2020 NO.29


The Ties Binding the Heart of Japan


Linking People and Their Lifestyles: Bridges

Japanese bridge construction boasts the world’s leading levels of technology. Remaining steadfast in the face of various hardships, bridges have both made dreams become a reality and served as a link to the lives of countless people throughout Japan.

Photos: PIXTA

The wooden five-span Kintai Bridge harmonizes with its natural surroundings.

Kintai Bridge

Kintai Bridge is a wooden five-span bridge about 200 meters long and 5 meters wide over the Nishiki River in Iwakuni City, Yamaguchi Prefecture in the western part of Japan. The three sections in the center are arched. The elegance of the form inspired the name kintai, which means gold brocade sash, because of its similarity to the traditional brocade sash for kimono. Six types of meticulously-selected quality timbers and special rust-resistant metal fittings were used for the arch structure, and this is said to be an excellent example of engineering, even against modern bridge-construction standards.

The bridge is a culmination of technology, conceived with the fervent aim to construct a bridge that would stand steady against the torrents. Since about 1600, the people have built a bridge here again and again, only to be washed away by flooding. To create a bridge that could withstand the broad width of the river and furiously rapid currents, they began researching an arching bridge with no piers and arrived at the bridge as it stands today, with four stone-walled islands built across the river to support five spans. Piers were installed on both sides of the river, where the current is weaker, and three arching bridges without piers were constructed in the center. After approximately a decade since its conception, Kintai Bridge was completed in 1673.

However, just a year later, the bridge was washed away. The foundations of the stone-walled piers were immediately upgraded and a stronger bridge was constructed. After then, it endured for 276 years until a powerful typhoon washed it away again in 1950.
The Kintai Bridge that was rebuilt in 1953 is still with us today, projecting the legacy of what was first built 350 years ago.

Abundant nature surrounds the beautifully rhythmical construction of the five-span bridge granting beautiful views throughout the four seasons: cherry blossoms in spring, fireworks in summer, the changing colors of leaves in autumn, and snowy landscapes in winter.

From under the bridge, the very complex configuration of the timbers is visible.

When you cross the bridge, a steep slope and steps unfold in front of you.

The three famous bridges of Japan

Kintai Bridge is said to be one of the three most famous bridges in Japan, along with Megane Bridge, literally meaning “spectacles bridge,” in Nagasaki Prefecture and Nihonbashi Bridge in Tokyo.

Kintai Bridge, which is illuminated at night, offers a magical view.

Megane Bridge, is one of the iconic sightseeing spots in Nagasaki.

At the time of its construction, Nihonbashi Bridge was the starting point of five major roads. Work to remove the elevated expressway above it is scheduled to be complete in 2040.