Walk through the history along the river
Text: Kyoko Tanaka / Photo: Kanako Takimoto & Takashi Oka
I enjoy walking along the Kamogawa River for the freedom of not being stopped by any traffic lights. I can either rush through or walk slowly. Statues placed at the bridges will give me another topic to enjoy in my walk, the local history. My favorite is the 2 km course between the bridges of Gojo Ohashi and Oike Ohashi.
Statue of Ushiwakamaru (a popular child character in a tale about Minamoto no Yoshitsune who was a general of the Minamoto clan in the late Heian and early Kamakura period. He lived during 1159-1189) starts off the course. There is a song in his tale 'Kyo no Gojo no hashi no ue (at the top of Gojo bridge in Kyoto)'. There are two statue placed here in the middle of busy road, Ushiwakamaru and Benkei (warrior monk serving for the Minamoto). In the tale, Benkei was gathering a thousand swords so he can exchange them with a battle suit that armorer promised to make. When he had gotten 999 swords, Ushiwakamaru came across with the thousand-to-be. Despite Benkei's strength, the young Ushiwakamaru had won and therefore Benkei became his right-hand man. The statue shows Benei in a very fierce expression, whereas, Ushiwakamaru in a calm relaxing face that even looks sweet.
Lets walk north along the river to Shijo Ohashi. A fish, perhaps a Japanese trout, is making a splash at the river surface. A row of duck family may be seen swimming on a lucky day. The green plants gives relaxing scenery. A walk to Shijo Ohashi will certainly be enjoyable. Water of the river is taken from this point to purify the mikoshi (portable shrine) used during the festival of Gion Matsuri. Going up the stairs to the street, there is a statue of Izumo no Okuni at the northeast of the bridge. She is said to have started the kabuki theater by dancing dressed like a man. She would look strong with a sword in her left hand, but so gentle with the right hand holding a fan. The statue is facing Minamiza theater, famous for having annual festival of Kichirei Kaomise Kogyo where kabuki actors will gather from all over the nation. I met a Chinese couple talking about her for 'mesmerising the people worn out by the battle of Sekigahara in 1600'. They praised her as a important women in the Japanese traditional opera culture. It shows how interested they were in the Japanese culture.
Going back down to the river side, I shall head for Sanjo Ohashi. The river flows so calm that it is hard to believe that they had repeatedly flooded before in the history. Up on the Sanjo Ohashi, there are the statues of Yaji & Kita, characters from "Tokai dochu hizakurige" (Shanks' Pony along the Tokaido, by Ikku Juppensha). Both seems to be looking around anew to the surroundings as if they have just arrived in Kyoto. Sanjo Ohashi is the western beginning point of Tokaido Gojyu Santsugi, a road with 53 staying villages during the time when there were no train or vehicle, when people had to walk on foot. I am sure people were overwhelmed to reach this spot that ended their rough journey.
Opposite of Sanjo Ohashi is the statue known as Dogeza-zo (man kneeling on the ground), who is actually Hikokuro Takayama (1747-93, samurai in Edo period) viewing and bowing on his knee toward the Imperial Palace
Going north and turning west at Oike Ohashi will be Kyoto Hotel Okura. Statue of Katsura Kogoro (original name Kido Takayoshi, 1833-77), one of the three heroes of the Meiji Restoration. His statue was set up where Choshu's main residence had once been. The bronze statue sits with dignity as if looking at the nation's future with much passion.
Going back to the Oike Ohashi, I can see the terrace of restaurant Ikumatsu, which used to be the home of Kogoro and his beloved Geisha Ikumatsu. I think of her beautiful face who had supported the brave man during the chaotic days. The statues along the river represents the long history in Kyoto from Heian (794-1185) to Bakumatsu (1853-67) period. I had prayed that this calm flowing river will remain as it is now.
Nishihashizume-cho, Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto
Kawabata-cho, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto
Ishiya-cho, Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto
Ohashi-cho, Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto
Ichinofunairi-cho, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto