Watch out for the birds!

I love the Kamo River in Kyoto. It’s a great place to enjoy the changing of the seasons (Japan has four seasons, yannow), a fun place to hang out and chat with friends, and to watch the water birds goof off. There’s just one thing that you need to look out for:

The hawks. Kites? The large ones.

They circle the Kamo River, especially further up north, who are always on the lookout for a treat.They generally let you be if you have a can or bottle in hand, but the minute they see you with a crinkly plastic bag from a convenience store?

Oh, boy.

I was walking the river a week or so ago and it was gorgeous out. Sunny, cool, and everyone was out and about. Joggers, dog walkers, students practicing for clubs, that one choir that’s always just a bit off-key… Everyone. Amidst the crowds was a young couple who had chosen a spot to sit down that was a little way off from everyone else. One of them held a tiny plastic bag, containing what was likely a rice ball or sandwich.

Above them I saw a bunch of birds circling. One in particular that drew my attention was a Japanese kite, who seemed to be swooping low and getting a feel for how closely the couple was paying attention.

They weren’t; they were huddled in together, chatting about whatever it is couples like to chat about, and thus were oblivious.

Perfect for a hunter.

I stopped to watch, hands in my pockets, as the kite went up, up, up, then swooped back down. The two must have sensed something was coming, because they pulled slightly away from each other. Just in time, too, for the kite to drop in between them and snatch the little bag from them.

Someone shrieked, and both of them stared, wide-eyed, as the kite took off with their little convenience store bag.

Neither of them seemed hurt, which is fortunate- I’ve heard of other folks who’ve gotten scratched or worse due to kites stealing stuff directly from them. So, if you opt to eat on the river? That’s up to you, of course, but I’d say avoid the places where people tend to congregate- Shijo, Sanjo, or Demachi. Go further north, or south, to where there aren’t as many birds. Either that, or move a little further away from the river. Go to a park by said river, or up on the sidewalk instead of down on the walkway. Keep yourselves safe!

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