Thinking nostalgically upon our predecessor on a river trip with full of great atmosphere.
Text : Keiko Nakamura / Photo : Tamami Tsukui
We drink, love and use water for our industry. There are various ways to use water, and one of the things that we should not forget is a role of water transportation. The economy in Kyoto was developed remarkably by transporting people and things on the river before a ground transportation was fully developed. Fushimi Port was the distribution base between Kyoto and Osaka. I was finally able to visit the most famous river port in Japan by a sightseeing ship.
It takes about 15 minutes by walk to a boarding area, located at a branched flow of Ujigawa River, from both stations: Keihan ‘Fushimi-momoyama’ Station and Kintetsu ‘Momoyama Goryo-mae Station’. I took a step into a duplicate ancient looked Jikkoku-bune boat which can carry 20 people on. It has a motor on the back side like a bass fishing boat and a captain steers a boat and Sendo (boatman) introduces where we are at with microphone. People face each other on the boat, but we didn’t have many since it was raining on that day, so we quietly started sailing on a voyage of 55 minutes for a round trip. Once it started moving forward, I realized that the river surface was much closer than I expected. I wondered if a wild duck also could see how I looked around. I heard that there are many visitors in sakura season, but what I could see in that rainy day, wet willow trees on riversides, were very beautiful. The boat has a ceiling and surrounded by clear boards around, so there were no worry for any wet situation by rain and splash.
Fushimi has another name meaning of ‘underground water’ and well-known for producing sake from long ago. I was looking around the lined-up appearance of wooden sake breweries along the river and impressed that ‘this is one of the three famous sake brewery area in Japan’ and I saw an arrow and a signboard saying, Teradaya on the riverbank. Teradaya was very famous inn and well known that Ryuma Sakamoto had stayed regularly and I was able to see tourists and its building with a distinctive character. It is called as ‘Teradaya-hama’ around here and there was bigger boat called Sanjikkoku-bune boat and Ryuma Sakamoto also used it when he needs a transportation. I could see a bronze statue of Ryuma and Oryo, Ryuma’s wife right across the river from Teradaya and Teradaya-hama was the place they started with the ‘first honeymoon in Japan’. To tell you the truth, the reason why he acted so quickly is because these boats were the ones that supported his work.
After for a while, ‘Biwako Lake Canal’ and ‘Takase-gawa River’ merge into each other one at a time. Takase-gawa River is a canal to connect Fushimi and Kyoto City and there was a ship called ‘Takase-bune’ to transport goods back and forth. I could see a stone statue of Ryoi Suminokura, who invested his own money to construct the canal in the early Edo era, at a merging point. Since the Meiji era, people started using a steamship and able to connect Tokaido area and Hokuriku area through Biwako Lake Canal. At this point, the river makes a right-angled turn and Mako Kubota, who became the first woman captain last year, pulled the lever and put the helm to port and said, “Since my dad was a professional bass fisherman, I was already very good at steering and fishing at that time”. Even though she had a very serious look in her face, sometimes she shows her smilies while she was steering her ship.
Once we got closer to the river mouth, the river got wider and wider and we finally reached to ‘Fushimi Port’. It used to be the entrance of Kyoto constructed by Hideyoshi Toyotomi who built Fushimi Castle in Momoyama era. There was ‘Ogura-ike Pond’ in the south of this port and in order to stop its flood, he built a bank and used a stream of Ujigawa River. Very much impressive to see a great scale of work by Tenka-bito (No.1 ruler in Japan). Once the rail road appeared, the port started declining slowly and whole cargo boats disappeared in 1962. Now it became a park but it used to be three times bigger than this place with a lot of people around.
Ms. Kubota changed the direction with her skillful and stable steering, and we arrived at ‘Misukomon (lock gate)’. We got off at a dock, and able to have a tour of lock gate and a museum there. They built a lock gate of Panama Canal style for the water level differences between Ujigawa River main stream and branched stream because of river improvement. When I went up the stairs, I could see Ujigawa River main stream over the lock gate and a huge green open space expanded widely onto the riverbed. Ujigawa River merges into Katsuragawa River and Kizugawa River shortly and became Yodogawa River. All the boats and ships used to head toward ‘Hakkenya Funatsukiba (Hakkenya dock)’ around Tenmanbashi, Osaka which was 44 kilometers ahead from here. It is very hard to imagine how it was for the people who are already used to using a land transportation nowadays, however I could see that people transported themselves sometimes romantically and sometimes in a harder situation than now. I couldn’t get rid of those imagination in my head and I got back on a return journey.
ADDRESS : (a dock space) 247 Minamihama-cho Fushimi-ku, Kyoto City
PHONE : +81(0)75-623-1030 (NPO Fushimi Tourist Association)
OPEN : Until December 4th, 2016 (Only 13th, 14th, 15th and 16th in August. Sanjikkoku-bune will be on a different schedule.)
CLOSED : Monday (except holiday. April, May, October, and November will be open)
CHARGE : Junior high school students or older: 1,200 yen / Elementary school students or younger: 600 yen / Less than elementary school students: 300 yen