Tokyo - Beginning in April, a sightseeing boat on the Katsuragawa river in Japan will allow passengers to view the Saruhashi bridge from the same angle that ukiyo-e artist Utagawa Hiroshige (1797-1858) used to depict it in his work.
Located in Otsuki, Yamanashi Prefecture, Saruhashi literally means “monkey bridge” in Japanese. It is often cited as one of “Japan's three strange bridges,” and has been designated as a national scenic beauty. Instead of columns supporting it underneath, the bridge has square logs called “hanegi” stacked on top of each other from both sides of a valley. A person who moved to Japan from Baekje, a kingdom on the Korean Peninsula, in the Asuka Period (592-710) is said to have devised the structure after watching a group of monkeys crossing a valley hand in hand.
According to officials of the Yamanashi Prefectural Museum, Hiroshige travelled to Kofu in 1842 and was impressed with the scenery around Saruhashi. He recorded that the water in the Katsuragawa river was clean and beautiful, and that the beauty of the scenery changed as he walked and was beyond description.
Hiroshige is said to have painted the picture of Saruhashi titled “Koyo Saruhashi no Zu” (“monkey bridge in Kai province”) after he returned to Edo (now Tokyo).
“Many of Hiroshige's works are long horizontally,” said Masafumi Sugimoto, 59, head of the social education section at Otsuki city's board of education. “But 'Koyo Saruhashi no Zu' is long vertically. I think Hiroshige was very impressed with Saruhashi and wanted to emphasise its height.”