An elegant steeply-arched wooden bridge of five spans. Staunch, flood-defying, stone piers. Umbrella-carrying pedestrians carefully making their way over the slippery timber arches. Fog enveloping the forested mountains beyond. Glimpses of a castle atop a nearby peak. This is Kintai Bridge, in the town of Iwakuni, in western Japan.
It’s a bridge from another time, another world
Kintai Bridge, Iwakuni
The first bridge to cross the Nishiki River at Iwakuni was built during the early 1600s. It was just a simple wooden affair, and it was swept away by the first major floods to hit the area.
The bridge was rebuilt many times in the following years. The design slowly evolved, the structure became stronger and sturdier, but the results were always the same. The bridge at Iwakuni fell victim to floods time and time again.
Finally, in 1673, a bridge resembling the one we see today was erected. It incorporated robust stone piers and had carefully crafted wooden arches that would lift up and float away during times of flood leaving the piers intact.
Flood proof? Hardly, but with a rigorous maintenance program in place the bridge at Iwakuni stood more or less unchanged for the next 250 years.
Fast forward to the mid 20th Century, and, with WWII underway, maintenance of the bridge at Iwakuni is suspended, In 1950 Typhoon Kijia devastates the dilapidated structure.
A reconstruction program began almost immediately. The bridge was painstakingly restored, using traditional construction methods, and reopened in 1953.
Today Kintai Bridge in Iwakuni is once again the most elegant of bridges.
It’s a popular tourist destination in cherry blossom season. But for an atmospheric viewing, come when the hills beyond are draped in mist.
Practical information and how to reach Iwakuni:
The easiest way to reach Iwakuni is to use the local train network. It’s a 45 minute trip from Hiroshima. More transport info here.
Read more on Kintai Bridge here.