When speaking of Arashiyama, you know that it is the one of must-visit areas of Kyoto sightseeing.
The end point of “Hozugawa Kudari(Hozugawa River Boat Ride)” is that scenic spot, and you can enjoy about two hours boat ride.
If you ride on a boat from Kameoka, where is about 16 km upstream from Togetsukyo Bridge, a famous sightseeing place, there expands gorge and dynamic landscape, which you cannot imagine from calm and elegant atmosphere of Arashiyama.
The River Boat Ride Conveys a History of About 400 Years
When you speaking of Kameoka, a region of Tanba, located in north west of the Capital of Kyoto, you know that it is known as a castle town among mountains, where Mitsuhide Akechi was a lord.
The boat boarding place of Hozugawa Kudari is located where about 8 minutes walk from JR Kameoka station that is the gateway of the town.
The photo on left is a boat boarding place is located on a riverbank of Hozugawa.
The history of Hozugawa Kudari is old.
Ryoui Suminokura, a wealthy merchant of Kyoto, opened it as an industry canal in Keicho 11 (1606), early Edo Period, for the purpose of sending products, including timbers, firewood and charcoals, of Tanba region to the Capital.
After replaced to a land transportation by appearance of railways and cars, it composes a history as a sightseeing boat that you can enjoy the beauty of gorge of four seasons.
The photo on left is Hozugawa River where they transported timbers by making rafts in the Taisho Period.
The boat of Hozugawa Kudari is a small boat of flat-bottomed with 16 passengers as maximum.
There, three boatmen as one group get in, and the boat goes down the flow where rapids and large rocks scatter.
It is one of the must-see points that the posture of operating skillfully the boat with a long bamboo pole.
Hiroshi Kawarabayashi is the one of those who resigned a company employee and entered to this world, having thought that “wish to do a work that has a history and only in the local region”.
Although he is a veteran boatman experienced for more than 20 years, still it is said that he is yet a middle level.
“You need to experience, of which not only operating the boat, but accumulating knowledge and experience including of shape of the river, change of seasons, for at least 10 years to become qualified.”
Repairing and preserving nature of the river and the riverbank is also an important work of a boatman.
It is said that recently they are studying together the guidance in including English and Chinese for the purpose of guiding tourists from overseas.
During a season of cherry blossoms and an autumn leaves season, there may be sailing some 100 boats a day, so physical strength is also required.
But, he told that “works of a boatman also is that to make everybody, who rode on the boat together, excited and enjoy the history of 400 years, the nature of full of must-see spots, and the sense of unity.”
During winter season starting from mid December until March 9th, the boat becomes an ozashiki (like a parlor with tatami mats) heated boat.
The snowscape is also distinctive beauty.
Now, Let’s Leave for Toward Arashiyama
The regular boat is on sail from 9 in the morning, and fares are adult 4,100 Yen and child (ages 4 to 12) 2,700 Yen (tax inclusive).
Even in the morning, there are usually full of tourists waiting for a ride.
Riding on a boat from the under the Shin Hozu Ohashi Bridge, and let’s go on a sail!
Inside the boat, there are lined six rows of seats in a bench type, and one row is for three to four persons to be seated.
The writer was on the boat with other15 passengers.
On left and right side, there prepared sheets for water guard.
That means you will be wet pretty much, doesn’t it?…
A bit pounding.
The river width is still wide and the flow is calm.
The boatman on left is “a poling”, and the right is “a paddling”.
Each of three boatmen has its role, and the one on the boat head operates a long pole, or “a poling”.
He poles on river bottoms and rocks so that he can move the boat forward and control the direction.
The one who rows a wooden paddle is of a role of engine of the boat.
And, on the rear, there is “steering” that decides direction of the boat, and it is said that it is the most important to get in sync of these three boatmen.
The boatmen introduce humorously how to operate the boat, the history of Hozugawa Kudari, and where to see around, etc, and the inside of boat becomes very friendly atmosphere before you noticing.
There runs the Sagano Romantic Train along Hozugawa River, connecting Kameoka and Arashiyama, and there may run sometimes in parallel with a boat.
When you look up from the surface of water, there are many people waving hands toward to our boat.
Everybody on the boat also are so excited that they wave hands back not to be outdone.
Thrills of Rapid Current and Splashes during Hozugawa River Boat Ride
Although calm flow continued for a while since boarding, it finally goes into the rapid current area after about 20 minutes since the start.
Here is called as “Koayu no Taki (Sweetfish Falls)”, and it is the only place in Hozugawa River where is named with falls.
The height of the waterfall is 2 meters, and it is said that it was named so because a small sweetfish cannot swim up to the waterfall.
Among boatmen, it is said that it was also told that the pronunciation of “Scary falls” has been changed. (It is because the Japanese pronunciations of “Sweetfish Falls” as “Koayu Taki” and “Scary falls” as “Kowai Taki” are somehow resemble.)
If without skillful pole operation and sync of three boatmen, it cannot pass through narrow spaces among rocks.
Faces of the boatmen who were talking some jokes until a few minutes ago become serious, and you will be charmed by such differences and coolness.
During the river boat ride, it will pass under five bridges of JR Sanin Main Line, and one bridge of the Sagano Romantic Train.
As the railway of JR runs almost straight, so it means that the river flows repeatedly meandering twisted.
After you saw Atagoyama Mountain, known as the god of fire prevention, on your left, and it appears in your front at the next time you see, you become losing your sense of direction…
As the boatmen push the pole at the same place, there remain marks of the pole even on solid rocks.
It is a prove that boatmen have carried cargo and people since the past of Edo Period.
When Ryoui Suminokura opened Hozugawa River as a canal, around the middle of the course, where “Magoroku Iwa Rock” that is covered with moss exists, were considered as the difficult place to pass until the end.
That was the time when there was no large drilling machine, and it is said that because Magoroku, a rock master, could break this huge rock, it was named after him.
The tragedy is also told that in the rapid current although he could put the last hit into the rock, Magoroku lost his life, and he sacrificed his life for the canal.
Even after passing the rock, if you see well, you can find that some rocks among them are shaved artificially.
And, when you see appearance that mosses and woods grow there, you may remind back to the hardship of predecessors.
Sometimes, the boat passes so close as if it may rub rocks.
End of the Hozugawa River Course
We came to the last rapid current, called “Ose rapid”.
Here, although the width of river is wide, rock places that splash water continue long.
During the course, every time the boat goes in a rapid current, the boatmen shouted that “Be prepared with the sheet!”, so you just got a bit of water splashes.
But, it is of course possible that you deliberately select to become soaking wet.
After passing through Ose Rapid, and when the flow becomes calm, you will find a boat with paper lanterns beyond your sight.
Somehow good smell is drifting.
It is a shop boat, a specialty of Hozugawa River.
After the boat comes and stops beside the shop boat, you can buy and taste freshly cooked oden (fishcake and vegetable stew) and mitarashi dango (skewered rice dumplings in a sweet soy glaze) on the boat.
For those sitting far from the shop boat, the other passengers help each other, passing money and dishes back and forth.
During the two hours boat ride, there happened sense of unity by shouting and laughing each other repeatedly.
It is funny that there is atmosphere inside the boat that indescribable friendly.
Oden, including en egg, konnyaku (yam cake), and radish, is 500 Yen.
Mitarashi Dango is 300 Yen for three skewers per one dish. (Both are tax inclusive)
After Getting Off the Boat
Saying good-by to the shop boat, and you will see Togetsukyo Bridge far forward of the boatman.
When flowing down until here, the river becomes crowded with houseboats that going around Arashiyama and shuttle boats that send guests of the inn.
Waving to the boatmen who are leaving from the landing place, and looking to the down stream, you will find the town of Arashiyama just in your front where is crowded with tourists.
Even when you finish the boat trip, it is still before lunch, you can still enjoy strolling around here and there for half a day!
This boat trip is close to the great nature, and is a full of thrills more than you imagine.
There are full of superb views and strange views that make you wish to shoot photos unconsciously, and these are absolutely worth to shoot.
Getting into the same rhythm as the boatmen, everyone is very excited, and you can also make a trip memory that makes your heart somewhere warmful.
Address:2 Shimo-Nakajima, Hozu Town, Kameoka City, Kyoto Prefecture
(Hozugawa Yusen Sightseeing Boat Association)
Opening hours: From March 10th to November 30th: 9AM to 3:30PM (Departure time of the last regular boat)
From December 1st to early December: 9AM to 2:30PM (Departure time of the last regular boat)
From early December to March 9th (an ozashiki heated boat) 10AM to 2:30PM (Departure time of the last regular boat)
Holiday: Around the New Year’s Day (Besides, closed for security check) * No regular boat on Sat/Sun during the period from March 10th to December 9th.
Fare: Adult 4,100 Yen, Ages from 4 to 12 2,700 Yen (both tax inclusive)
Access and How to go Boarding Location
If you go boarding location for Hozugawa river cruise, you need to go Kameoka region and there are 3 ways.
You can come from JR Kyoto Station, Saga Trolley train and Umeda Hankyou Line.
I recommend you to come from Kyoto station(the green route) because it is easier than 2 ways.
Here is how to go boarding location from JR Kameoka Station.
How To Make a Reservation
Unfortunately, we can’t make a reservation on the internet if you are going by yourself.
Here is some points when make a reservation for Hozugawa Cruise by yourself.
You need more than 10 passengers to make a reservation.
You can reserve only at boarding location
Hozugawa cruise might be cancelled due to the weather
Please check official website for more information.
It’s a bit troublesome to make a reservation by going to boarding location, so using travel agencies is also recommended.