Kyoto's Takase River is a narrow canal that runs parallel to Kiyamachi Dori (street) from Nijo-Kiyamachi down to Fushimi, in southern Kyoto. The canal dates from 1611.
It is quite close the Kamo River and follows alongside it for roughly 10 km, separated only by Pontocho and Kiyamachi.
Prior to the invention of the steam engine and internal combustion engine, rivers and canals were used to transport both people and goods in Japan.
In the case of Kyoto, small barges carried goods on the Takase River within Kyoto and then, farther down where the canal meets the Kamo River, to Osaka.
Today is is a pleasant break from the concrete and neon, mainly thanks to the willow trees that line the canal. Near Nijo, several of the barges are moored and there is a plaque explaining the history of the area and the canal.
Kiyamachi is beset known today as a nightlife area, with bars and restaurants and brothels on the side streets. At night, students and young people and lovers throng the narrow streets.
Last week, though, riding down Kiyamachi during the day to avoid the traffic on Kawaramachi, we noticed many works of art in the river itself.
They were set on concrete blocks in the river, and labeled. The exhibit was a competition with winners and prizes.
The works ranged from the highly abstract to the merely odd.
One wonders what the pimps and whores, students and salarymen, geisha and tourists make of this as they make their nightly rounds.
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