POND Ponds of Kyoto

The ancient ponds undercover

Text: Kyoto Tanaka / Photo: Tamami Tsukui

Creepy yet interesting ponds

A poem by Matsuo Basho 'furuike ya kawazu tobikomu mizu no oto (the ancient pond. As a frog takes the plunge. Sound of the water)' is one of the most famous one in Japan. According to his follower, Shiko, the phrase 'kawazu tobikomu mizu no oto (As a frog takes the plunge. Sound of the water)' came to his mind first, then he added 'furuike ya (ancient pond)'. Ancient pond must have been the image of a 'pond' for Basho. Who knows? There sure is a chance that his imaged pond could have been one in Kyoto.

Mizorogaike (or Midorogaike) is one of the pond that I have been interested in since I was a student. People often said that it is hunted. It is said to have existed since the Ice age, despite the surrounding area becoming residents today.

There is a story that a women requested to go to Mizorogaike on a taxi at night. The driver started the car wondering why she would want to go to such place so late. When the taxi reached the pond and the driver looked back, the women was gone but the seat was covered by wet hair. The police searched the pond and surrounding area but they found nothing.

There is whole bunch of such stories, from this taxi-tale to 'you'll get grabbed by your leg if you walk around the pond' myth. It's nam Mizorogaike, representing the fact that layers of mud is piled up at the bottom, is also freaky. It gives an impression that once you step in, you will sink so deeply that there is no way out. The floating island is somehow piling layers of rotten dead plants which does not properly decompose. These facts seems to be supporting the myth of it being hunted. 

I had visited the pond on a sunny day. Walking for about 700 meter from Kitayama Station, it popped out into my sight, quietly, with just few people walking nearby. The water plants on the surface is a bit creepy. Feeling glad that I came during the daytime, I still took some distance from the pond, until I found a particular type of leaves. It was menyanthes trifoliata with three-partite leaves and cute small white flowers in spring. They are usually found in cool high mountain area, but they had existed in this pond that is said to have a life since Ice age. Over 60 species of dragonfly and tons of water shield that was loved by Kitaoji Rosanjin (1883-1959, revolutionary artist who was particularly well-known as a gourmand) can also be found here. 

I must say it's quite savvy to visit this pond searching for these various biological sources. 

ADDRESS: Kamigamo Mizorogaike-cho, Kita-ku, Kyoto (


Beautiful pond that appeared in historical movie filmings

If you are a fan of historical films, you might notice this pond. The huge Tameike/Oosawanoike pond has been used in the filming of historical movies along with the Daikakuji Temple next to it. It appears in films such as 'Oniheihankacho' and 'Abarenbo Shogun'. It was even used as a river that flows through the town in Edo period. There is plum and bamboo bushes in the north, Daikakuji in west, agricultural field in the east. The fact that there is no high building surrounding the pond seems to be the key factor of it being so popular for filming.

The Oosawanoike had once been a floodplain area. But dynamic construction of ponds and waterways had been applied before Nara period (710-794) and Oosawanoike had been built as one of the castle for Emperor Saga. Taking in the advice of Kukai (774–835, well known monk) a Chinese eight views of Xiaoxiang and inland scape with lake had been made. The eight views had disapeared now but the pond is surviving to offer people a strong scenery.

ADDRESS: 4 Saga Oosawa-cho, Ukyo-ku, Kyoto (map)
HOURS: 9:00-17:00 (Visiting hours for Daigakuji is accepted until 16:30, closing at 17:00)
Note: For visiting the pond only, 200 yen is charged as maintenance fee