Sanjo Street

September 18, 2012

by Mirai Ikei

An Introduction to Sanjo Street

Sanjo Street is located in the centre of Kyoto City and stretches from Shinomiya in Yamashina-ku to Togetsukyo Bridge in the Arashiyama area. (Some people say that it runs from Shinomiya to Saga-Tenryuji.) The distance is about 20 km. There are lively roads and an arcade with lots of people as well as historic buildings and important cultural properties. All of these sites in Sanjo Street are very attractive and people have long been fascinated by them. We will introduce our special selection from the great spots.

The History

Sanjo Street is a very historic and interesting area of Kyoto.Let’s see what happened along this street.

Honnoji (relocated)

Honnoji Temple was the place where the famous general Nobunaga Oda [1534-82] was forced to take his own life. Do you know about the major historical event which is known as the ‘Honno-ji Incident’? Honnno-ji was known as the place where one of Nobunaga’s followers, Mitsuhide Akechi, betrayed his master. Originally, the temple was at a different place from today but Hideyoshi Toyotomi [1537-98] relocated it during the rebuilding of war-devastated Kyoto.

The Ikedaya Affair (Edo to Meiji period)

The Ikedaya Affair is one of the most famous incidents that occurred at the end of the Edo period. It was a stormy epoch. On 5th June 1864 (in the old calendar), ten members of a special group, called Shinsengumi (whose leader, Isamu Kondo, worked for the Tokugawa Shogunate), battled with twenty four warriors who were against the Shogunate. It resulted in the deaths of fifteen warriors.

The site of the Ikedaya Affair is located on the west side of Sanjo Kobashi Bridge, about 30 meters west from Sanjo Ohashi. The Ikedaya has been turned into a restaurant now but still we can clearly see the sword cut on one of the handrail’s decoration of Sanjo Ohashi Bridge.

Introducing popular spots along Sanjo Street.

It is not only an historically important place but also a very lively area today. We have some recommendations.

Benkei-ishi Stone

This is a hidden popular spot. There are a few famous episodes related to this stone. One is that it was thrown from Gojo Ohashi Bridge by a monk and warrior called Benkei. Another episode is that the stone was relocated to Oshu (today’s Iwate prefecture) after Benkei’s death. However, the stone had a voice and said that it wanted to return to Sanjo in Kyoto. At the same time, there was an epidemic of fever and a number of people died in the Sanjo area. At that time, the stone was returned to its original place, Sanjo-Teramachi, and the area was named ‘Benkei-Ishimachi’ town.

Benkei-ishi Stone


The Museum of Kyoto  (Kyoto Bunka Hakubutsukan)

The Museum of Kyoto

These are typical western-style buildings which were built in the Meiji period in Kyoto. In particular, Sanjo Street has many of these important buildings. The Museum of Kyoto is comprised of two buildings: one is a modern style building and the other was built with red brick. The red bricks were once used in the Bank of Japan’s Kyoto Branch. Popular and unique exhibitions take place every year on various themes. People enjoy the high quality of art in this traditional retro-looking building.


Nice arcade for bicycle riders

‘Sanjo Meiten Shotengai’ Arcade is an approximately 800-meter long arcade. It stretches from Horikawa-dori Street to Senbon-dori Street. There are a variety of shops such as sweet shops, fruit and vegetable shops, bars, restaurants and so on. There are seasonal events in the arcades; for example, a concert of Japanese traditional music in which people perform with shamisen, kokyu, and shakuhachi. It is a great experience to join one of these events.



Will you visit Sanjo Street?

We have introduced the faces of Sanjo Street, both fascinating and mysterious. All generations and all kinds of people can enjoy the street. And Sanjo Street has been an important street for people in Kyoto from past times. This is because the street has a special charm for us.




Bridges of Kamogawa River

by Mirai Ikei

The bridges along the Kamogawa River

The bridges along the Kamogawa River

A Special River in Kyoto

The Kamogawa River is the fourth longest river in Kyoto and its source is the 895.8 meter high Mount Sajigatake (located in the northern part of Kyoto). It runs from north-eastern Kyoto and flows down south-west to Katsuragawa River. It is about 33 kilometers long and the basin is about 208 square meters in area. The water is used for both agriculture and industry. A section of the water flows into Kamigamo-Jinja Shrine and is turned into sacred water. People in Kyoto have used the water from the Kamogawa River for a long time.

Five Bridges on the Kamogawa River

In this article, you will find out about five special bridges: Marutamachi-bashi Bridge, Nijo Ohashi Bridge, Sanjo Ohashi Bridge, Shijo Ohashi Bridge and Nanajo Ohashi Bridge, on the Kamogawa River. Can you imagine that you are now walking beside the Kamogawa River in fine weather, such as warm sunshine and soft breezes? The goal will be Nanajo Ohashi Bridge, near KyotoTower.


We are starting off from Marutamachi-bashi Bridge. The Kamogawa River was known for flooding repeatedly in olden times. In those times it was called ‘Abare-Gawa’. Here, on the site of of today’s Marutamachi-bashi Bridge, people built a wooden bridge and crossed the overflowing river. Walking down from Marutamachi-bashi Bridge, you will see Kyoto Gyoen National Garden, which includes court nobles’ houses and gardens, lots of trees, and many people having a rest in such a peaceful place.

Nijo Ohashi

The Misosogigawa

The Misosogigawa

Go down from Marutamachi-bashi Bridge for about 500m, and you will see the next bridge, Nijo-Ohashi Bridge. The Misosogigawa is an artificial watercourse which is located to the west of Nijo Ohashi Bridge. Famous cooling off places along the way are ‘Noryo Yuka’, which are wooden terraces connected to restaurants, where you can eat traditional dishes. People can go there and enjoy their meal in a little more luxury than usual during the summertime. (They are open from the beginning of May to the end of September.) Apart from the Noryo Yuka, let’s have a closer look at Nijo Ohashi Bridge.


Stepping stones across the river

In the past, there was no bridge at Nijo Ohashi. The place was once the site of a battle. A defeated general had his head cut off and his neck was kept on public display with a bulletin board. (The victor was making an impact on people by doing this.) This place is also known for a famous notice board which was written by people who complained about the chaotic government. There are stepping stones across the river. The stones are shaped as plovers, turtles or ships. It is fun to try to cross the river by hopping on the stones.

Sanjo Ohashi

Sanjo Ohashi Bridge

Sanjo Ohashi Bridge

Now we pass Oike Ohashi Bridge and onto the next bridge, Sanjo Ohashi Bridge. Beloved by Kyoto people, it was built by Hideyoshi Toyotomi (a famous general in the Sengoku era [16th century]). Have you ever read the funny story ‘Tokaidochu Hizakurige’ written by Jippensha Ikku? The Sanjo Ohashi Bridge is the start point of the western part of Tokaido Gojusantsugi which are the 53 post stations of the Tokaido. (The Tokaido was one of the five highways in the Edo era [1600-])

Yaji-san and Kita-san

Yaji-san and Kita-san

There are two statues of Yaji-san, and Kita-san who are the main characters from ‘Tokaidochu Hizakurige’ near the bridge. Besides these ‘Yaji-Kita Statues’, there is a stone, called ‘Nade Ishi’. People who stroke the stone will find good fortune. Let’s walk across the bridge and experience the feeling of standing at the crossroads of people’s lives in old Kyoto city.

Shijo Ohashi



The fourth bridge is called Shijo Ohashi Bridge. Everyone must have walked across this bridge when they visited Kyoto. It functions as an entrance to downtown Shijo Kawaramachi. There is one practice hall for Maiko and Geiko at Pontocho Street. In May, the event ‘Kamogawa Odori’ (traditional dance performance by Maiko and Geiko) is held. Their performance is so beautiful, like a dream. If you walk down east a little more, you will see Yasaka Jinja Shrine. It is a major sacred place of the Gion Matsuri which is a famous festival held every July. Yasaka Jinja Shrine is also famous as a place which is used for other important rituals – people grieved here and held memorial services for those who had died of plague because of the repeated floods. We could say that Shijo Ohashi is a bridge that connects people who are alive and the spirits of people passed away.

Nanajo Ohashi.. and five more

Finally, we will talk about the last bridge, Nanajo Ohashi Bridge. Before starting this, I want to tell you, briefly, about five more bridges which we have been skipping.

Oike Ohashi: built in 1964

Oike-dori is the street which connects Shinsen-en Temple. In the past, the pond of Shinsen-en Temple never ran dry so people called it Oike. (In Japanese, Oike means a ‘Great-pond’.)

Donguribashi: built in 1963

This bridge’s name originates from a big chestnut (a chestnut means ‘donguri’) tree. The Ayu-fishing begins in July.

Matsubara-bashi: built in 1959

Benkei and Ushiwakamaru

Benkei and Ushiwakamaru

Originally, here was the ‘Gojo Ohashi’ which was moved south by Hideyoshi Toyotomi. In the Heian-Era (about A.C.794-1192), it was called Gojo Dori where the Matsubara-bashi is located today.

Gojo Ohashi: built in 1959

The place of the famous episode of Ushiwakamaru (Yoshitsune Minamoto’s childhood name) and Benkei (followed Yoshitsune after this battle)

Shomen-bashi: built in 1952

The name came from the street, Shomen Dori, which is located in front of the Daibutsu-den (Great Buddha Hall) of Hoko-ji Temple. (By Hideyoshi Toyotomi)

*all of the years indicate the latest year of rebuilding

'Secession' style. A pattern with arrow motifs

'Secession' style. A pattern with arrow motifs

Shall we go back to the story of Nanajo Ohashi Bridge? Nanajo Ohashi is the oldest of all of the bridges on the Kamogawa River. It dates from 1913. It has been renewed once and the design of the handrail is based on Sanjusangen-do Temple’s first ‘bow-pulling’ of the year. If you walk down south a bit more from here, you will see Kyoto Tower, one of the most popular tourist spots in Kyoto.

Our Suggestions

Now, we have talked to you mostly about our favorite bridges. Thank you for reading to the end. Lastly, we have a few suggestions for you before you start your own exploring. Here you go:

Mind the birds!

Mind the birds!

  1. Please look at the nature beside the river.
  2. Get some background information before going. It will make your walk more fun!
  3. Mind black kites, the birds flying over your head. They might snatch your lunch from you. One of us lost his lunch after just one bite.