The world’s most beautiful wooden arched bridge : Kintai Bridge (Iwakuni City, Yamaguchi)

 

Gateway to Yamaguchi Prefecture, Iwakuni City…

 

Built in the early Edo-period (about 350 years ago) by Kikkawa Hiroyoshi, the 3rd lord of the Iwakuni Domain, the wooden, five-arched “Kintai Bridge” is a rare gem anywhere in the world.

 

How could such a small domain build such a great bridge?

 

 

The reason is simple; Lord Kikkawa Hiroyoshi wanted to build a bridge that couldn’t be destroyed!

Spanning the 200m wide Nishiki River, Kintai Bridge was destroyed twice by the river’s vast volume of water and strong currents. Each time it was destroyed, major improvements were made to try and ensure that the new version could withstand such forces.

 

Leading to its current iconic shape, the bridge’s structure has been fine-tuned little by little each time it has been replaced since the Edo period.

 

As it was easily destroyed in the past, the skills of the engineers, etc. improved quickly. Because they handed down their knowledge to successive generations, the bridge is rare in the world.

 

 

Kintai Bridge was built by “Kuden”, which may sound like a secret technique, but just means by “word of mouth”.

 

The middle 3 of the 5 arches are natural “catenary curves”, which, as they do not defy gravity, are very strong.

 

These beautiful curves are created by “Kouden”!

 

Each time the bridge is rebuilt, it is minutely adjusted to take into consideration timber warping, age deterioration and sinking over the years.

While each kind of wood has its own character, individual pieces of timber of the same kind display different characteristics.

 

Understanding this kind of stuff and making adjustments accordingly is something only carpenters with experience and intuition can do when bridge building.

 

This kind of information cannot be written down. In creating “the bridge that cannot be destroyed”, hundreds of years of knowledge is handed down by word of mouth from each generation of Kintai Bridge carpenters to the next.

 

 

Kintai Bridge’s natural arches fit well with the natural scenery of mountains and rivers.

 

With cherry blossoms in spring, cormorant fishing (Ukai) on summer nights, autumn colors, and winter snow-scape, it is always beautiful and never boring.

 

Events are held each season, but the Daimyo Procession held during the Kintai Bridge festival is like something from a picture scroll.

 

 

[Oidemase! Yamaguchi]

 

Kintai Bridge (National Cultural Property, Place of Scenic Beauty)

 

Address: 1 Iwakuni, Iwakuni-shi, Yamaguchi

Entrance tickets (roundway only):

Junior high school students and older, 300 yen per person (groups of 15 or more, 250 yen per person)

Elementary school students, 150 yen per child (groups of 15 or more, 120 yen per child)

Set tickets available (including Kintai Bridge roundway and ropeway tickets, and the Iwakuni Castle entrance fee)

Open: 8:00 – 17:00

Open until 18:00 in high season, open until 19:00 in summer. (If the tollhouse is unattended, please place money in the nighttime fare box.)

Website (English): http://kintaikyo.iwakuni-city.net/en/

 

Setouchi Finder Photo-writer: Masashi Fujimoto

 

 

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Written by

Masafumi Fujimoto

Masafumi Fujimoto

Masafumi Fujimoto Hi there! My name is Masafumi Fujimoto. Until the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011, I was engaged in editing production at an advertising company in Tokyo. However, the earthquake was a turning point in my life and I headed home to Yamaguchi. When I arrived, I was extremely energized and motivated to help revitalize the region, but I had a hard time adjusting to the motivation level of the local people. Around that time I met an elderly lady who said: "It doesn't matter if all the people move away from the island; that's just the nature of things. Someday people will come back again." Lessening the tension I’d been feeling, those few words relieved me hugely, and I was able to finally adjust. Since then, I've been involved in writing and editing magazines, and working in advertisement production, as well as doing a little bit of farming. I also spend time walking around Setouchi searching for the many, many voices out there.

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