あおあお 1号 特集「水上の道」
aoao vol.1

川をめぐる旅

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当たり前のことかもしれないけれど、普段知っている場所でも川の上から見た景色はまた違ってみえた。橋を真下から覗くことなんてないし、川の護岸の石の色なんて気にしたこともなかった。徳島市街地中心部にある両国橋の乗り場から出航した14人乗りのボートは、川の道を走り鳴門市街地へと向かっている。この道は『撫養航路』と呼ばれ、明治から昭和初期にかけて徳島〜鳴門間を結び、人と物資を運び交流するために実際に使われていた航路。今は遊覧船として月に一、二回運航している。

自分の目線が普段と違う視点になっていることを楽しみながらまわりを見ると、ほかの乗客も自然と顔がほころんでいるのに気づく。このボートには屋根がない。360度視界を遮るものがないうえに風も遮ることがなく、進行速度に合わせて強くなったり弱くなったりする川からの風を体じゅうに一挙に浴びる。時折軽く跳ねるように走るのも爽快で、この開放感に乗客はみな自然と笑顔になっているのだ。“屋根がない”のは広い徳島の空を存分に楽しんでもらいたい…というだけではないようで、おそらく理由は橋にあるのではないだろうか。空も見えるが、橋の下では橋桁もしっかりと見える。潮位によっては座っていても頭がぶつかりそうなほどすれすれに橋桁があるので、もし屋根があったら通れないこともあるだろう。思わず皆、自分の股のあいだに顔をうずめるほど腰をかがめてしまっている。子どもも大人も「おおっ!」と小さく歓声をあげてそのスリルを楽しんでいる。

さて、何本の橋をくぐってきたのだろう。「何本だろうなあ。徳島市内だけでも1688本の橋があるけんなあ」と、このボートの操縦士、新居さん。2008年にこの歴史ある撫養航路を遊覧船として今に復活させた人だ。「水資源機構さんと飲んみょったらそんな話になってなあ」と誕生秘話を聞かせてくれた。

ENGLISH
This was to be expected, though, even a place that I had been familiar with looked differently when I saw it from the river. I had never looked up the underside of a bridge or paid any attention to the color of the stones used for river bank protection. A fourteen-passenger boat left Ryogokubashi Pier located in the downtown of Tokushima City and was heading for the downtown area of Naruto City. This water way, named Muya Route, had been actually used for transporting commodities and people between Tokushima and Naruto from the Meiji Period (1868-1912) to the beginning of the Showa Period (1926-1989) but now is used only once or twice a month for sightseeing.

While I was enjoying different views from different viewpoints, I noticed a smile appeared on the face of other passengers, too. The boat had no roof, so that nothing interfered with the view or wind. I felt the wind from the river, which changed stronger or weaker in accordance with the speed of the boat, with my whole body. The boat sometimes bounced on the water lightly, which was rather exciting. The open feeling naturally brought a smile to people’s face. The reasons for “no roof” might be not only for providing passengers with an opportunity to enjoy the open wide blue sky of Tokushima but also the bridges under which the boat had to go through. We could see not only the sky but also the underside of bridges when we passed under them. At a high tide, the underside of bridges was just over our heads and sometimes about to touch them even though we sat down on the boat. If the boat had had a roof, it couldn’t have been able to pass under the bridges. People on the boat instinctively lowered their head between their thighs to avoid bumping it against the bridges. “Wow!” All passengers, from children to adults, made a small yelp, enjoying the thrilling moments.

Then, I wondered how many bridges we had already passed. “I don’t know how many bridges we have passed so far. Actually, there are 1,688 bridges only in Tokushima City,” said Mr. Nii, the pilot of the boat, who revived the historical Muya Route for sightseeing cruise in 2008. “When I was drinking with a person from the Japan Water Agency (JWA) in a Japanese style pub, we happened to talk about this water route,” he told me about the background of how this route was revived.

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大小いくつかの橋をくぐり、徳島市中心部を流れる新町川から一級河川、吉野川に出た。南岸から北岸へ1.3キロを横断し、また細い川へと進み今切川へ。この辺りは両岸に小型の自家用船が所狭しと並んでいる。釣りに行くのだろう。みな自家用の船だという。しばらく進むと巨大な壁のような門が現れた。河口堰だ。船の通行用だというゲートの目の前まで行くと「ほれ、ちょっと引っ張って」と操縦士さんが前方に座る乗客に向かって声をかけた。「ほれ」と操縦士さんが指した方にあるのは長く垂れたヒモ。ちょうど先頭を陣取っていた子どもたちは一斉にヒモに集まり引っ張る。これが呼び鈴となっていて、ゲートはゆっくりゆっくりと上がりはじめた。ようやくゲートが十分にあがり船がその下をくぐると、案の定、巨大な水滴がぽとぽとと襲ってくる。「撫養航路に乗るときには傘やカッパがあった方がいい」と聞いていたのはこのためだったのか。中に進むと目の前にまた新たなゲートが立ちはだかる。通行後のゲートは再びゆっくりとさがりはじめ、ゲートとゲートの間に閉じ込められた状態に。「今まで走ってきた下流側の河川は海水、ここから先の上流側は飲料用水、工業用水、農業用水に利用される水になり、混ざらないよう管理しています」と話しはじめたのは、途中でボートに乗り込んできた男性。彼の正体は水資源機構の職員さんであった。「上流側のゲートが開くのを待つ間、水資源機構さんの話に耳を傾ける。ふと気づけば先ほどよりも水位があがっているようだ。上流と下流のゲートの間で潮位を調節され、ようやく船は通過できる。上流側のゲートがあがり、水滴の攻撃を受けながら通過したボートは、徐々にスピードをあげ、再び風を切って軽快に走り出した。「風の当たる感じも変わるでよ」と操縦士さん。そういえばどこか塩っぽさがなくなった気がする。

今切川から旧吉野川へ、またいくつかの橋と河口堰を抜けて撫養川へと入っていった。徳島市内から車で30分あればたどり着く鳴門市までの道をボートで約1時間半。撫養航路の折り返し地点である鳴門市民会館横に着いた。ここで乗客たちはボートを降り、徒歩数分行ったところで開催されている青空市へ。40年つづく徳島で最も古い青空市なのだそうだ。ちょいとつまみ食い用に天ぷら(さつまあげ)を購入し、再びボートへ乗り込んだ。

ENGLISH
We started our cruise from Shinmachi River, located in the center of Tokushima City, went through bridges of various sizes and finally came to the Yoshino River, a class A river. We then crossed the Yoshino River of 1.3 km in width from the south side to the north side and entered the Imagire River via small branch rivers. Many small boats were docked on both sides of the river there. Probably, they might be used for fishing. I was told that all of them were owned privately. Some time later, we found a gigantic wall-like gate. It was a river weir. When we reached the water gate, the pilot asked people sitting in the front seats, “Pull the rope. That one, please.” He pointed at a long rope dropping down from the beam of the gate. The children in the front seats took the rope and pull it together. This triggered the gate to open. The gate started going up slowly. After the gate was completely lifted, we went under it. As I anticipated, big water drops from the dripping gate fell on us. I then understood the meaning of the advice, “You should bring an umbrella or a rain coat with you when you go on Muya Route Cruise.” After passing the gate, we came to another gate. We were caught between the two closed gates as the one we just went through was already closed then. “The downstream water of this river, where we just came through, is sea water. But the upstream water is fresh water used for agriculture, industry and drinking, so, they carefully manage not to mix the two different kinds of water,” said a man who joined the cruise from the middle. He was an official from the Japan Water Agency. While waiting the gate in the upper stream to be opened, I listened to him for some time. Then, before I noticed it, the water level had risen. Between the two gates, the water level was adjusted to make the boat pass. After the gate was opened, the boat went through it, receiving big water drops again, and then gradually sped up to feel the wind again. The pilot said, “You can now feel a different kind of wind.” Well, I thought the salty smell might disappear then.

From the Imagire River to the Old Yoshino River, we further went through several bridges and weirs to enter the Muya River. It took 90 minutes from Tokushima to Naruto by boat although it was supposed to take only 30 minutes by car. We reached a pier next to Naruto City Hall, which was the turning-back point of the Naruto Route Cruise. The passengers got off the boat there, walked for a few minutes to go to an open-air market, which was the oldest outdoor market in Tokushima with a history of 40 years. I bought Satsuma-age, a fried fish ball, as a snack food and got in the boat again.

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「冬はな、水鳥がここらへんいっぱいになってきれいなんじょ」と操縦士さん。冬の冷たい空に飛び立つたくさんの鳥を想像する。川の風景は穏やかだ。防波堤にぽつりぽつりと佇む釣り人、バス釣りに興じる若者たち、水上スキーを楽しむ人、自家用船の上でなにか作業をしているおっちゃん、橋の上から手を降り返してくれる親子、練習に励む徳島市立高校のボート部員たち…川の道を走りながら出会う人たちにうれしくなって、皆で手を振り合った。普段住み慣れた町を走っているだけのはずなのに、なぜだか急に旅人気分だ。

さて、旅も終盤。新町川へ入り、眉山も大きく見えるようになっていた。景色は徳島市の中心部に戻っていく。むかし新町川の川沿いにはたくさんの藍蔵が建っていたそうだ。ここを拠点に四方八方に張り巡らされた川の道をたくさんの物や人が運ばれていたのだろう。貿易の拠点となった新町川から経済が発展し、今も新町川周辺には銀行の本店が残るなどその名残がみえる。そして復活したこの“撫養航路”もまた、当時栄えた川の道を今に伝えてくれてる。

「エイがどっかにおるけん探してみ」操縦士さんは皆に声をかけた。新町川は海水だ。ボートは速度をゆるめ、子どもも大人も前のめりになって川の底を真剣に覗き始める。「おった! おった!」たくさんの笑顔を乗せて、ボートは両国橋の乗り場に終着した。

ENGLISH
“Lots of water birds gather here in winter, so the scenery is very beautiful,” said the pilot. I imagined flocks of birds flying off into the cold winter sky. The river was calm and quiet. We saw anglers standing on the bank sporadically, a group of young men engaged in fishing bass, a guy enjoying water-skiing, a middle-aged man working on his own boat, a family waving their hands to us, boat club members of Tokushima Municipal High School practicing their skills, etc. All the scenes and encounters with such people on the water road made us feel happy and we waved hands to each other. Although I had live in this area for quite a long time and was familiar with those places, I suddenly felt as if I had been a stranger just traveling around there.

The trip was about to end. We already entered the Shinmachi River. Mt. Bizan appeared larger and we then could see places of the center of Tokushima again. There once were many warehouses for indigo dye, built along the bank of the Shinmachi River. Goods and people must have been actively transported through waterways stretching in all directions from here. Actually, the economy of Tokushima had developed with the Shinmachi River as the center of trade. The head offices of banks still situated in this area can indicate the history to us. Also, the revived Muya Route can tell us the stories of once prosperous places along the rivers.

“Why don’t you find a ray? You can find one,” said the pilot. The water of Shinmachi River is sea water. The boat slowed down and we all seriously tried to find a ray at the bottom of the river, leaning out of the boat. “I got it! I got it!” The boat filled with a lot of smiles finally arrived at Ryogokubashi Pier.

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