Kintai Bridge

Japan’s Three Unique Bridges

The Japanese archipelago is comprised of 6,852 islands with the five main islands from north to south being Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku, Kyushu and Okinawa. The first four islands are separated by narrow straights of the Seto Inland Sea and form a natural entity. About 73 percent of Japan’s area are mountainous, strewn plains, and basins surrounded by mountains.

Japan being a mountainous island nation has numerous rivers and rugged terrains. Bridges are deemed essential in getting around to all the places in the country. Japanese bridges have a long history, with some that are still traditional wooden bridges, to modern architectural wonders.

Check out Japan’s three unique bridges:

Saruhashi Bridge

Saruhashi Bridge.

Saruhashi Bridge

The Saruhashi Bridge is listed as a “Place of Scenic Beauty of Japan”. It is a historic arch bridge also referred to as “monkey bridge”, located in Ōtsuki, Yamanashi Prefecture. Saruhashi Bridge dates back to the middle of the 18th century when it was part of the Kōshū Kaidō, one of the five routes taken during the Edo period. The bridge is popular for its hanebashi design where it is supported by a series of cantilever beams set opposite of the cliff it faces. The elegant design of the Saruhashi Bridge along with the majestic scenery of the gorge has inspired many landscape paintings of the 19th century.

Kintai Bridge

Kintai Bridge.

Kintai Bridge

Iwakuni castle overlooks the Kintai Bridge, a historical wooden arch bridge built by the 3rd lord of Iwakuni, Kikka Hiroyoshi, in Yamaguchi Prefecture in 1673. It is a series of five wooden arches at the foot of Mt. Yokoyama and spans the Nishiki River. Kintai Bridge and Iwakuni castle are part of Kikkou Park, a popular destination for many visitors to the area especially during the Cherry blossom festival each spring and autumn. Kintai Bridge was declared a National Treasure in 1922.

Shinkyo Bridge

Shinkyo Bridge.

Shinkyo Bridge

The Shinkyo Bridge or “Snake Bridge of Sedge”, is part of the Futarasan jinja, a Shinto shrine in the city of Nikkō, Tochigi Prefecture. The bridge crosses the Daiya River and is a stunning vermilion lacquered historical structure known to be one of the three most beautiful bridges in Japan.

The legend of Shinkyo Bridge tells us that in the year 766, a monk named Shōdō along with his disciples, climbed Mt. Nantai to pray. They however could not cross the raging Daiya River. Shōdō then prayed and suddenly, a 10-foot tall god named Jinja-Daiou appeared with one red and one blue snake wrapped around his right arm. Jinja-Daiou then released the snakes which transformed themselves into the colored bridge enabling Shōdō and his followers to cross the river. Shinkyo Bridge was registered as a World Heritage in December 1999.

For more about Japanese bridges, see Remarkable Bridges of Japan and More Incredible Japanese Bridges.