The Seta River (瀬田川), south of Lake Biwa, is the only waterway from which the lake’s water can flow. The river stretches all the way to Kyoto and Osaka and has the 260-meter Seta no Karahashi Bridge (瀬田の唐橋) built across it. Not only is the bridge an important military and transportation hub, but it is also where you can find one of the Eight Views of Ōmi (近江八景).
Table of Contents
- About Seta no Karahashi Bridge (瀬田の唐橋)
- Seta no Karahashi Bridge and the Waka Poem
- The Current Seta no Karahashi Bridge
- How to Get to Seta no Karahashi Bridge
About Seta no Karahashi Bridge (瀬田の唐橋)
This bridge is also known as one of the Three Oldest and Most Famous Bridges in Japan (日本三古橋/日本三大名橋).
Although the catchphrase says Japan, it is probably more accurate to say the three famous bridges of Kyoto. The other two bridges are the Uji Bridge (宇治橋) and Yamazaki Bridge (山崎橋) in Kyoto. Whilst Seta no Karahashi Bridge is in Shiga, it has a deep connection with Kyoto. The safest way to enter Kyoto from the east was by crossing this bridge in the good old days.
The stunning sunset from where the bridge is located is known as the Evening Glow at Seta (Seta no Sekishō, 瀬田夕照), making it the perfect place to end your visit to Ōtsu City.
As a side note, the view of sunrise from the bridge is also worth checking out (^_-)-☆.
Seta no Karahashi Bridge and the Waka Poem
Whilst the fastest way to get to Kyoto from the east of Shiga Prefecture is to hop onto a boat and cross Lake Biwa, the boat’s speed can be slowed significantly by the strong wind blowing from Mt Hiei. This is why a waka poem has it as if you are in a hurry, although a boat from Yabase (矢橋) is fast, cross the long bridge in Seta (武士(もののふ) の矢橋の舟は速けれど 急がば回れ 瀬田の長橋). The poem is also where the Japanese idiom – Isogaba Maware (急がば回れ) originated.
Because Seta no Karahashi Bridge is the only bridge crossing the Seta River, it has long been an important line of defence for Kyoto. So the person who controls Seta no Karahashi Bridge controls the country. This is why many civil wars took place around this bridge.
The Current Seta no Karahashi Bridge
The leader who moved Seta no Karahashi Bridge to the current location is the famous warrior – Oda Nobunaga (織田信長). Instead of a bridge leading straight to the river’s other side, the bridge is broken into two parts with a small island in the middle. With Nobunaga’s order, Seta Castle’s lord – Yamaoka Kagetaka (山岡景隆), completed the bridge in 90 days.
However, that bridge was also burnt down by Yamaoka during the Honnō-ji Incident (本能寺の変) in an attempt to stop Akechi Mitsuhide and his army. With a strong determination to take down the Azuchi Castle (安土城), it is said that Akechi swiftly rebuilt the bridge and proceeded further.
Of course, the bridge was inevitably destroyed whenever there was a war. The current Seta no Karahashi Bridge was rebuilt with concrete in 1979. Considering the surrounding scenery, the bridge was painted in cream color, making it look like a wooden bridge from afar.
Another feature of Seta no Karahashi Bridge is the ornamental caps (Giboshi, 擬宝珠) at the top of the baluster. They might all look the same to you, but the characters curved on the caps differ if you look closer. Each is engraved with an era, such as Meiji (明治), Shōwa (昭和), or Heisei (平成). The one dated back to the Sengoku period is also engraved with a title. You can refer to the second photo in the Instagram post for a picture of Giboshi.
How to Get to Seta no Karahashi Bridge
From Keihan’s Karahashi-mae Station (唐橋前駅), it is a 5-minute walk. You can also walk from JR Ishiyama Station (石山駅).
Discover Other Attractions in Ōtsu City
Ōtsu, the capital of Shiga Prefecture, is filled with rich cultural and historical elements. Although it only lasted for five years, we are sure after you admire the scenery of Japan’s biggest lake – Lake Biwa, it won’t be hard to understand why Emperor Tenji (天智天皇) wanted to stay close to it!
For more information, please refer to our article on Ōtsu City (=ﾟωﾟ)ﾉ.