Autumn (Tokyo Studio)

Kanro: Chrysanthemums tinge yellow/ ducks migrate (1 of 5)

October 20th, 2008

Kanro 11 of 15The Kandagawa (river) has a long and complex history – something that I am yet to learn more about. What I can gather so far is that it was orignally named Hirakawa and has a number of tributaries and diversions. Many modifications have been carried out, changing its natural appearance, shape, and character. The river’s source is the Inokashira pond in Mitaka (West of Tokyo). The river heads East towards Shinjuku, then winds North pass Takadanobaba, then turns West again through Bunkyo-ku, running through the central districts of Tokyo (and alongside part of the Chuo line from just beyond Yotsuya, to Iidabashi, Suidobashi, and Ochanomizu). Once it passes Kanda, it joins the Sumidagawa (river) and flows into Tokyo Bay.

Much of the modifications and riverworks were ordered by the Shogun, Tokugawa Ieyasu, in the 16th century. The purpose was to ensure that adequate drinking water could reach the growing population of Edo. Today, the Kandagawa mainly acts as an enormous drain for storm water.

Maps of the river are generally marked by its 104 bridges many of which have their own significant histories. We walked along the stretch between Takadanobaba and Shinjuku (around 7km).

The intersection between Otakibashi (bridge) and Waseda Dori (Avenue) separates Takadanobaba from Kita-Shinjuku (North Shinjuku). The Kandagawa also seperates Shinkjuku-ku (ward) to the East from Nakano-ku (ward) to the West.

Between Otakibashi and Kireibashi at the top-end of Kita-Shinjuku, the riverwalk is designed for the pleasure of pedestrians (it is closed to traffic – even to cyclists). Here, people walk their dogs, jog, exercise, meander, and enjoy the greenery, the artificial stream, and abundant public seating. We saw two old ladies discussing how their plants are doing in their gardens, a young school girl stopped and said hello to them before going next door to visit her grandmother.

Near Kashiwabashi, I spotted an early reddish maple and opposite was a grumpy-looking mermaid statue outside a small villa.

Just beyond Daidobashi, around 8 very old ladies were sitting in a close row in the sun, tended by their carer. They were chatting and watching the birds. They said hello as we walked by.

We crossed Ome Kaido (road) and Yodobashi which separates Kita-Shinjuku from Shinjuku. The vista had now completing changed to a urban one. The river continues to divide Nakano-ku from Shinjuku-ku. We saw some ducks on the river. A man was strolling along the river with his wife. He stopped next to me and said something about ‘Kamo’ (duck). Then he asked in English, ‘You call them “ducks” in English?’. We said yes. ‘There are many kinds, you know’. I asked him what kinds those were. He said that they were from Russia. ‘They migrate,’ I said, then asked, ‘in Autumn?’. He checked with his wife then answered, ‘About 2 months ago’. I asked him whether he studied birds. He chuckled a little and said, ‘No, I study human beings.’ Then he and his wife said good-bye and left us.

Just about 50 metres beyond, a group of street cats were waiting to be fed.

We turned left at Aiwaibashi into Shinjuku.

2 Responses to “Kanro: Chrysanthemums tinge yellow/ ducks migrate (1 of 5)”

  1. 1 Lucas in Austinmer
    October 22nd, 2008 at 8:07 pm

    Hi Jo
    that’s a good encounter to have happened during the “ducks migrate” phase! I read this story aloud to Lizzie. It was fun to try and pronounce all the Japanese names.

    When I finished reading it out, she said, “that sounds like a Murakami story – lots of detail you’re not sure is all that necessary, and a fascinating character who disappears at the end leaving you wanting to know more…”

    I myself would like to look at a map of Edo while reading this story, so I could match all the tongue-twisting placenames with their locations.

    It made me think of Marco Polo’s narrations to the Kublai Khan in “Invisible Cities”: the names somehow working as imaginative prompts to how the place (although never visited) could actually be…

  2. 2 jolaw
    October 22nd, 2008 at 9:40 pm

    Hi Lucas and Lizzie,

    Here’s a site about walking along the Kandagawa (something we will be doing more of now the weather is kinda cooling): It’s in Japanese but you may be able to get some sense out of it using Google translate. The author lists all 104 bridges along the river and has photographs of every bridge: I am yet to find a map of the river with English (or at least with Romanji) names.