If you are in Kyoto with your partner, the Kamogawa River is the ideal place to wind down and just soak up the sights. Unlike rivers in a lot of major cities around the world, the Kamogawa is an integral part of Kyoto’s social, cultural and natural scene. Running down through the city and cutting through the main sights and sounds of the downtown area, tourists and locals both young and old come to sit by the wide but shallow waters to relax or catch up with friends. After the bustle of sightseeing or the rush of big cities, the wide river area is a breath of fresh air – literally.
The Kamogawa has spacious pedestrian paths on either side all the way from the delta near Demachiyanagi station where it joins the Takano River, to past Tofuku-ji temple in the south. There are also stepping stones along the way (some adorably shaped as turtles!) so you can skip across or dip your feet in the cool water during the hotter months. Bridges cut across the river at regular intervals, which provide the perfect opportunity to snap a quick photo with your loved one or look down into the clear water.
The Kamogawa is of course wonderful during the day in any season – the autumn leaves and cherry blossoms draping across it in the fall and spring are not to be missed, and it also provides a cool and open spot during the hot and humid Kyoto summer. There is also the opportunity to dine above the water on wooden terraces in the summer months; this can be quite pricey but the atmosphere is second to none!
For a pleasant and cheap afternoon lunch date, grab some food from a nearby combini (there are plenty around) or takeaway restaurant (Falafel Garden by the river’s delta is a delicious and reasonably priced cafe/restaurant perfect for this) and sit on the banks of the Kamogawa in the sunshine. The river is just as beautiful in the rain, though, with a calming and other-worldly feel that will take you back to what feels like olden Japan.
If you are looking for a lengthier date idea, why not rent a bicycle and cycle down the paths along the river? A great place to start is Demachiyanagi in the north of the city and make your way downriver towards Sanjo or even past that towards Kyoto Station. There are lots of places to rent bikes across the city, but a convenient shop particularly for cycling along the Kamogawa is “Rent A Cycle” EMUSICA by Demachiyanagi station, which stays open until 11:30pm so you have plenty of time!
The river really comes alive in the evenings, when people gather with drinks or snacks in hand and sit on the banks to listen to the rush of the water. It is often pumping with people who are all very open and approachable too and is a great place to meet new friends!
There are also often musicians performing or practicing nearby, creating a unique ambience – the perfect soundtrack to such a romantic setting! Adding to this, there is an interesting and sweet tradition in Kyoto, where Japanese couples who sit side-by-side by the Kamogawa River sit about a meter apart to show their respect. Why not try this in your couple to really fit in with the locals!
If you are in Kyoto in the summer, it is also a lot of fun and a typical couples’ activity to walk down the Kamogawa River in a cotton summer yukata and wooden geta slippers. Depending on the time of year, there are also often various festivals alongside the water, where you can buy unusual and delicious street-food and bask in the authenticity of Japanese culture.
Once you have had enough walking or cycling, especially if you are by the river near to Demachiyanagi station (if so, head to the Hyakumanben area a few minutes’ walk to the east) or down south by Sanjo or Gion-Shijo (the Gion/Pontocho area or Kiyamachi are always exciting and beautiful places to be), there are plenty of bars and restaurants nearby to finish your date off with a drink or a bite to eat.
The Kamogawa River is unbeatable – it’s beautiful, always open regardless of the time of the day and in any month, and it’s as cheap or expensive as you make it! The perfect landscape for romance.