The Katsura River Bridge In Arashiyama
Togetsu-kyo is a famous Japanese bridge crossing the Katsura River in Arashiyama in the west of Kyoto. Benefiting from a panoramic view on the forest mountains surrounding it, the bridge is a good spot to watch the cherry trees blooming in early spring, and the vivid red maple trees foliage in autumn.
Sightseers in Kyoto are well-acquainted with the elegant and thin silhouette of Togetsukyo, also known as Arashiyama bridge, that has become over time the area’s idealized image, only second to the nearby Bamboo Grove.
Togetsu-kyo is indeed a must-see for anyone visiting this picturesque neighborhood, where the Japanese nobility used for vacation since Antiquity. Of 155 meters long, the bridge crosses the Katsura River and allows to walk to, or ride a car 🚙 or a bus to the main sightseeing sites in Arashiyama, such as Tenryu-ji temple or Iwatayama Monkey 🐒 Park.
It is also a beautiful view point on the forest mountains that surround the bed of the river. Thus, in spring with the sakura 🌸, then in summer when the vegetation is green, or in autumn for the reddening of the koyo 🍁, the bridge is a privileged spot to watch the changing of seasons in Japan. In the vicinity, you’ll find 2 other activities that are very popular in Arashiyama when the foliage change colors:
- A rickshaw ride; or,
- A boat ride.
In May (on the 3rd Sunday), the bridge hosts the audience of the Mifune Matsuri festival, which is a procession of boats whose decoration is themed on the Heian Period (794 – 1185). In summer, nightfall offers a cormorant fishing show; ticket booking and boarding are on the bank of the river near Togetsu-kyo. Otherwise, the sight of wading birds fishing in the river is also quite frequent on the daytime.
A millennium old bridge
Often used as a set for Japanese historical movies, Togetsukyo bridge has been characterizing Arashiyama’s landscape for more than a millennium. Its is said to date back to 836, when monk Dosho (629 – 700), a disciple of Kobo Daishi, went back from China and started to supervise landscaping works along the Oi River. First entirely build of wood, its current state dates to the early 20th century when its was reinforced with concrete.
The bridge’s name in Japanese, 渡月 togetsu, can be translated as "crossing of the moon", and was given by emperor Kameyama (1249 - 1305) who retired as a Buddhist monk and observed, according to the legend, the track of the satellite cross the Katsura river east to west.
A hydroelectric power plant facility was built in 2005 and created a dam on the river not far from the bridge. The generated electricity is used to power the night illuminations on Togetsukyo.
The bridge is very touristic and crowded on the daytime, but it is possible to enjoy a quiet and bucolic walk early in the morning, or at night when the Arashiyama area gets its quietness back.