ARASHIYAMA. The image of the bamboo forest comes to mind. The path of the tall grass was the only thing I know of the place, but there was so much more the area offers than the verdant trail I desired to traverse.
There are Kyoto attractions, just like the Tenmangu Shrine at the end of the Nishiki market, which may not be on one’s must-visit list, but when it reveals itself, it can lure us in, makes us linger and tells us its interesting history.
The Togetsukyo Bridge at the Arashiyama district was another one of these beautiful surprises. The river and the bridge spanning over it were the first things I saw when I alit the bus to get to the bamboo forest. It was quite scenic that a shot would make a perfect Instagram post.
With so many people around it, it made me wonder what’s special about the area. Beyond the attractive scenery was an interesting story.
An iconic landmark of Arashiyama, the Togetsukyo Bridge, spans 155 meters over a slow-flowing river. It was originally built and completed in the year 836, in the Heian Period (794-1185). The wooden bridge’s original location, 200 meters upstream, was constantly damaged and wiped out by the recurring flood and was constantly restored.
In 1934, on the Togetsukyo’s most recent restoration in its present position, the bridge was constructed with reinforced concrete. Cypress wood is still part of the design and used on the parapets.
The Togetsukyo Bridge translates to “Moon Crossing Bridge.” How did it get its name? Credit Emperor Kameyama for that.
During the Kamakura period (1185-1333), on the night of a full moon, the emperor went boating on the river and said that the moon looked like it was crossing the bridge.
Here’s another interesting feature of the bridge, the river on both sides of the bridge are called by different names—west of the bridge is the Hozu River and Katsura River on its east side.
The bridge is the link to the other attractions in the area, like the Iwatayama Monkey Park.
Since it has become a very touristy area, there are riyokans, restaurants and souvenir shops in the area.
Adding to the charm of the Togetsukyo Bridge are the rickshaws that traverse the bridge and the forested mountainside as its backdrop.
The different seasons tint the scenery in different colors: green in summer, red and gold in autumn, the mountain is blanketed in snow in winter and spring offers a burst of pink from the cherry blossom trees that grow in the park by the river bank near the bridge.
So, no matter what time of the year you visit Togetsukyo Bridge in Arashiyama, it will be breathtaking. I have three more good reasons to revisit the bridge after catching it on the “green” season.
Here’s a tip, access Arashiyama by train (three companies service the destination: Japan, Keifuku and Hankyu railways). The bus ride can take too long because of the heavy traffic along the way.
Also published in the SunStar Davao newspaper.