The bridge that crosses over the Moon – Togetsu bridge

The bridge of Togetsu (In Japanese written with the characters 渡 月 橋: crossing, moon, bridge) is one of the most emblematic of Kyoto. With its 155 meters long it was first built in the 9th century to cross the Katsura River towards the mountain of Arashiyama . Although it has been rebuilt and restored several times, the current version remains in the same place as the original.

Crossing the bridge and strolling along the river bank is a pleasure enjoyed even by the emperors of ancient Japan. It was Emperor Kameyama in the 12th century who named the bridge. He was sailing with his boat at night and enraptured by the beauty of the moment he declared: “It seems that the bridge is crossing the moon.”

A local legend says: boys and girls have to cross the bridge without looking back at any time. If they ignore this rule it will bring them bad luck of not looking back. I wonder if Ghibli was inspired by this bridge to for Spirited Away but instead of not looking back you have to hold your breath.

The Tōfukuji zen temple

The Tōfukuji (東 福寺, Tōfukuji) is a zen temple in southeastern Kyoto. Its pavilions are surrounded by a huge green area, it is beautiful all over the year but the best time to see this temple is a the time of the kouyou (End of november) . Tōfukuji is one of the most important Zen temples in Kyoto.

The Sanmon style door of the Tōfukuji is 22 meters high and is the oldest Japanese zen gate (since 1425 without having been rebuilt). The sanmon style doors (三門) are not in all Zen temples, only in the larger ones. The San 三 (Three) before the 門 (Gate) indicates that it is composed of three entrances. Each of the entries also has a name, the one on the left is the kūmon (空門 vacuum door), the middle one is the musōmon (無相門 the door without form) and the one on the right is the muganmon (無願門 DO NOT ask for wishes).


This is the sanmon gate at Tōfukuji which is declared as a National Treasure

The set of these three doors: the one of the void, the formless one and the one of not requesting desires; symbolize the three places by which purification must be achieved before enlightenment. Passing through them helps to free you from: greed, hatred and ignorance. That’s why they are also called sangedatsumon (三解脱門 the door of the three releases).

Apart from the sanmon gate, the most beautiful of the Tōfukuji are the gardens. There are several, each with a style, some with large rocks and moss that adorns them, others full of vegetation and several dry with gravel and stones. All of them were designed by Mirei Shigemori . One of the most beautiful gardens inside Tōfukuji is the Kaizandō, which is hidden across the bridge Tsutenkyo. A bridge with a wooden roof that is 100 meters long and crosses a stream that will lead to the kamogawa.


This is the Tsutenkyo bridge, the name of this bridge translated is: “The Bridge to cross the sky”


Views from the bridge

Kaizandō is a dry garden similar to the Ryoanji but it is not symmetrical, an area of the gravel rectangle is occupied by hedges and rocks. What I like the most compared to the Ryoanji is that behind the gravel you don’t see a simple wall, there is a big Japanese style garden with pines covering the landscape. Another of the differences is the way they drag it, in the Kaizandō they do it in a way that squares of several different shades are drawn on its surface.

Tofukuji location on google maps.

From Kyoto Station, with the JR Nara line, it takes two minutes to reach Tofukuji Station.

Fukui

After visiting Shirakawa-go we went north all up the way until Fukui. It was my first time in Fukui prefecture. We decided to only visit Fukui City, it was a big mistake… the city is disappointing and boring. The castle was so unimpressive (there is not even a castle, it is a dull government building) that I didn’t even take a single picture of it! If you are curious, this is a picture of the “castle” I just found on Fukui’s government website:

Don’t bother too much visiting the castle. The only beautiful and worth place to visit around Fukui’s city center was the Yokokan garden. The Matsudaira lord, who ruled Fukui at the beginning of the Edo Era lived in these gardens considered by the Japanese Government as a National Designated Place of Scenic Beauty.

One morning is enough to visit the Yokokan gardens. I would not recommend spending the night in Fukui City, leave to the northern coast. Next time I go to Fukui I will focus on visiting the villages on the seaside which they say are beautiful.