Arches of History.

Kintaikyo Bridge.

Iwakuni, Japan.

One of the most famous arched bridges in the world and it’s made of wood. So many things about this bridge make it such an incredible structure of architecture! It was originally built to be indestructible, but just like the Titanic, mother nature had other plans.

This elegantly formed and elaborately structured bridge is unique for a couple of reasons:

  1. It is entirely made of wood.
  2. The unique structure is said to be of the highest engineering standards.
  3. It is constructed so that the more people to walk or stand on the bridge, the more solid it becomes.

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history of the Kintai Bridge

The feudal family Kikkawa was ordered to govern the domain of Iwakuni, a castle town that was established on both sides of the Nishiki River. As Iwakuni Castle, built for advantage on top of the top of Mt. Yokoyama, utilized the river as a natural outer moat, Kikkawa needed a bridge to cross the river.

Hiroyoshi Kikkawa, the 3rd feudal lord who had been studying a way to build a bridge that would never be washed away, met the naturalized Chinese monk, Dokuryo, and happened to see the Saikoyuranshi (a journal about sight-seeing around the West Lake of China) in which the monk’s  hometown, Hangzhou, and the West Lake were depicted. In the journal he found a picture which inspired him to build the Kintai Bridge. The five-arch bridge was finally completed on October 1, 1673. Unfortunately, due to river bed subsidence, the bridge was washed away the following year, but immediately reconstructed after the river bed had been reinforced.

Hiroyoshi Kikkawa worked enthusiastically to obtain the technology he needed. He ordered retainers to research bridges and make prototypes. Even after the 1674 construction he had them learn the high level Ano-style stone stacking technique which was subsequently used in the building of the stone wall of Azuchi Castle.

The Kintai Bridge, with its continuously developing advanced devices, remained invincible against the elements for 276 years until it was washed away by floods caused by a violent typhoon, Kijiya, in 1950. However, in 1953, thanks to the enthusiasm of the Iwakuni townspeople, the bridge was rebuilt. And in 2004 as the bridge began to deteriorate, a renovation project was completed costing 2.6 billion yen. The large project involved repairing the existing wooden parts while maintaining their original shape and structure.

advanced technology in the architecture

Engineers in charge of a survey concluded, “The design and building techniques of the Kintai Bridge are in perfect accordance with modern principles of dynamics. Present day bridge engineering could not improve it.” The soundness proved since the Edo era is almost the same as that of today.

There are legends, such as “Not one single nail was used” or “If one nail is pulled out, the entire bridge will collapse,” which underline how unique and elegant this bridge appears because of its high level of technology.

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the structure

Kintai Bridge, measured in a straight line, is over 193.3m in length and 5m wide. The unique structure of the arches is so precise that a very solid bridge has been made. The curved lines of the bridge are particularly original. The technique used to construct the unsupported 35m arches from relatively short timbers is said to be of the highest of engineering standards.

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View from on the bridge of Iwakuni Castle on top of the mountain in the distance.
View from on the bridge of Iwakuni Castle on top of the mountain in the distance.

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the bridge from underneath

Looking at the lower structure of the bridge from the riverbed, the elaborate wooden framework where winding wires and clamps are skillfully used, can be seen. The bridge was designed to become more solid as the weight upon it increases.

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the area around Kintai Bridge

The area surrounding this beautiful bridge is marvelous! Natural scenic beauties such as the fresh greenery of Mt. Shiro and the peaceful waters of the Nishiki River below, perfectly harmonize with the Kintaiyo Bridge.

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Flat bottomed boats that carry people across the Nishiki River.
Flat bottomed boats that carry people across the Nishiki River.

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**Hashidemai: Everybody who lived in the domain had to pay a special tax, depending on their income, called hashidemai, which was used to keep the bridge in good repair. It proved a good way of maintaining the Kintai Bridge, which was reputed to be indestructible. **

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Lindsay View All →

Our roots will forever be from here, America, born and raised. Yet, life requires us to move more frequently than we care to count. Whether living stateside or abroad, you can always find us traveling somewhere. We scout out places that you only think you can dream of one day seeing and we seek out those that aren’t found in guidebooks. We then bring them to life here in our travel memos, so hopefully, one day you too can visit them or at least be able to live vicariously through us. This blog isn’t just about crossing off places from a bucket list. It’s about absorbing and learning how other cultures grow and fit into the same world that we do. Life is short and the world is big. Enjoy and get out there!

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