Saruhashi – the Monkey Bridge (Otsuki City)

by Yuri Yuhara

Located in Otsuki city, Saruhashi is one of Japan’s 3 most unique bridges. The more than well-deserved title comes from its ingenious wood structure that crosses Katsura River without any bridge pier supporting it from below.
Created more than 1300 years ago, it is said that its construction was inspired by the sight of monkeys crossing the river by holding on each other, giving origin to the bridge’s name.

Katsura river runs in the middle of two cliffs, and due to its height it was not possible to build a bridge using the traditional method we all know. But by burying thick wooden beams horizontally, letting part of it stick outside it is possible to create a structure to support the bridge without using piers, a method commonly used before the Meiji Period when bridges made of steel started being built, influenced by techniques from foreign countries.

Not many bridges with this structure can be seen in present days, being Saruhashi the only one recognized as a National Place of Scenic Beauty. 

Saruhashi's unique architecture amazes many foreign and national visitors, but not only the bridge itself catches people’s eyes. The nature that surrounds it as the view of the Katsura river running between the cliffs, especially during summer when it is possible to enjoy water activities, and in autumn when the maple leaves color the scenery, attracts many visitors who can easily reach Otsuki by JR Chuo Line, just one hour ride from central Tokyo.      

During summer, the Yamanashi Outdoor Project organizes boat tours and activities as shower climbing. Additional barbeque and accommodation plans are also available for those who wants to make the best of their stay in Otsuki city. 
The boat tour provides a guided visit to a local museum that houses items and artworks related to Saruhashi, and there a complete explanation about the bridge is provided to all. In a short walking distance from the museum, participants get in the boat and enjoy a 30 min ride in the river, where they can admire the nature and the bridge’s structure from many different angles.

For those who can’t speak Japanese language, licensed guide interpreter services can be used for this tour!

More info about the tour can be seen here:
Yamanashi Outdoor Project Facebook Page

About Saruhashi
Open 24 h
Entrance free
Map here

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