The Kamogawa River – Kyoto's Popular, Tranquil Resting Spot
The Kamogawa River begins its journey in Mount Sajikigatake in the northern region of Kyoto and winds an eventual southwesterly path through the prefecture. Along the way it’s joined by a few other watercourses such as the Takano River and the Shirakawa River. Much further south, The Kamo itself joins the Katsura out of Arashiyama, until they both eventually become the Yodo River and flow out to sea.
The word Kamogawa is actually quite interesting when written in Kanji because the first character (Kamo) means "wild duck", while the second character (gawa) means "river". That being said, the name Kamogawa however is much more appealing to the ear than "Wild Duck River".
Usually, this waterway is shallow, and in fact it’s less than one meter deep in most places, with the exception of the rainy season of course, when it’s occasionally been known to flood in the lower stretches. Legend has it that when the palace at the new Heian Capital (now known as Kyoto) was built at the end of the 8th century, the river’s course was changed to flow east of the palace.
On any given day, the banks of the Kamogawa are flourishing with activity and, depending on the season, you’ll find a variety of people walking dogs or cycling. In the cooler temperatures, or earlier or later on a summer day, you’ll find joggers, or people simply sitting, absorbing some sun, or having a picnic. During sakura season, it’s especially busy with natives and foreigners alike flocking to its sides to enjoy Hanami in friendly groups while taking in the beauty of their surroundings.
A very enjoyable and even family friendly place along the Kamo River is right where it meets with the Takano River known as the Kamogawa Delta. Here they have turtle shaped as well as rectangular and other shaped stones (some of which look like paws or flower petals) where it’s not uncommon to see children playing on them and using them to get from one side of the river to the other. It’s also a great place to sit, soak your feet in the cool water and enjoy a bento on a beautiful Kyoto day. This particular area is located by the intersection of Imadegawa and Kawaramachi, and is just north of the Kamo Ohashi Bridge.
The Gion area of the river might be one of the more popular among locals, with its many cafes and restaurants lining the banks and offering very nice views of the watercourse. During spring you can enjoy a cup of coffee or a meal while admiring the sakura blooms that are in abundance. In the summer, the vast majority of the establishments have either open-aired or roofed patios to allow you to take in the warm weather. In the fall, the colored leaves reflecting on the waters is like something out of a storybook.
At night, you can take a lantern lit stroll along the riverside and reflect on the beauty that is the Kamogawa River. Regardless of the season or place on the watercourse, it will always be time well spent.