Chance, Religion, Water
So let’s march back in time a little. Me and my friend went to Kyoto, but found our trip was a little impeded by the rain. It simply wouldn’t stop, pounding on and on as I haven’t seen it do in Kyoto since typhoon season back in my first month as an exchange student. In previous days, the Kamo River had been slow and shallow, so much one night we watched a woman in a dress and heels casually walk across the damn thing without breaking stride.
I realize I fall into this rut of apologizing for my photography. I have to do it again here, though. What pictures do not convey in this case is the speed and churn of the river. Some of the backcurrents could definitely have drowned someone. I got vertigo simply watching the river as I walked.
Before the flood management projects of the 1930s, the Kamo was long known as an incredibly treacherous river in flooding. Kyoto’s bridges were built cheaply because the city knew in any case, they would wash away in the next flood. A hundred years ago, Kyoto might have been minus at least one bridge on a day like that.
In fact, we watched the flood management system kick into full gear. While we were walking along the river, we heard an announcement to get off the path, over loudspeakers. They then opened the gates and flooded it to keep the drainage canals from overflowing into the city.
The ancient emperor Go-Shirakawa, who ran the empire behind the scenes from a monastery after he abdicated a thousand years ago, said there were only three things he could not command. Those were the roll of the dice, the warrior monks, and this river.