A man is fishing while women in kimono cross the Togetsukyo bridge in Kyoto’s Arashiyama.
The buddhist temple Horinji can be seen on the hillside at the far end of the bridge.
The first bridge at this point, apparently vermillion-colored, was constructed in 836. Located some 200 meters upstream from the current location, it was built to provide easy access to Horinji and therefore called Horinji Bridge.1
Over the years, the bridge was repeatedly damaged or destroyed by floods and war, but always rebuilt. The bridge in this image was destroyed by a flood in 1892 (Meiji 25). At the same location, a concrete bridge was completed in 1934 (Showa 9), which stands to this day.
The area around the bridge is famous for its blossoming cherry trees in spring and brilliant maple trees in autumn. The cherry trees were transplanted here from Yoshino, famed for its cherry blossom, by the same emperor who so lyrically named the bridge. At one time he lived in Tenryu-ji, only a short stroll away from Togetsukyo.2
For many hundreds of years until about 1948 (Showa 23), the river was used for transportation of people, goods like rice, barley, wheat and charcoal, and timber from as far away as Tamba.
Because the river connected to the Kamo River in Kyoto and Yodo Riverin Osaka, it afforded unlimited opportunities for fast transportation long before highways and railroads existed. Even construction materials for the massive Osaka Castle and several temples were transported down this river. After its narrow gorges were excavated around 1606, it became Kyoto’s main artery of commerce .
Incidentally, the bridge marks the point where the Hozugawa (Hozu River) changes its name into the Katsuragawa (Katsura River).
1 High-definition Image Database of Old Photographs of Japan, Togetsukyo . Retrieved on 2008-03-31.
2 Imperial Japanese Government Railways. (1914). An Official Guide to Eastern Asia Vol. II: South Western Japan. Imperial Japanese Government Railways.
3 Quite a few sources claim that the bridge was built by the priest Dosho (道昭, 629-700), a disciple of Kobo Daishi. But he lived two centuries earlier, so unless there were two people with the same name, this raises some questions.
Reference for Citations
Duits, Kjeld (). Arashiyama 1880s: Togetsukyo Bridge, OLD PHOTOS of JAPAN. Retrieved on January 17, 2022 (GMT) from https://www.oldphotosjapan.com/photos/133/togetsukyo-bridge
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