Hashihime (the Maiden of the Bridge) (橋姫)

Hashihime is a lady, ogress or goddess who appears in legends about bridges. She is also called Uji no Hashihime.

She appears in many legends and has various aspects, but the two major ones are the 'Jealous ogress' encountered and killed by MINAMOTO no Tsuna at Ichijo Modori-bashi Bridge, and the 'Guardian deity of the bridge' enshrined in Hashihime-jinja Shrine near Uji-bashi Bridge.

Kokin Wakashu (A Collection of Ancient and Modern Japanese Poetry)
She appeared in an anonymous waka (a traditional Japanese poem of 31 syllables) in the 14th volume of the ancient "Kokin Wakashu" (905).

In poetry, in contrast to the legends, she often appears in romantic poems as an adorable lady.

Heike Monogatari (The Tale of the Heike)
Hashihime appears as an ogress filled with jealousy in 'Tsurugi no maki' (Chapter of the Sword) in alternative versions of "Heike Monogatari" such as "Genpei Seisui ki" (The Rise and Fall of the Minamoto and Taira Clans) or "Yashirobon" (unauthorized book), which became the basis for most Hashihime stories. Since it is an alternative version, it is not included in most books of "The Complete Heike Monogatari" kind.

The story can be summarized as follows.

During the reign of Emperor Saga (809-825), a daughter of a Court noble who had become filled with envy shut herself away in Kibune-jinja Shrine, praying,

O Great Myojin God of Kibune, please change me into a Kijin (ogre god) while I am still alive." "I want to possess and kill a woman I envy." The Myojin God felt sorry and told her, "If you really want to become an ogress, change your appearance and soak in the Uji-gawa River for 21 days."

After the woman returned to Heiankyo (the former name of Kyoto), she made five horns by separating her hair into five parts, she painted herself red by putting cinnabar on her face and red lead paint on her body, put a tetsuwa (a three-legged iron stand) upside down on her head, put lit torches on the three legs and put a torch burning at both ends into her mouth, making five fires in total. Late that night, she ran south on Yamato-oji Street, and those who saw her fell and died of shock at seeing such an ogre-like figure. Then she soaked in the Uji-gawa river for 21 days and, as Kibune Daimyojin had said, she became an ogre while she was still alive.
This is 'Uji no Hashihime.'

She killed the woman she envied, then the woman's relatives, the relatives of the woman's man, and finally just anybody. She became a woman when killing men, and a man when killing women. The people of Kyoto stopped both letting someone into the house and going out after the Hour of the Monkey (from 15:00 to 17:00).

Meanwhile, MINAMOTO no Tsuna, one of the Shitenno (four loyal retainers) of MINAMOTO no Yorimitsu, was sent to the Ichijo Omiya. Since it was dangerous at night (because of Hashihime), he was given the celebrated sword 'Higekiri' (literally, 'beard cutter'), and then left on horseback.

On the way back, he came across a woman as he crossed the Ichijo Modori-bashi Bridge. She seemed to be over 20 years old with skin as white as snow, and she was heading south alone, wearing an uchiginu (a beaten silk robe usually worn as support for the outer robes) with a rose plum pattern and carrying a Buddhist sutra.

Tsuna told her, "It is dangerous at night, so I will escort you to Gojo-dori Street," and he got off his horse so she could ride, then headed south along the east bank of the Hori-kawa River. Near Ogicho, the woman asked, "Actually I live outside the capital, but would you take me home?," to which Tsuna answered as follows. "All right." "I will take you home." At this, the woman transformed into an ogress, seized Tsuna by the hair and flew northwest, saying, "Let's go to Mt. Atago (Kyoto City)."

Tsuna calmly cut off the ogress' arm with Higekiri. Tsuna fell into a shrine in Kitano, and the ogress flew to Atago without her arm. When Tsuna picked up the arm that had been grasping his hair, he saw that it was actually jet-black and covered in needle-like white hairs, which was why it had seemed to be white as snow.

When he showed the arm to Yorimitsu, Yorimitsu was greatly surprised and called ABE no Seimei to ask what to do. Seimei told him as follows. "Tsuna must take seven days off and stay home." "I will place a seal on the ogress' arm by chanting the Ninnogyo (Sutra of Benevolent Kings)." Yorimitsu followed his advice.

The Japanese sword 'Higekiri' which cut Hashihime's arm was real and still exists.

It began to be called 'Onikiri' (literally 'ogre cutter') after this incident. It is said that it was also used by Tsuna to kill an ogre ("Shuten Doji" - the leader of a group of local bandits) at the Rajo-mon Gate and also by TADA no Manju to kill the ogre of Mt. Togakushi ("Taiheiki", The Record of the Great Peace). It is a celebrated sword and is deeply connected to ogres.

The river Hashihime soaked in was the Uji-gawa River, and she is enshrined at the Uji-bashi Bridge over the Uji-gawa River.

However, it was the Ichijo Modori-bashi Bridge over the Hori-kawa River where Tsuna met Hashihime.

How much time passed between the two events is not specifically described.

But MINAMOTO no Yorimitsu, MINAMOTO no Tsuna and ABE no Seimei lived almost 200 years after 'the reign of Emperor Saga.'

Her name also appears in "Taiheiki" and "Tale of Hashihime."

There is a Noh program named "Kanawa," an expanded version of the 'Tsurugi no maki' from the "Heike Monogatari"
It is named after the tripod Hashihime put on her head.

Hashihime is portrayed as a woman whose husband is stolen by another woman. Her husband and his second wife begin to notice mysterious phenomena before being almost killed by a curse. They consult ABE no Seimei, who tells them that they will be dead by tonight if this continues.

Asked by the couple, Seimei tries to transfer the curse to katashiro (dolls representing the couple), and then the ogress appears. She is dressed with a kanawa and torches, just like on the occasion of the ceremony at the river. On the stage, the 'Hashihime' mask used depicts a female face distorted with jealousy and desire for revenge.

Hashihime attacks the couple, but is beaten back by Seimei and Sanju-banshin (30 guardian deities), so she disappears, saying 'I will bide my time.'

MINAMOTO no Tsuna, who was an important character in the 'Tsurugi no maki', doesn't appear.

Ushi no koku mairi (visiting a shrine in the dead of night to put a curse of death on somebody)

Ushi no koku mairi originates from the curse ceremony Hashihime held.

Hashihime-jinja Shrine

Hashihime-jinja Shrine is located near the Uji-bashi Bridge over the Uji-gawa River. It officially enshrines Seoritsuhime, who is said to have been transferred from up river. However, in the "Heike Monogatari", she is regarded as being the same as Hashihime. Another story is that she became the deity of the bridge after being defeated by MINAMOTO no Tsuna.

Though she was enshrined as a bridge-protecting deity, she is also a deity of separation, who answers prayers to end bad relationships. However, couples and wedding parties should also avoid walking past the shrine or crossing the Uji-bashi Bridge.

[Original Japanese]