Ichijo Modoribashi Bridge (一条戻橋)
It was first built in 794 when Heiankyo (the ancient capital of Japan, located in present-day Kyoto) was founded, and has been rebuilt many times in the same place to this day. Ichijo-dori is the northernmost street of Heiankyo, and it played a role of dividing Rakuchu area (inside the capital) and Rakugai area (outside the capital). This bridge has a rich variety of legends associated with it.
The seventh volume of the "Senjusho" (a compilation of Buddhist tales of the thirteenth century) describes the origin of the name 'Modoribashi' as follows:
In December 918, during the scholar of Chinese literature Kiyotsura MIYOSHI's funeral procession over this bridge, his son, who had been a disciplinant in Kumano Sanzan (a set of three Grand Shrines located in the southeastern part of the Kii Mountain Range), hurriedly returned at the news of his father's death, and gave prayers to his father while throwing himself over the coffin, when a peal of thunder temporarily resurrected Kiyotsura and they embraced each other.
The so-called 'Sword Volume' of "Heike Monogatari" (The Tale of the Heike) contains the following story:
WATANABE no Tsuna, the leader of the big four under MINAMOTO no Yorimitsu who was of the Settsu-Genji (Minamoto clan), coming to the foot of Modoribashi at midnight saw a beautiful woman standing there who asked him to take her home as she was scared to return home late at night. Although he considered her behaviour suspicious as a woman alone late at night, he said yes and let her on his horse. Then the woman suddenly transformed into a demon, grabbed Tsuna's hair and flew away with him toward Mt. Atago. Tsuna was able to escape by cutting the demon's arm off with his sword. Tsuna kept the demon's arm at his house in Watanabe no Tsu, Settsu Province (present Chuo Ward in Osaka Prefecture), but it is said that the demon recovered it by disguising himself as Tsuna's mother-in-law.
Modoribashi Bridge was famous for Hashiura (fortune-telling at the foot of a bridge). According to the tenth volume of "Genpei Seisuiki" (an extended version of Heike Monogatari), when Kenreimonin, Chugu (Empress) of Emperor Takakura, gave birth to a child, her mother Niidono conducted Hashiura at Ichijo Modoribashi Bridge. It says that at this event, twelve children sang a song that foretold the future of the newly born prince (later Emperor Antoku) as they walked over the bridge clapping their hands. It also says that the children were probably avatars of the Junishinsho (images of Twelve Divine Generals, protectors of the Healing Buddha) that ABE no Seimei, a reputed Onmyoji (professional practitioner of Onmyodo, a Japanese traditional esoteric cosmology), had secretly hidden under the bridge. ABE no Seimei had kept the images of the Junishinsho in his house to use them as fortune-telling monsters, but later he placed them under the bridge to use them as needed, because his wife was scared of their faces.
In the Sengoku period (period of Warring States), at this bridge Harumoto HOSOKAWA executed Shingoro WADA, a retainer of Nagayoshi MIYOSHI, by sawing, and in the Azuchi-Momoyama period Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI displayed the gibbeted heads of Toshihisa SHIMAZU and SEN no Rikyu. In 1597, during the prohibition of Christianity ordered by Hideyoshi, after their earlobes were cut off at this bridge as a warning to others, the Nihon Nijuroku Seijin (the twenty-six Christian martyrs) were taken to Nagasaki where they were martyred.
There is a custom where women to be married and people involved with match making avoid this bridge because its name suggests that a married woman will return back to her home after divorce. In contrast, during the Second World War, young men who had been drafted to fight and their families walked over this bridge many times hoping they would be able to return home alive.
The present bridge was rebuilt in 1995. There is a miniature Modoribashi of a previous design which was made out of the original material, and this can be found at Seimei-jinja Shrine close to the bridge.