June 29, 2015
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
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.
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?
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 .