Uji-bashi Bridge (宇治橋)

Uji-bashi Bridge runs across the Uji-gawa River in Uji City of Kyoto Prefecture, and legend has it that it was first built in 646.

The Oldest Bridge

It is one of the three oldest bridges in Japan, the other two being 'Seta no Karahashi Bridge' and 'Yamasaki-bashi Bridge'. Its history is inscribed on 'Ujibashi Danpi' Monument in the precincts of Hashi-dera Temple at Ujibashi-higashizume (at the east foot of the bridge). The upper half part of the monument, which is said to have been made during the Nara period, was excavated in the precincts during the Edo period, and the lower part was newly added to make it as it is today.

A passage in "Engishiki" (codes and procedures on national rites and prayers) says, 'Floor boards of Uji-bashi: 10 from Omi Province, eight from Tanba Province; nine meters long, 39 centimeters wide, and 24 centimeters thick.'

Uji-bashi in Tales

Uji-bashi appears in Kokin Wakashu Anthology (collections of Japanese Waka poetry compiled at Imperial request in the tenth century) and Genji Monogatari (The Tale of Genji) by Murasaki Shikibu.

It is also famous for a scene in Hashihime Densetsu Legend (a story of a jealous woman who seeks revenge) performed in 'kanawa' (iron ring), a title of Noh performance (Japanese oldest musical theater form).

At the east foot of the bridge stands Tsuen Tea Shop associated with 'Tsuen,' one of Kyogen (farce played during a Noh cycle). This tea shop is well known as it is depicted in the novel 'Miyamoto Musashi' which is a story of Musashi MIYAMOTO (who was a sword master and a Zen artist during the beginning of the Edo period). Also, at the east foot of the bridge lies Uji Station of Keihan Railway which was moved to the present site in June 1995.

Today's Uji-bashi Bridge

The present Uji-bashi Bridge, 155.4 m long and 25 m wide, was rebuilt in March 1996. This bridge has traditional wooden railings of Japanese cypress with Giboshi (the onion shaped decoration on bridge posts) so that its figure fits into the natural environment of the Uji-gawa River and historical heritage sites in the neighborhood. To emphasize its historical value, it was very important to determine its construction material, high-strength cypress. This reconstruction installed Giboshi of the same size and shape of the remaining oldest Giboshi with an inscription of thirteenth year of Kanei, or 1636. The oldest artifact that depicts recognizable Giboshi of the Uji-bashi is Ishiyama-dera Engi (a scroll painting of the history of Ishiyama-dera Temple) painted in the late Kamakura period. Its upstream side is equipped with an extended floor structure called 'Sanno-ma' which enshrines Hashihime, the protective deity of the bridge. An anecdote goes that Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI once had water for tea ceremony picked up from this spot of the bridge at that time. Today, water for 'Cha Matsuri' (Uji Tea Festival) comes from this spot.

Nearby Attractions

The Tale of Genji Museum

Sankyuan Ujicha Shiryoshitsu Library (a museum of Uji Tea history)

Daikichiyama Observatory (an observatory on Mt. Daikichiyama)

Amagase Suspension bridge

Amagase Dam

Asahiyaki Yogeishiryokan Museum (a museum of Asahiyaki pottery)

Chagyo Center (Technology Center of Uji Tea)

Ujishi Rekishi Shiryokan (Uji City Historical Museum)

Ujishi Sogo Yagaikatsudo Center (Uji City Outdoor Activity Center)

[Original Japanese]