Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Kanda’s Winter Face

Took a walk along the Kanda River today. In warmer months I enjoy a few hours each week strolling the pathway over the distance between Inokashira Park and Hamadayama. I was curious this time to see how much the face of things had changed as we move deeper into winter. The Kanda is not a large river, and in the section I’m most familiar with, is not wide nor deep enough for even a small boat. The river runs for a little over twenty-six kilometers through Tokyo and is locked into tall concrete walls along either bank. But despite its small size and those concrete walls it is well-endowed with trees, flowers and wildlife. Most visible are the giant carp and the ducks. Birds are plentiful, and on more than one occasion I’ve spotted snakes swimming leisurely downriver, or slithering across my path. But the most remarkable characteristic of the Kanda riverbanks is the great number of cherry trees which for three weeks in April turn the river into a long winding cloud of pink.

At this point those trees are skeletal in their bare branches, and most of the pathside flowers well past their season. Still, there is green enough in the river and on the tiny islands built to channel the flow of water, to paint a picture of more than just dried brown, cold water and concrete walls mottled with moss and lichens.

Small bridges appear every several hundred meters, and many of those are decorated with old wrought iron panels of the local wildlife. The first photo at the top shows one of those panels with water, duck and ayame (pink iris). Growing in spots along the path at the top of the concrete walls are “Fatsi” or Japanese Aralia shrubs with their peculiar white flowers which the Japanese call yatsude (eight hands). A third photo gives an idea of how small maze-forming islands have been built into the river channel. I’m not sure if they’re meant to confuse the carp and the ducks, or to offer a scenic view for walkers to look down upon.

The last photo is an interesting composition of shadows, the one to the left of the tree really catching the man with the camera off guard.

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Oak Hill, Florida, United States
A longtime expat relearning the footwork of life in America