Exploring Kameoka: Soccer, Sakura and Daikoku Burgers

Fresh off a manhole adventure in Amanohashidate, we hopped a train to a little town called Kameoka. Located roughly 16km upriver of Kyoto’s famed Arashiyama, Kameoka is the boarding point of the traditional Hozugawa Riverboat. i.e. the reason for our visit. These boats run every hour and ferry passengers along the twists and turns of the Oi River, delivering them to Arashiyama in style. Before we did any twisting and turning, though, we wanted to get to know Kameoka a little bit, find ourselves some lunch and scoop up a couple of fortuitous Kameoka manhole cards!

Kameoka Kyoto cherry blossoms
Kameoka Kyoto cherry blossoms

Getting to know Kameoka

We had never heard of Kameoka, but it is locally known for a few things…namely soccer, castle ruins and a quirky burger restaurant. I’d done my research on the train so when we stepped into town, we had a plan. A few blocks from the station, we ran into this quiet cherry blossom-lined river. As it was lunchtime, there was an air of relaxation around. We passed people strolling, chatting, fishing and even enjoying bento boxes while gazing over the water. We joined the strollers, making a right at the bridge, where we came to our first destination: the Kameoka City Hall.

Kameoka City Hall

Inside was what looked like a bullpen of government workers, all busy behind their desks. I approached one of the temporary plexiglass shields and asked about manhole cards. The guy quickly presented us with clipboards, pens and a couple of forms to fill out. It was presumably a coronavirus tracking measure as it asked for name, address, phone number, how we came to the city etc. I’d seen these around when I went to Nagasaki for work, but this was the first time I’d gotten one while manholing. And it wouldn’t be the last.

Once we’d completed the forms, they handed over two manhole cards and we promptly went outside to snap a photo of them with the manhole lids on the ground.

The card explains that the town of Kameoka has a strong association with turtles, so the design features two of them. Can you see?? If not, that’s possibly because they are kind of merged in with the city emblem!

Kameoka manhole design

Next, we made our way to the next destination: the second manhole card distribution spot.

Traditional kimono spotted in Kameoka, Kyoto, Japan

The Kameoka Cultural Museum was just a few blocks away, so we decided to go straight there! From a distance we could see the manhole card flag waving us in.

Inside, we faced another form before we could collect the card. Once filled out and cards in hand, we could check out the cultural displays. Lots of information about the former castle, and a great exhibition of rare traditional dolls.

Kameoka, Kyoto, Japan
Kameoka, Kyoto, Japan

We took this time to read the card and that’s when we found out the symbolism in the design. As the card explains, it’s full of Kameoka-ness.

The Kameoka manhole design

Firstly, the name of the town, Kameoka, actually means ‘turtle hill’ which is why they decided to make their town mascot the cute little turtle boy “Akechi Kamemaru.” He’s dressed as a samurai because it’s his job to protect the local castle ruins.

Akechi Kamemaru - town mascot of Kameoka, Kyoto Japan
Spotted in the wild!

On the manhole design, he is sitting on a soccer ball because Kameoka features Sanga Stadium, home ground of the Kyoto Sanga FC soccer team. In his arms, he is holding/protecting an “ayumodoki”—the city’s fish—which is an endangered freshwater kissing loach. Inside the museum, there was a tank containing a few of them, hiding under the rocks.

Lastly, surrounding our turtle friend is a ring of sakura flowers, the city’s flower. We were lucky in our timing that we could see all the cherry blossoms right outside, along with all the other aspects of the design.

After we left, we went a few minutes down the road to one of Kameoka’s highest rated eateries: Daikoku Burger.

Daikoku Burger

According to the website and reviews, this place is a big deal! Lots of fans, celebrity photos and even burger awards.

Daikoku Burger, Kameoka

It’s certainly a quirky place with interesting design choices and a perpetual queue. The burger was fine, but I’ve definitely had better in Tokyo. Sorry ’bout it!

Daikoku Burger, Kameoka

After eating, went to explore the castle ruins which were situated in a nice park beside the cherry blossom-lined river. After tooling around there, we finally made our way towards the riverboat ride, via the Sanga Stadium and manhole.

Sanga Stadium, Kameoka, Kyoto

To my delight, I spotted a second design on the ground. Both super cute.

Kyoto Manhole Design cards featuring two kameoka manhole cards
The manhole cards I’d collected so far on this mini trip.

Making our way to Arashiyama

Finally, it was time to head off. We’d only visited Kameoka for a few hours but were lucky to see so much of what makes it special. I tucked my manhole cards safely away as we got into the traditional riverboat and set off for the 2-hour journey to Arashiyama. Check out this video from my insta:

The details:

Card: Regular City Card (26-206-A001)
Manhole Card Address: Kameoka City Hall
Nearest Stations: Kameoka Station
Ask: “Manhouru kado ga arimasuka?” (マンホールカードがありますか?)
Manhole Location: all over town.
More info: here, on Kameoka City’s website (in Japanese)

*note: this information may change; always best to check here.

Card: Colourful Card (26-206-B001)
Manhole Card Address: Kameoka Cultural Museum
Nearest Station: Kameoka Station
Ask: “Manhouru kado ga arimasuka?” (マンホールカードがありますか?)
Manhole Location: here, around Sanga Station.
Distance between card and hole: 10 minutes on foot.
More info: here, on Kameoka City’s website (in Japanese)

*note: this information may change; always best to check here.

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