Kamogawa River (Yodo-gawa River System) (鴨川 (淀川水系))

The Kamogawa River is a first class river in the Yodo-gawa River System that flows through Kyoto City, Kyoto Prefecture.


The starting point of the Kamogawa River in the River Act is around the Deai-bashi Bridge in Kumogahata, Kita Ward, Kyoto City.

Meeting at the Kumogahata Iwaya-bashi Bridge, the Sofudani-gawa River, which originates in the east of Mt. Sajikiga-take in Kumogahata, Kita Ward, and the Kumogahata-Iwaya-gawa River, which originates in Yakushi-toge Mountain Pass in the south of Mt. Sajikiga-take, change their name to the Kumogahata-gawa River. The Kumogahata-gawa River, joined at the Deai-bashi Bridge by the Nakatsu-gawa River originating in the valley of Mt. Iodani-yama in Kumogahata, becomes the Kamogawa River from there on. Since the sign indicating the starting point of the river is located at the lower Nakatsu-gawa River, the source of the Kamogawa River may be believed to be the Nakatsu-gawa River; however, this is the case in the River Act, and traditionally, there are a great deal of people who regard Mt. Sajikiga-take as the source.

In addition to the main river, the Kamogawa River has a tributary, called Kurama-gawa River, which originates in Hanse-toge Mountain Pass in Sakyo Ward, Kyoto City and is joined at Kibune-guchi by the Kibune-gawa River, originating in Seryo-toge Mountain Pass in Ukyo Ward, Kyoto City. The Kamogawa and the Kurama-gawa Rivers meet at the Sanko-bashi Bridge to form a larger river. In the legend of the Kibune-jinja Shrine, Kibune is considered to be the place where Emperor Jinmu's mother, Tamayori-hime-no-mikoto, reached when going up the sources of the Yodo-gawa and Kamogawa Rivers, therefore some Japanese legends hold that the Kibune-gawa River is the source of the Kamogawa River.

Joined by the Kurama-gawa River, the Kamogawa River flows into the Kyoto Basin at Kamigamo, Kita Ward. The river further runs south-south-east alongside the Kamigamo-jinja Shrine (Kamowake Ikazuchi-jinja Shrine) and the Shimogamo-jinja Shrine (Kamomioya Shrine), and meets the Takano-gawa River (Kyoto City) right before the Kamo Ohashi Bridge. Then, the river flows due south through Kyoto City, runs south-west from around the Shijo Ohashi Bridge, and into the Katsura-gawa River (Yodo-gawa River System) at Shimotoba, Fushimi Ward. Additionally, in Nakagyo Ward, the Kamogawa River splits west into the Takase-gawa River (Kyoto Prefecture) and runs southward parallel to it.


As a result of the River Act, which was proclaimed in 1964 and implemented in the following year, the name of the Kamogawa (Kamogawa River) from the starting point to the entire downstream is officially written as 鴨川 in kanji; however, the Kamogawa River upstream from the junction with the Takano River (Kyoto City) is conventionally written as 賀茂川 or 加茂川. In the Nihon Kiryaku (historical books written in the Heian period), the Kamogawa River is written as 鴨川 or 賀茂川, but this does not indicate that people at that time distinguished between the two notations according to the part of the river.

The river was also called the Higashi-no-gawa River since it ran in the east (or "higashi" in Japanese) of the Heian-kyo.


Japanese giant salamander
A special natural treasure, the Japanese giant salamander lives in Kumogahata in the upper Kamogawa River. After a heavy rain, some of the salamanders are may be swept downstream into the urban area of Kyoto City.

Black-headed gull
From the late October to early May, black-headed gulls fly to the Kamogawa River every day while spending the winter at Lake Biwa. While their presence at the Kamogawa River is presently a typical winter scene, their presence is relatively recent, and they first appeared in 1974.
In the Ise Monogatari (Tales of Ise), a bird called "miyako-dori" (black-headed gulls) is described as 'a bird unseen in Kyoto.'



The Kamo clan was based around the upper Kamogawa River in ancient times. The Kamigamo-jinja Shrine and Shimogamo-jinja Shrine enshrine the clan's tutelary deity. The Hata clan, who was assigned the Yamashiro Province, settled in around the lower Kamogawa River.

The Kamogawa River was the eastern limit of Heian-kyo. This was influenced by the belief in feng shui Shijin Soo, an ideal topography for the four Taoist gods, with a river in the east, a broad avenue in the west, a basin in the south, and a hill in the north. The straight waterway between the Kamo Ohashi and Shijo Ohashi Bridges was believed to have been secured at this period.

In the Medieval period, its riverside adjacent to the urban area of Kyoto City prospered as an entertainment spot and attracted many entertainers. One of these was Okuni IZUMO.

In 1614, Ryoi SUMINOKURA and his son, Soan, built a canal, called Takase-gawa River (Kyoto Prefecture), and was used as a waterway to connect Kyoto and Osaka. The canal was connected with Lake Biwa via Lake Biwa Canal in 1890. In the 20th century, however, water transport via these waterways declined due to the opening of the railroad.

River improvement

The Kamogawa River was known for having been flooded repeatedly from old times. This problem arises because the Kamogawa River has a steep gradient for a river running through a big city, trees of Mt. Kitayama were logged to build Heian-kyo, and the riverside has become a part of the urban area with the eastward expansion of the area.

The government post Bokashi, charged with river improvement was established in 824, but did not prevent floods from occurring. The Cloistered Emperor Shirakawa, who held the reins of power in the late Heian period, raised the issue of 'water of the Kamogawa River' first as one of his tenka-sandai-funyoi (three biggest issues on earth that he could not control). The east side of the odoi (mud wall), built by Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI, was placed along the Kamogawa River, and functioned as a levee, as well. In 1670, the Kanbun-shintei (embankment) was built between the Imadegawa-dori and Gojo-dori Streets, and the area between the mud wall and the embankment was developed as an urban area.

The flood in 1935 caused great damage: 83 people were killed or injured, and in addition, the Sanjo Ohashi Bridge and the Gojo Ohashi Bridge were washed away. As a result of this incident, the river improvement project began and was completed in 1947 despite the suspension by the war and the slight modifications of the project. The river channel was then dug deeper, and many weirs tens of centimeters high were built as they are now.

Kamogawa River replacement theory

The theory, proposed by Tsuneo TSUKAMOTO in 1932, holds that: the lower Kamogawa River up to the junction with the Takano River and the waterway between the junction and that of the Kamogawa and Shira-kawa Rivers are artificial waterways; originally, the Kamogawa River ran due south and merged with the Hori-kawa River; the Takano River flowed south-west from the current junction and merged with the Hori-kawa River at around the Choho-ji Temple. The core of the theory is that because the Kyoto Basin slopes from northeast down to southwest, it is unnatural for the Kamogawa River to flow up the slope; thus, the river would have originally flowed down towards the lower ground of the Horikawa-dori Street. The 'Kamogawa River replacement theory' remained dominant until the 1980's.

Subsequently, however, this theory was refuted by the study conducted by Takuo YOKOYAMA, Professor at Doshisha University. When the area around Karasuma Junior High School was excavated during the construction work of the Karasuma Line of the Kyoto City Subway, bedrock was found, making the construction more difficult; when the underground bedrock was studied through geophysical prospection, it turned out, however, that an underground mountain slopes down southeastward. The underground mountain runs at a right angle from the original waterway proposed by Tsukamoto, thereby causing a contradiction; in fact, the current waterway of the Kamogawa River proves to be natural and is influenced by the underground mountain.


Noryo Yuka
Restaurants on the west bank of the Kamogawa River build wooden terraces above the riverside between the Nijo Ohashi and Gojo Ohashi Bridges form May to September.

Kyo-Yuzen (dyeing technique)
Kyo-Yuzen fabrics used to be rinsed in the Kamogawa River (called 'Yuzen Nagashi'), but, due to water pollution, the method was discontinued in the 1970's.

Principle of equal distance at the Kamogawa River
Since the riverside between the Sanjo Ohashi and Shijo Ohashi Bridges is close to the downtown area, many people spend time there from the early afternoon through the night on weekends.
Couples and groups of people are said to keep equal distance to one another irregardless of the number of people; therefore, this phenomenon is sometimes called 'principle of equal distance at the Kamogawa River.'
Additionally, couples' kissing on this riverside is sometimes called 'kamo chu,' an abbreviation of 'kissing (chu) at the Kamogawa River (kamo)'; yet, these two words are said to be those that young people like to use but older people do not understand.

Regulations by ordinance

The Kamogawa River Ordinance of Kyoto Prefecture was enforced on April 1, 2008. As a result, illegally-parked bicycles, skyrockets, firecrackers, and barbecuing are prohibited in some areas.

Controversy over a footbridge

Since the 1980's Kyoto City has planned to build a new footbridge over the Kamogawa River in the middle between the Sanjo Ohashi and Shijo Ohashi Bridges. People on the east side of the planned footbridge are in favor of the plan since the bridge may well energize the area; on the other hand, those in Ponto-cho on the west side are mostly opposed to it, thinking the planned footbridge would crowd the street and destroy the landscape of the town.

French President Jacques Chirac (former Mayor of Paris) proposed a plan to build a footbridge modeling the Pont des Arts (Arts Bridge) over the Seine River in Paris when he visited Kyoto and met with Mayor Yorikane MASUMOTO in 1996. As the year 1998 marked 'The Year of France in Japan' and the 40th anniversary of Kyoto-Paris Friendship Pledge, the president's proposal was intended as part of the anniversary celebrations; once the plan was made public, however, public opinion was divided into two opposing groups: some welcomed the plan because the planned footbridge would attract more visitors while others criticized the French-style architecture, for it would ruin the landscape. From public notice and access to the city planning of 1997, it turned out that the number of public comments for the footbridge plan surpassed that of public comments against it; nonetheless, citizen groups opposing the plan criticized the decision as hasty, saying that the city had compared only the numbers of the comments without thoroughly examining the contents of them. As the French newspaper Le Monde also published an article criticizing the plan, the dispute involved an entity outside the city.

In 1998, Kyoto City finally withdrew the plan to build the Arts Bridge, but is still eager to forward the plan to build a footbridge.

Major bridges

Iwaya-bashi Bridge, Deai-bashi Bridge, Sanko-bashi Bridge, Taka-bashi Bridge, Shoda-bashi Bridge, Shikuro-bashi Bridge, Nishikamo-bashi Bridge, Misono-bashi Bridge, Kamigamo-bashi Bridge, Kitayama Ohashi Bridge (Kitayama-dori Street), Kitaoji-bashi Bridge (Kitaoji-dori Street), Izumoji-bashi Bridge, Aoi-bashi Bridge (Shimogamo-Hondori Street), Kamo Ohashi Bridge (Imadegawa-dori Street), Kojin-bashi Bridge, Marutamachi-bashi Bridge (Marutamachi-dori Street), Nijo Ohashi Bridge (Nijo-dori Street), Oike Ohashi Bridge (Oike-dori Street), Sanjo Ohashi Bridge (Sanjo-dori Street), Shijo Ohashi Bridge (Shijo-dori Street), Donguri-bashi Bridge, Matsubara-bashi Bridge (Matsubara-dori Street), Gojo Ohashi Bridge, Shomen-bashi Bridge, Shichijo Ohashi Bridge (Shichijo-dori Street), Shiokoji-bashi Bridge (Shiokoji-dori Street), Rail bridge on the Tokaido Main Line of West Japan Railway, Rail bridge on the Tokaido Shinkansen of Central Japan Railway Company (JR Central), Rail bridge on the JR Nara Line, Higashiyama-bashi Bridge (Kujo-dori Street), Toka-bashi Bridge (Jujo-dori Street), Kanjin-bashi Bridge (Takeda-kaido Road), Kuina-bashi Bridge, Rail bridge on the Kintetsu Kyoto Line of the Kintetsu Railways, Takeda-bashi Bridge, Kyoto Minami Ohashi Bridge (Abura-koji-dori Street), Omiya Ohashi Bridge (Omiya-dori Street), Toba Ohashi Bridge (National Highway 1), Kamogawa-bashi Bridge (Meishin Expressway), Koeda-bashi Bridge, and Kyokawa-bashi Bridge

[Original Japanese]