Cycling alongside calming bodies of water is one thing in life that I adore. In the past I’ve cycled along the Odra in Wroclaw, Poland, Tamaki Drive in Auckland and along the Water of Leith in Edinburgh, along with many other places. However the Kamo River in Kyoto tops them all.
The Kamo river has a flat and picturesque sandy pathway which gently twists and forks into smaller tributaries. There is an oddly satisfying and enjoyable freedom in slowing wheeling along in the mild Autumn weather and seeing the faces of people as you ride by. Kyoto is full of soulful experiences and soulful people who care about preserving culture. As the old capital of Japan before Tokyo, the city throbs with magic, mystery and sincerity.
Everywhere you look, there are people who are passionate about their culture and artistic expression. Kyoto is the epicentre of pottery making, quilting, creative kimono making, Kaiseki or haute-cuisine, bunraku puppet-making, kabuki and traditional music.
About the Kamo river
The Kamo River or Kamo-gawa, translates from Kanji to mean Duck River. It lives up to its name-sake with plenty of water fowl carousing around and playing, seemingly oblivious to all the humans.
Close to the city centre, each side of the Kamo river there are a selection of fantastic high-end restaurants. Each of them seemed to be either Kaiseki (Japanese haute-cuisine), French or Italian cuisine.
If you do ever visit Kyoto then there is loads to see and do. However, most tourists overlook the lovely river which is a respite from the well-worn tourist routes of shrines, temples and markets. Hiring a bike and travelling along here is really peaceful and you get to see a side of Kyoto you otherwise wouldn’t see.
Running water is particularly calming, soothing, inspiring and refreshing to my mind, body and spirit. The Japanese follow Fusui, which is a version of the more commonly known Feng Shui, which came to Japan in the 7th Century. Many of the same principles apply with Fusui including implementing running water and growing plants for raising the energy in a home or in a community. Below is a smaller babbling brook which runs parallel to the Kamo river between a row of apartments, hotels and restaurants.
Babbling brook behind the Kamo river
For the perfect day of cycling, I recommend J-Cycles in Kyoto. They are not far from the river and the process is really easy to rent a bike for the day. It was super cheap – about $10 NZD for the whole day.
Local walking with shiba inu
The further out of the city centre you ride the more you get to see the real Kyoto, where local mums take their kids in the pram and old men walk their dogs.
People only seem to own two kinds of dog in Japan, the Akita Inu (a large yellow dog that was historically used for hunting). Along with the smaller, more docile and similar looking Shiba Inu.
The shiba inu seems to send people stir-crazy all over the world. It’s the subject of the doge meme after all. Take a look at this shiba inu vending machine series on the terrific blog Jonelle Patrick’s Only In Japan to see for yourself.
Further along the river I came upon a guy playing the saxaphone on the riverbank. This really felt like I had stumbled upon the soulful centre of Kyoto.
In the morning we had an amazing breakfast in one of the many cafes along the banks of the Kamo. At this French Cafe named Kawa we were visited by a lovely bird who sat expectantly on the terrace waiting for his fish. His name was Napoleon, and the French owner insisted in speaking to him fondly in French.
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- Nordic and Japanese Design Fusion: Fuglen in Asakusa, Tokyo