Hozukyo Gorge (保津峡)
The Hozukyo Gorge, a picturesque scenic spot on the Oi-gawa River (the Hozu-gawa River), starts at Kameoka City, Kyoto Prefecture to Togetsu-kyo Bridge in Arashiyama, Ukyo Ward, Kyoto City. The Hozu-gawa River ends at the Togetsu-kyo Bridge where it flows into the Katsura-gawa River (the Yodo-gawa river system). Kyoto prefectural Hozukyo Natural Park includes the gorge.
The Hozukyo Gorge is a waterway constructed by Ryoi SUMINOKURA (1554-1614, wealthy merchant, shipowner, builder, and excavator) in 1606 in the Edo period to ship products from Tanba province (northwest of Kyoto) to Kyoto. It is said that although the Hozu-gawa River was a meandering, raging torrent and there were innumerable huge rocks in the river, the waterway was completed in five months by manually removing rocks and blasting them with gunpowder so that Takasebune boats were able to navigate the waters. Since then, the Hozu-gawa River has developed as an industrial waterway connecting Tanba with Kyoto. In early-modern times, since the demand for lumber (major cargo) had dropped, while the railway network had been expanded, ship transportation completed its role and the waterway became obsolete.
The Hozu-gawa River Trip
Since the gorge has the picturesque scenery of Sagano and Arashiyama in its neighbor, developments for tourism proceeded there and river trips for tourists using pleasure boats began in 1885. Elegant trips down the Hozu-gawa River appeared in the literary works of Tsutomu MINAKAMI, Kyukin SUSUKIDA, Keigetsu OMACHI and Yukio MISHIMA, let alone "Gubijinso (The Poppy) " written by Soseki NATSUME. At that time, a tourist took a rickshaw (a taxi-like vehicle pulled by a man) from Kyoto, crossed the Oi no saka toge path, passed Shinocho-oji and the Hozu-gawa River at the Kameoka basin, and embarked on a boat at Yamamoto-hama (the neighborhood of the present Kameoka Torokko Station), which was the entrance to the Hozukyo Gorge. Since honored guests, including Crown Prince of Romania and the Prince of Wales, have also enjoyed this trip, the way from Oji (literally meaning prince) to Yamamoto-hama was known as "Kyoto prefectural road No.402 (Oji Namikawa Route)".
Later the river trip became popularized, and the pleasure boats boarding place was moved to the vicinity of Kameoka Station, JR Sagano Line. Hankyu Corporation carried on this business in the 1960's(The former Kameoka Chamber of Commerce and Industry Building near the boarding place used to be a Hankyu Corporation resort hotel named 'Hozugawa Kanko Kaikan.'). After the Hankyu Corporation withdrew from the operation of the Hozu-gawa River trip in five years, the Hozugawa River Tour Boat Business Union took over the operation. The current Hozu-gawa River trip is popular among many tourists from season to season, to see, for example, rhododendrons in spring (Kameoka City's flower) and colored leaves in autumn. The highlights of the river trip are the picturesque scenic spots including the Jizo ga fuchi abyss, the Koayunotaki Rapids, and the Miyanoshita rapids.
In the old days, the Takasebune boats (flat-bottomed, high-powered, long narrow river boat) used to go down the river with cargo and be towed by people to go back up the Hozu-gawa river. A route for towing boats was built on the right bank of the Hozu-gawa River, and laborers used to walk upriver towing boats. Pleasure boats used to be returned to Kameoka through this route to the upstream. These days, trucks transport the pleasure boats through National Route 9. On the other hand, ferrymen 'ascended the Hozu-gawa River' to Kameoka from Saga-Arashiyama Station by Sagano Line train bounded for the stations of Kameoka or Sonobe.
Sagano Sight-seeing Line and Sagano Sight-seeing Tram
The tram of the Sagano Sight-seeing Line run by Sagano Scenic Railway is a popular attraction in the Hozukyo Gorge sightseeing as well as the Hozu-gawa River trip. The line meanders through spectacular scenery of the Hozukyo Gorge. The line uses once-abandoned tracks of the Sanin Main Line. The tracks were once replaced by the new line which consists of tunnels, when the route between Saga Station (which has now changed its name to Saga-Arashiyama Station) to Umahori Station was converted to a double-track. Accordingly, the old tracks which have many curves and are difficult to be double-tracked, was once abandoned. However, as there were many calls from those who valued the superb scenery of the Hozukyo Gorge, a wholly-owned subsidiary of West Japan Railway Company (JR West) has run the line to make the best use of it since 1991. Since then, the line has attracted many tourists.
Currently, trips down the Hozu-gawa River by raft (Commercial Rafting) are becoming popular, mainly among the younger generations. The rafting--going down almost the same stream as that of the pleasure boat trip by rubber raft (rubber boat)--has become popular not only because people are usually more thrilled than the pleasure boat trip but also because people can experience a feeling of satisfaction in 'operating the raft by themselves'; therefore, several companies has launched rafting trip here. In some time periods of a day, there are more rafting boats than the pleasure boats on the river.