Foreign Impressions of the Kamo River

May 29, 2017

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

 

 

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