April 14, 2008
by Mia Kyutoku
When you visited Kyoto, did you ever hear the word 納涼床 (Noryodoko)? What is noryodoko? What’s its purpose? 納涼 (noryo) is a cool evening breeze and 床 (toko or doko) is floor. They are platforms set up to enjoy cool evening breezes along the river.
The platforms were first set up in the Edo period (1603~1867). They were made by people who lived near the Kamo River (鴨川). The river was wider then than now, and it was divided into many streams. The Kamo River runs between Kawabata Street (川端通り) and the Ponto District (先斗町).
In the Edo period, the platforms were set up on the riverside all year round, but in the latter half of the 18th century, the platforms on the east side were removed because of construction of waterways. In addition, the platforms were abolished in the 19th century because a train line was built. So from then, a new type of platform was invented, which was higher.
In the Edo period, people used the platforms for entertainment like 猿楽能 (sarugakuno) and 歓進田楽 (kanshindengaku). “Sarugakuno” was a traditional performing art which existed from ancient times to the Middle Ages. 猿 (saru) is a monkey; 楽 (gaku) is enjoying; 能 (no) is a kind of stage art. It included 雑芸 (zatsugei) which was acrobatics, magic, humor, singing and dancing, and old folk songs. “Zatsugei” came from 散楽(sangaku) which was also a traditional performing art and 雑芸 (Zatsugei) from China. 歓進田楽 (Kanshindengaku) was a type of performance which was held during a temple or shrine festival. 歓進 (kanshin) is helping poor people; 田 (den) is a rice field; 楽 (gaku) is enjoying.
The riverside platforms were also used for entertaining visitors, and because many people lived near the Kamo River, they started businesses, such as tea rooms and stalls. They sold foods like watermelons; ところてん (tokoroten), which is like an agar and is made from seaweed and is shaped like noodles; and 田楽豆腐 (dengaku-tofu), which is a sauce made from miso paste and is delicious. And they performed びいどろ (bidoro), magic, and walking on a tightrope. びいどろ(bidoro) is a toy which has a long stem and a glass ball. To play bidoro, you blow into the long stem and then the glass ball sounds.
A long time ago, the platforms were an original idea. People enjoyed eating or doing business on them. But now, the platforms are set up just in memory of the past. It is too sad. Even though we visit Kyoto, we can’t see those memories. We can just sit on the platforms and watch the Kamo River while eating. All the restaurants are very crowded, so it’s not very cool. If you go to the platforms, you should take a folding fan.