What the River Knows: Kamo River, Japan

Enjoying a picnic on the riverbank. (Photograph by Basia Irland and Derek Irland),

In this series, “What the River Knows,” by Basia Irland, the artist and water activist writes from the perspective of each river, using the first person. Installments are published in Water Currents every other week on Mondays. The first post is about the Ping River in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Other posts include the Chao Phraya River, Bangkok; Kamo-gawa River, Kyoto; Siem Reap River, Cambodia; Yaqui River, Mexico, where the eight Yaqui tribal villages do not have water due to agricultural corporations; the superfund site on the Eagle River in Colorado, polluted with heavy metal runoff from a mine; and the Virgin River as it flows through Zion National Park.

Please feel free to add your comments at the end of each post.

Kamo River (鴨川) (Kamo-gawa)

Kyoto, Japan–I have heard that some communities are not very friendly to their rivers, but many friends everyday walk the paths along my shores, ride bikes, have picnics, push baby strollers, and bask in the colors of the nearby trees with cherry blossoms in spring, and red maple leaves in fall. I flow next to the old geisha district of Gion, with women still wearing traditional kimonos. I am certainly not considered a beautiful free-flowing river, but I function as a respite from the pace of urban life in Kyoto, (although nothing compared to downtown Tokyo).

Enjoying a picnic on the riverbank. (Photograph by Basia Irland and Derek Irland).

In Japanese I am called Kamo-gawa, (kanji compound 鴨川).

Translated from the kanji my name means “wild duck,” and “gawa” is river. Not only ducks, but also a large variety of birds wade in my shallow waters in search of their next meal. Herons and egrets wait patiently as they stalk their food.

<img src="http://voices.nationalgeographic.com/files/2015/03/3.-Grey-Heron-Ardea-cinerea-eating-snack-600×400.jpg" alt="Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea) with a snack. (Photograph by —> Read More