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Kyoto in Golden Week was not as busy as I expected

Wednesday, May 15, 2024

A large bridge runs over a disused rail track with people walking back and forth along it.
The only railway that linked the aqueduct and canal, moving boats between the two.

Mrs H and I ran over to Kyoto during Golden Week. It's a quirk of the Japanese public holidays where you can take 3 days from your vacation allowance and get 10 days off. Not everyone can use the "lifestyle hack" as schools are open (sorry, parents), and the consumer itch needs a scratch.

We waited for this "dead zone" before heading to the former capital. It was a touch tense as we expected crowded streets full of tourists chasing Geishas and shops so packed movement was nigh on impossible.

And yet...

Our target was the Kyoto City Kyocera Museum of Art for a Cubist exhibition. That put us in reach of the canal. It was quiet, not the chaos being reported from other bits of the city. Aside from a bit of a scramble at a crossing after a school trip decided "line abreast" was appropriate, not much got in our way of fun and art.

A wide canal runs through the middle of the shot with high walls on the left and flatter land to the right. Both run off to the mountains beyond

The canal is quite an engineering achievement. Kyoto was growing fast towards the end of the 19th century. Water was in short supply, so too food. Opening the canal brought both into the city from Lake Biwa, some 10km away across the mountains.

You'll find the canal next to the Kyocera Gallery (it's the long, wide, straight bit of water next to it that runs up towards the Kyoto City Zoo). Keep walking along and you'll find a few bits of old engineering, including what's left of the rail lock that lifted boats up and down from an aqueduct (an elegant solution to changes in water levels and problems with access).

There's also a free museum that charts the history of the canal, from its construction to its later life as an echo of Japan's transition from feudal to industrialized society. Most of it is in Japanese, although there is an English-language leaflet.

After that you can pop over to the zoo or up to the aqueduct. Not before you've enjoyed a refreshing coffee at the cafe tucked away under the stairs.

A small river winds its way through buildings on left and right.
The Shirakawa river connects to the Lake Biwa canal
A shallow river runs through the middle of the image. On the left are modern houses. On both sides, trees droop down towards the water.

My name is Ross Hori

I'm a freelance writer, designer and photographer. By day I create articles, features and reports. At night I take photos and write fiction.

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