13. Yuka (Wood Deck) over Kamo River
As summer approaches, the restaurants alongside the Kamo River (鴨川) build wood decks called Yuka (床) over the side of the river. The Yuka season used to start from June 15 until September 15 when I was a Maiko (舞妓), and nowadays it begins earlier, around the Golden week in May.
In this season, Maiko get busy with Ozashiki (お座敷, Maiko banquet) on Yuka of Kamo or Kibune (貴船) river. Even though we are so accustomed to air conditioners, and the night air barely brings comfortable temperature anymore, Yuka still symbolizes the summer evenings in Kyoto and produces cool evening atmosphere.
My Oneisan (お姉さん, elder Geiko) once told me that there used to be Shinnai-nagashi (新内流し, a pair of musicians who sing and play Shamisen while walking slowly). They look up Yuka from the river bank below, and when customers throw money to them, they play a song called Shinnai-Bushi (新内節). The Oneisan told me that it had been quite a famous scenery of Kamo River. I felt pity to know that there was no Shinnai-nagashi at my time.
In the night of Gozan no Okuribi (五山の送り火, send-off bonfire on five mountains in kyoto) on every August 16, we drink a cup of water with the reflection of the bonfires on the surface. According to an old saying, it will promise you health and longevity.
Now, this may sound very spooky but we also pray for the safe trip for our deceased ancestors returng to their land. In Japan, it is said that our deceased family members visit us in this season and go back to other world along with the bonfire. Anyway, another pity thing about the bonfire is the skyscrapers preventing nice views of bonfires from Yuka.
Nowadays, the cuisine served on Yuka is versatile. Not only Japanese traditional restaurants, but also cafes and French or Italian restaurants, are offering nice Yuka occasions.
For us, Yuka is a irreplaceable icon of hot and humid, still wonderful summer in Kyoto.
Thank you so much.
Talk to you later.