Posts Tagged ‘kyoto’


Remembering Japan: A Day at the Lake Biwa Canal Museum (Kyoto, February 2008)

May 29, 2009

When I set off that day, my only intention was to get out of my tiny room and see the sun or nature or anything but the screen of my computer. I decided to head to northwest Kyoto, just to explore a new place and maybe check out the International Community Center. As I biked through unfamiliar streets, I came upon the Lake Biwa Canal Museum.

There was a gorgeous geyser spraying water high into the air at its front. There was a Stanley Dynamo proudly placed in a position of honor next to the entrance. And, most importantly, there was a sign with the English words “Free Admission” next to the stairs. I took this all in and thought to myself, “What self-respecting student/tourist would pass up a place like this?”

Armed with my camera and Nintendo DS with its oversized Mario stylus, I entered the building, looking up important-looking kanji and taking far too many pictures of the building and the geyser on my way in.

The museum is made up of three stories dedicated to the long history and inner workings of the Lake Biwa Canal. There were very few English words to help a lazy foreigner so I made ample use of my DS, learning many new, canal-related words that I naturally forgot within minutes. There were, however, plenty of old “Iron Pipe Junction Tools of That Era,” commemoration cups for the various tunnels, old maps, and fire hydrants that needed no translation to understand.

In the first room, I was dedicated to deciphering all the signs, furiously scribbling into my DS each and every kanji I couldn’t understand. I quickly learned that canal history is not quite as invigorating as one might expect. Perhaps that explained the few people I encountered there on a Saturday afternoon, ten at the most.

The ones that seemed to be having the most fun were a young, fashionably dressed young man and woman who held hands and whispered and giggled at each other as they slowly perused the exhibits. I wondered whose idea it was to go on a date at a canal museum. I can only hope to meet someone original enough to decide that a place like the 琵琶湖疏水記念館 would be a romantic outing.

Sadly, when I played the children’s computer game that sent them into peals of delighted laughter, I didn’t receive nearly the same thrill. Despite all the helpful furigana and my DS-assisted briefing on canal history, Chotsu-kun, the not-so-friendly boy lightning bug, kept appearing to tell me I was wrong. But I decided to be proud of my score of 50% for questions related to Lake Biwa Canal history anyway.