The Iconic Kintai Bridge

The Kintai Bridge (錦帯橋) or Kintai-kyō, is an iconic wooden arch bridge located in Japan. The bridge was built in 1673 in the city of Iwakuni, Yamaguchi Prefecture, at the foot of Mt. Yokotama where the historic Iwakuni Castle stands.

Kintai bridge. | gokyofoto

Iwakuni Castle overlooked a series of wooden bridges, but most of them were destroyed by spring floods way before the Kintai bridge was actually completed.

Iwakuni Castle was completed in 1608 by the first lord of Iwakuni Domain, Kikkawa Hiroei. Kintai Bridge was built by the third lord, Kikkawa Hiroyoshi. Stronger stone piers replace the old wooden ones and the bridge was thought to be flood-proof, but was proved otherwise a year later.

Kintai-kyō. | rurinoshima

The stone piers that held the bridge were redesigned for greater strength and a special tax was imposed on the citizens of Iwakuni to maintain the bridge. The more stringent maintenance included periodic rebuilding of the bridge every 20 years for three spans in the middle, and every 40 years would include two spans that connected the bridge to the banks. The Kintai Bridge withstood the test of time for 276 years. The Kintai Bridge was declared a National Treasure in 1922.

During World War II, maintenance of the bridge had come to an abrupt halt. In 1949, a large amount of gravel was taken from the bridge by the United States Marine Corps. The gravel was from the river in the area surrounding the bridge to expand the US Marine Corp Air Station’s runway.

This led to further weakening the support of the bridge and its eventual collapse in 1950 during typhoon “Kijia”. The Kintai Bridge was rebuilt in 1953 in almost the exact replica of the original.

Kintai Bridge’s three arches. | 

Only this time, metal nails from the tatara iron were utilized. This is the same type of metal used when forging the swords of samurai warriors, the katana.

The beauty and elegance of the architecture of Kintai Bridge’s form inspired its name from the gold brocade sash because it is similar to the traditional Nishiki obo for a kimono. Kintai Bridge is one of Japan’s most famous bridges. Many visitors cross it to get to the many historic samurai-family owned houses in Kikko Park, to take a cable car to visit Iwakuni Castle or to bask in the majestic views of the Seto Sea and Iwakuni city.