Translated by Hilary Keyes
Kintaikyō - Crossing Five Beautiful Wooden Arches
Written by Ai Yoneda
Kintaikyō, found in Iwakuni, Yamaguchi is an unusual wooden bridge with five arches. Let's take a closer look at this architectural wonder and the impeccable scenery around it.
Iwakuni city in Yamaguchi prefecture is the easternmost municipality of Yamaguchi, sharing a border with Hiroshima prefecture.
Here you will find a beautiful, curiously constructed bridge that is one of Japan's Three Famous Bridges alongside Nagasaki's Meganebashi and Tokyo's Nihombashi. Today, we would like to introduce to you the charms of the lovely five-arched wooden bridge, Kintaikyō.
Kintaikyō is essentially made from five small bridges connected together in order to make a single massive bridge, which in itself is quite rare. The three innermost spans of the bridge were built using a method known as serimochishiki, which involves a calculation of the arches integrity; this method produces bridges which are not only aesthetically pleasing but exceptionally durable as well.
Since Kintaikyō was first built in 1673, the spans have been continuously maintained by professional craftsmen who have developed and expanded on bridge-building technology, allowing this bridge to preserve its historical form.
Looking up at the bridge from below you can see right away that it has been built purely from wood; there isn't a trace of metal bracing or concrete to be seen anywhere.
We went over Kintaikyō from Machikawa. To cross the bridge and come back, you must pay a 300 yen toll. The bridge is open 24 hours a day, however the tollbooth is not, so if you plan to visit Kintaikyō at night, you simply place your fee in the deposit box and head on your way.
As you reach the three central spans, you will notice that they are composed of small gentle staircases that turn into a slope at the top of the arch. Likewise, when descending from the top of the arch you will find a similar staircase, so please be careful and watch your step on the bridge.
The view from the bridge is astounding; if you look down from the railing, you can watch as Nishikigawa River rushes thunderously past, the water surging along its course.
Though it was often destroyed by floods in the past, the present incarnation of Kintaikyō was built by combining Japanese architecture with technology imported from the West, making it incredibly sturdy.
If you turn towards the land, you should look up towards the mountains. On the mountain to the north, you will be able to see Iwakuni Castle standing guard over this entire area.
We have crossed over the five arches of Kintaikyō. The mountain-side flood plain was planted with many different types of trees, making it a particularly beautiful sight in the spring with its cherry blossoms and the fall, when the red maple leaves are at their finest.
On the mountain-side of Kintaikyō, if you walk for a short distance, you will find the White Snake Viewing Institution. These white snakes are a protected species and are so rare that in all of the world, Iwakuni is the only place in which you can see them. When visiting this area, if you are an animal-lover or just a bit curious, please stop by this viewing center and see the captivating white snakes.
The land around the mountain-side was molded by the Iwakuni jōkamachi (city built around a castle) and as a result, you can find many shops and restaurants in historical houses from the Edo era. It's definitely a good place to stop and take a break. If you are looking for a souvenir of your visit to Iwakuni, we recommend the Kintaikyō senbei (700 yen with tax), crackers that have been made in the shape of the bridge's arches.
Here you can see the local specialty: Iwakuni sushi. Although it has been cut in this photo, it starts out as a showy 60 cm long rectangle of delicious sushi. Sandwiched in the middle you will find Iwakuni lotus root, which has an extra hole compared to other varieties of lotus root, with thin strips of omelette scattered and layered on top.
If you are traveling in Yamaguchi prefecture or in neighboring Hiroshima, please make your way to Iwakuni city and see the amazing architectural feat that is Kintaikyō.
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Address: Yamaguchi, Iwakuni, Iwakuni
Hours: 8:00-17:00 (Summer hours until 19:00)
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Nearest Station: Kawanishi Station (川西駅) JR Gantoku line
Access: 20 minute walk from Kawanishi Station
Price Range: 300 yen entrance fee
Phone Number: 0827-29-5107