Hozugawa: Where the Rhodrivocous swim free
The cicadas are chirruping, the sun is blinding, and it is time to pack up the sunscreen, beach towels and bathers for a trip to the Hozugawa. Picking up Andy, Etsuyo and Misako we took the train for fifteen minutes into the Western mountains. The train stops on the immense steel bridge that spans the vast gorge in which the noisy ribbon of the Hozugawa runs. We jumped the barrier, scrambled down the steep embankment filled with the smells of a BBQ and settled on a group of rocks that reach out into one bend of the river.
Rhod stripped down in the blink of an eye and leapt into the cool waters. The far bank was crowded with rafters eating their lunch boxes, their dinghies piled up on a beach that would have been perfect for sunbathing, but is impossible to reach without boat. Dangling our legs in the river we watched as old men fished, as the wide tourist boats were punted down the rapids, as orange-tanned boys BBQ'd and fought with giant bees, and as a motorcyclist took a break to cool down in the mountain stream that gushes down from the forests.
No swimming is permitted in the Hozu, but nobody seemed to be paying any attention to the warnings. A few drunken people were killed a couple of years back, but rather than making sure there is life-saving equipment and a river patrol, the city seems to have felt banning swimming is the wisest course. Which it is not. With no beaches and so few deep rivers in Kyoto, it is little surprising that no-one cares about the rules and regulations set down.
As the afternoon ticked on with its brutal heat, we watched the fish and snails and frogs, and forgot the bustle of the city for a while. Rhod and Andy (who had a problem with his ear later, and went to the doctor to have it cleaned out only to discover a perforated ear drum) played ball, dove and climbed the far cliffs. And all was well for the day.