When you’re a tourist in a country like Japan with important cultural and historical significance, you’re so focused on the “must see spots” that you tend to forget life’s little pleasures. Take a break from sightseeing and sit and socialize by the Kamo River (Kamogawa) in Kyoto and you’ll have done something that the locals do on a daily basis. The Golden and Silver temples will still be there. I promise.
Kamogawa is 31km. long and has its source in the mountains in the north of Kyoto. It runs all the way to the south of the city where it joins up with the Takano River, which flows down from the northeast into the city close to the Shijo Bridge at Shijo Street in downtown Kyoto, where the Shirakawa River also joins them.
Since the surrounding nature changes depending on the season, the river path becomes a pleasant route for cyclists and hikers to access many of Kyoto's beautiful areas all year round. It also gives observers the chance to discover how Kyoto residents spend their free time. Finally, the river’s clean waters attract many different kinds of birds.
During warm summer nights, people gather under the bridges along Kamogawa and socialize with friends and have a few drinks. While it's still light, the riverbanks serve as the perfect location for a picknick. As I’ve experienced it, the locals keep doing this even now in November despite the fact that the days are shorter and the temperature has dropped.
"Kamogawa is a pre- and after-party hangout place for both Japanese and foreign people. There are musicians and performers playing by the river. It's part of Kyoto' s nightlife and it's a nice river that is only a few minutes by bike from my apartment."
Kaj, a Kyoto University student.
If you’re exploring Gion, which is usually very crowded, chilling by Kamogawa will help you catch your breath before you throw yourself back into the tourist madness.
When I walked along the river, I felt a calmness while watching the river flowing, and I totally enjoyed the beautiful surroundings. My friend told me that in summer, restaurants open their balconies, which look out over the river. I can imagine all the lights from the different restaurants, people laughing and having a good time, street musicians playing tunes, and people listening to the water flowing as background sounds. Oh, how I need to visit Kyoto in summer!
Would you like a little advice? Rent a bike somewhere in Kyoto and cycle along Kamogawa. If you feel tired sit somewhere along the riverbank, then take a break and enjoy the scenery. Remember to take pictures!