In the Rain at Arashiyama, c. 1910
“[The] Rapids of the Katsura-gawa and Arashi-yama are famed for cherry blossoms and autumn tints. This expedition makes a pleasing variety in the midst of day spent in visiting temples … The short railway trip is highly picturesque, the line running along but high above the dashing river. The engineering difficulties to be overcome were great, and no less than seven tunnels had to be pierced on the way up the side of the ravine. At Hozu, the boat expedition is taken for the descent of the rapids down to the landing place at Arashi-yama.
“The Rapids commence about 10 min. below Hozu. The bed of river is very rocky but the stream at its ordinary height not particularly swift. The scenery is charming, the river at once entering the hills which soon rise precipitously on either hand, and continuing its course between them for about 13 m. to Arashi-yama.
“Of the numerous small rapids and races the following are a few of the most exciting: Soya no taki or Hut Rapid, a long race terminating in a pretty rapid the narrow passage being between artificially constructed embankments of rock; Takase or High Rapid; Shishi no Euchi or The Lion’s Mouth; and Tonase daki, the last on the descent where the river rushes between numerous rocks and islets. The passage takes on an average about 1-1/2 hr but less in flood time.”
– A Handbook for Travellers in Japan: Including the Whole Empire from Yezo to Formosa, by Basil Hall Chamberlain & W. B. Mason, 1901
“Day Excursions: Arashiyama and the Rapids of the Hodzu
“For this delightful excursion the tourist takes the train from Nijo station, Kyoto, to Kameoka, a ride of fifty minutes only (about 15 miles). There boats can be obtained for the trip down the river to Arashiyama; thence from Arashiyama return is made to Kyoto (6 miles) by the same line of railway.
“This is a most exciting trip but entirely free from any danger, the scenery on either side being of the loveliest description and the smooth water at the foot of the Rapids (Arashiyama) and surrounding scenery being simply charming. (If there is much water in the river it is made the excuse for demanding a higher charge.)”
– with the compliments of the Kyoto Hotel tourist booklet
The Hozugawa River was originally employed to transport logs that were used to build many of Kyoto and Osaka’s famous temples and castles. During the Edo Period the river was cleared of obstructions so that boats carrying grain, firewood and other cargo could safely navigate it.
Trains and trucks eventually made river transport obsolete, and operations ceased after several hundred years of use. However, the boats were brought back and eventually became popular as a tourist sightseeing attraction.