Various ways of enjoying the climate of Kyoto

November 27, 2019

by Fumiya Tamaoki and Masahiro Komatsu

Have you fully enjoyed each season in Kyoto?

In Japan, the temperature in Kyoto is not too high. However, many people living in Kyoto and tourists say “Summer in Kyoto is very hot.” Why is it that many people feel hot in Kyoto, although the temperature is not particularly high? The answer is in the topography of Kyoto.

Kyoto city is surrounded by mountains in all directions, and it is a basin. So, the wind can’t blow through Kyoto city, and this makes us feel humid. Also, since Kyoto city is far away from the ocean, the temperature does not drop much even at night. In general, it is said that this basin city is not only hot in the summer, but also it feels cold in the winter. As you can see, it seems like summer and winter in Kyoto is a very difficult to stay. However, Kyoto has become one of the most famous cities that has a lot of sightseeing spots. Tourists visit Kyoto regardless of the season. Of course, the truth that Kyoto is hot is not escapable. However, tourists and residents spend their seasons in a way that is unique to Kyoto. They know how to make use of the characteristics of the land in Kyoto. These are some ways to spend enjoyable summer and winter in Kyoto.

Freshen up by “Hozugawa Kudari”

First of all, what can we do to get comfortable in the hot summer? Do you go swimming in the sea? Or do you want to go to the pool? Playing in the water makes us refreshed. There are not only seas and pools, but also rivers in Kyoto.

You can travel about 90 minutes to Arashiyama.

In Kyoto, it is very popular among tourists to ride down a river in a canoe. Especially famous is “Hozugawa Kudari”, a trip down the Hozu River. Departing from Kameoka city next to Kyoto city, we can travel about 90 minutes to Togetsukyo Bridge in Arashiyama. Receiving a cold splash and feeling refreshed, you can also see and feel the nature of Kyoto. It is one of the perfect ways for having a hot summer fun. Also, we can do “Hozugawa Kudari” not only in the summer but throughout the year. It’s fun as a summer play, but you can enjoy it well in other seasons. For example, you can enjoy autumn leaves in autumn and enjoy snow scenery in winter because the course is surrounded by nature.

Have a nice time on the riverside

You can have nice meals and time on the riverside.

Next, we will show you how to eat coolly while you are outside in a hot summer. It is Noryo doko, built in the Kamogawa that flows through the center of Kyoto. Shops on the east of the street face the Kamo-gawa River, and many restaurants among them lay out the Noryo doko (wooden platform over the dry riverbed for enjoying cool breezes). Noryo doko can be enjoyed from May to September, so you can have a good meal in the hot summer. Also, this covers about 1 kilometer, and various restaurants, bars, and pubs are participating. Because many restaurants are participating, you can enjoy various dishes. Of course you can also enjoy Japanese traditional meals. Having a meal above the river will have a special taste as it is an experience you cannot usually do.

Keep warm by hot spring

You can keep your body warm by hot spring.

Next, we will show you how to spend time pleasantly in the cold winter of Kyoto. One of the famous tourist spots in Kyoto is Arashiyama. The bridge named Togetsu Bridge and the road of bamboo grove in Arashiyama are very beautiful, so it is a popular spot. If you go to Kyoto by sightseeing, you should go to Arashiyama. Arashiyama also can be enjoyed in any season. However, in this article we will show you how to spend the cold winter happily. It is different from the purpose of this article to introduce only Arashiyama. However, there is a place where you can spend a pleasant cold winter near Arashiyama station. It is a hot spring called “Kyoto Arashiyama Onsen fu fu no-yu“. It will heal the tired body and cold body in sightseeing. The point is, the area of Arashiyama can be enjoyed with a set of sightseeing and hot springs. This facility has hot springs as well as mist sauna and it is popular. Like this way, is it possible to enjoy sightseeing and hot springs at same place? Or, is it ban be in only Arashiyama? Actually, Kyoto is the prefecture with many public baths in the top level among Japan. There are many public baths in Kyoto city. Therefore, if you also check public baths near the place you are planning to go sightseeing, you can enjoy sightseeing in the cold winter.

Become warm from inside in the Nisiki market

Next, how about consuming some warm food and alcohol to warm your body and heart in the cold winter? To enjoy warm and fresh ingredients, there is a place called the Nishiki market in the center of Kyoto. Because this place is a market, you can enjoy various meals mainly fresh seafood. Especially, in March every year, events are held to enjoy local alcohol in Kyoto. Why don’t you visit events that you can enjoy with delicious ingredients and local sake in March of Kyoto where cold still remains.

Nishiki market is a famous street which has many shops.

Kyoto is a tourist destination that anyone can enjoy in all seasons. Visitors can feel a different atmosphere in each of the four seasons whether going to a temple or a shrine or enjoying nature. But they may have to do sightseeing not only in pleasant weather, but also in the more severe environment of summer and winter. At such a time, tourists can enjoy more than usual if they do sightseeing in the way introduced in this article. Kyoto is one of the leading tourist destinations in Japan, not only because it has great places and scenery, but also because there are many ways to enjoy the environment.

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.