|A Beautiful and Strong Arching Bridge
Kintai Bridge is located in Iwakuni City, Yamaguchi Prefecture, in the western part of Japan. About 200 m long (220 yd.), the bridge spans the Nishiki River. The wooden structure consists of five arches, each 5 m (5.5 yd.) wide, 6.6 m (7.3 yd.) high, and spanning 40 m (44 yd.). The elegance of the form inspired the name Kintai, which means gold brocade sash, because of a similarity to the traditional Nishiki obi for kimono. Along with Nihonbashi bridge in Tokyo and Meganebashi bridge in Nagasaki, it is one of the three most famous bridges in Japan.
The challenge was to build a bridge that would not get washed away and the result was this beautiful bridge. Even by the standards of modern bridge building, Kintai Bridge is an example of brilliant engineering. Moreover, the arches were built using metal straps and clamps for a structure of incomparable workmanship.
Starting in the year 1600, time and time again, people had tried to build a bridge across the Nishiki River, but every time there was high water the bridge was washed away. They realized that the bridges washed away when driftwood pushed against the piers and broke them down. They studied how to build an arching bridge with no piers. Four stone-walled islands were built spaced across the river to support five spans. Piers were built at the two ends of the bridge, where the current was weaker, but in the middle, three arches were built without piers. From the time of its conception, it took almost a decade of research, experiment, and test construction before the bridge was completed during a period of three months in 1673.
One year later, this bridge was washed away because the footing of the stone piers was weak. Improvements were made and a stronger bridge was constructed. This one lasted 276 years until a large typhoon washed it away in 1950, but it was rebuilt in 1953.
Today the bridge is illuminated at night, and it is a great spot for viewing the cherry blossoms in the spring, the changing leaves in the autumn, and cormorant fishing in the summer.
Photos: Kintai Bridge (day and night) (Yamaguchi Prefecture)
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