Saruhashi Bridge

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Spanning the gorge of the Katsura River in the city of Otsuki, Saruhashi (“monkey bridge”) is one of the most peculiar bridges in Japan. It is 3.3 meters wide, 30.9 meters long, and is perched about 31 meters above the river below. The elegant arch bridge is perhaps the best-known example of the hanebashi style, in which a bridge is supported by a series of cantilever beams set in the opposing cliff faces. Saruhashi has undergone several renovations and restorations over time, and the present bridge is reinforced with a steel frame.

Exactly when a bridge was first constructed at this site is unclear. One legend tells of a story in which monkeys bridged the chasm with their bodies to cross the ravine. A gardener by the name of Shirako allegedly constructed the bridge after witnessing this event around the year 610. Yet another story notes that the original rickety plank structure was so precarious that “only an agile monkey could cross it.” Monkeys are the common theme threading these tales together, giving the bridge its name.

The present bridge’s design dates to the mid-eighteenth century, when Saruhashi was part of the Koshu Kaido, one of the main highways of the Edo period (1603-1868) connecting Edo (present-day Tokyo) and Kai Province (present-day Yamanashi). Hanebashi designs were not uncommon during this time, but Saruhashi had the distinction of a particularly scenic and memorable setting, inspiring famous artists including Katsushika Hokusai and Utagawa Hiroshige.

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Venue Address

409-0614 Saruhashimachi Saruhashi, Otsuki-shi

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