I first heard about the Hozu River Cruise from a client one summer. I had taught her plenty of times before but never in our lessons had she been so genuinely impressed by anything as this cruise. Needless to say, I was sold. So the first sunny day off I had, I made the short trip over from Kobe to Kyoto and prepared to get splashed by the famed river.
The boat we used for the cruise was a traditional style flat bottomed boat expertly piloted by three boatmen. They’d periodically switch out throughout the course of the two-hour ride and each one was funnier than the last. You see, the “perk” of being the lone foreigner on the cruise of sixteen passengers is that they immediately spot you and insist you sit right up in the front of the boat where you can really see the action—and get the heaviest splash. The boatmen, with the limited English they knew, made sure I had an amazing time. While one told hilarious stories in Japanese of the history of the river route, another tried to translate it to me as best as he could. Spoiler alert: there was a lot of gesturing between the two of us.
The route itself was the perfect mix of calm waters going through the ravine of Kyoto’s mountains and fast-moving rapids that make you thank your lucky stars that these guys are experts at what they do. The best part for me was racing through the turbulent waters sandwiched between jagged rocks and seeing the boatmen just beaming with laughter throughout. I couldn’t have felt safer. But of course, the finale was a close second. As we approached the end of the route, the waters became significantly calmer. It was then that one of the boatmen thought it’d be funny to get me to row the boat into shore. Never one to back down from a challenge, I grabbed the oar and I knew I was in trouble. These guys made it look like a piece of cake, but it felt like it weighed a ton when you factor in the resistance of the water. After five minutes rowing and almost sinking the entire vessel, one of the boatmen took over and the ride came to a close.
The Hozu River cruise was already exciting on paper but experiencing it firsthand, it was Japanese hospitality and tradition at its finest.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Hi, I’m Mook. I’m from Thailand and I’ve been working with Gaba since the beginning of 2019. I love painting, cafe hopping, and discovering new food to try. Japan definitely has no shortage of that and of course, our Gaba clients love giving us new recommendations to try out. They’re just as eager to share about their culture as we are to experience it! And despite the fact that my Japanese is mediocre at best, living here is pretty much a breeze~