Frozen moments from the infinity that is time

Kintaikyo Bridge – beauty and function


Have you ever seen a photograph of a place that made you want to see it with your own eyes? I think most people have had this experience and seeing photographs of the Kintaikyo Bridge was all it took to put the bridge on my list of places to visit.

Kintai-kyo translates to “brocade sash”, with the bridge’s unique five span structure giving it a rippling appearance and ensuring its place among Japan’s most significant bridges. Originally built in 1639, the bridge was restricted to use by successive feudal lords and their vassals until 1868, since which time it has been used by the general public.

The site was initially chosen for its strategic value as a means to connect the township of Iwakuni with a castle built around the same period by Hiroie Kikkawa – the first feudal lord of the Iwakuni Domain. By building the castle on a mountain bound by a U-bend along the Nishiki River, the river effectively became a moat.

The current bridge is the fourth structure, with previous bridges destroyed by heavy flooding and typhoons. However, recent history attests to the current bridge’s resilience and ability to withstand extreme conditions. In 2005, Typhoon 14 generated the heaviest recorded rainfall in Japanese history, thus causing flooding and river flow volumes greater than the bridge’s design capability. Nevertheless, despite losing two piers, the bridge’s superstructure remained intact.

Throughout its history, floods have posed a greater threat than earthquakes, several of which have been survived without damage. For example, most recently, the October 2000 Geryo Earthquake (6.4 on the Richter scale) was reported to have caused the bridge to sway massively, as well as causing extensive damage to other structures in the region. Kintaikyo Bridge, however, emerged free of deformation, which was attributed to the shock absorbent capabilities of its more than 20,000 members.

Today the bridge is understandably a major tourist attraction and my main regret is that my visit did not coincide with any of the festivals involving the bridge. One can imagine how regal the bridge would present during festivals and how its history would come alive in the presence of participants in traditional costumes. I guess this means Kintaikyo Bridge is still on my list of places to visit.

The accompanying photographs are self-explanatory and show various views of the bridge. Like many Japanese structures, it presents some physical challenge to negotiate the five arches, though the children returning from school (pics 8 and 9) seem to delight in their twice-daily exercise.

(Please click on any of the following images for an enlarged view.)

Author: johnliddlephotography

Photography reflects how I see the world around me. I respond to images that interest me, which can be anything ... people, places, colour, texture ... anything at all. By sharing my photos through this blog I know that viewers will see based on their life experiences. That is the wonder of photography ... one image ... many interpretations.

8 thoughts on “Kintaikyo Bridge – beauty and function

  1. Charming photos 🙂

  2. Ah, an entire post devoted to a beautiful bridge.. Wonderful!
    This “five span structure” does indeed seem novel – it certainly looks very pretty – and looks like a feat of engineering at least for those who must have had to figure out how to ensure it remains stable through the times, I imagine.

    It’s beautiful.
    As usual, I like most if not all your captures but pictures 5, 6 and 10 do hold one’s gaze for quite a bit.

    I love Picture 5 for being the beautiful, atmospheric capture that lends itself to the imagination in wondrous ways (of journeys, adventures, quests and the like).

    Picture 6 is beautiful for the importance it accords to rest in the presence of such beauty – A lovely moment captured, I am sure.

    Picture 10 is pretty cool especially since it includes so much action, all heading off in different directions and at varying levels but perhaps for equally meaningful, thence beautiful purpose.

    And on the children who seem to take on this bridge with admirable zeal, I think any journey is less arduous and more fun-filled when taken with a friend. 🙂

    Do take care and thank you, as always, for your enjoyable posts!

    • Thanks B,
      Kintaikyo is quite a bridge in a country overflowing with bridges, as it sometimes seems. It’s always nice to know my photographs bring you some joy and although your first two choices (5 & 6) do not show the unique five span structure, they do have a human element to them, as does pic 10. I’ve been waiting to post these photos and given that one catches the same train to reach Iwakuni as one does to reach Miyajima, it seemed appropriate to post following the Miyajima series. I am always grateful for your kind, encouraging observations, which, though sometimes overly generous methinks, are much appreciated. I hope Kintaikyo is now on your list of places to see. Take care B.

  3. your photos always make you want to go to see the places!!! 🙂

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