, isn’t it? As if we were caged animals and the monkeys were free.And they are completely free to go anywhere. These are wild monkeys, and this is no zoo; it’s a wildlife haven. Japanese macaques live in many mountains of Japan. On the other mountains, they can be dangerous because hungry monkeys looking for their food come down from the mountaintops and sometimes they romp and take food out of human’s hands.At Iwatayama, the monkeys may be dangerous, too, but if you conform to some rules, you can enjoy these animals very safely.In addition, you can see great views of Kyoto from a high vista point. Let’s look down at Kyoto in this next photo. Do you see any well-known places?

◆ General Information

This monkey park opened in 1957. There are about 150 monkeys. It costs 550 yen for entry fee. Many foreigners come here in every season.

◆ Access

Arashiyama is a very famous tourist scenic spot. The monkey park is a short walk over the famous Togetsukyo bridge across the Katsura river. Here are two ways to get to Arashiyama:
ROUTE ①
From Kyoto Station, take the JR train on the Sagano Line.When you reach Saga Arashiyama Station, get off the train.It takes 15 minutes to walk from JR Saga Arashiyama Station to Iwatayama.
ROUTE ②
From the front of Kyoto Station take the Kyoto City Bus No. 28 to Arashiyama. And you can reach a spot near the foot of the mountain Iwatayama.There are also stations on the Keifuku Railways and the Hankyu Arashiyama Lines.Do you like monkeys? If so, you’ll love Iwatayama, the mountain which rises from the riverside in picturesque Arashiyama, a popular spot in western Kyoto. You are guaranteed to see numerous monkeys up there!