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Floating logs in Arashiyama, Kyoto. In the back, the Togetsukyo can be seen. The bridge marks the point where the river changes its name from Hozugawa into Katsuragawa. Further upstream it is called the Oigawa, which flows through a breathtaking gorge called Hozukyou, or Rankyou.
The gorge is filled with rapids, dramatic rock formations and beautiful mountain views. It stretches 16 kilometers from Hozu Bridge in Kameoka to the famed Togetsukyo in Arashiyama.
For many hundreds of years until about 1948 (Showa 23), the river was used for transportation of people, goods like rice, barley, wheat and charcoal, and timber from as far away as Tamba.
Because the river connected to the Yodogawa, it afforded unlimited opportunities for fast transportation to Osaka long before highways and railroads existed. Even construction materials for the massive Osaka Castle and several temples were transported down this river. It became Kyoto’s main artery of commerce after its narrow gorges were excavated around 1606 under the direction of the prominent Kyoto merchant Suminokura Ryoi (角倉了以, 1554-1614).
The logs were floated further down the river and were then driven on carts from Marutamachi (literally “log town”) to Nijo where they were cut into lumber (see Kyoto 1890s • Kamogawa).
Since 1895 (Meiji 28), the 2 hour trip down the river is a popular tourist attraction (Hozugawa Kudari). Nowadays, the boats transport some 300,000 tourists annually who are attracted by the captivating seasonal changes of the gorge.
British Pathe has a charming narrated clip of of both the log rafts and the tourist boats on the Hozugawa (terribly mispronounced because of the usage of outdated spelling) dating back to 1933.