Japan is full of interesting architecture but some of the most creative designs can be seen in its bridges. Here are just a few of the more interesting structures I have stumbled across in recent months:
1. Kazurabashi (Iya Valley, Tokushima)
Not all bridges in Japan are made of wood or steel. The swaying conduits of the remote Iya Valley in central Shikoku were once completely formed from vines, allegedly by the fugitive Heike clan. The warrior of this once-powerful family wanted a bridge that could be crossed and then quickly dismantled by a slash of the knife should they find themselves chased by enemies. Today, the bridges are reinforced with steel cables, but crossing them is still an adrenaline rush.
2. Shimanami Kaido bridges (Ehime/Hiroshima prefectures)
Japan has spent a lot of time, effort and money in the past few decades to connect the oft-ignored island of Shikoku to the large island of Honshu. This series of bridges, which connect the top of Ehime Prefecture in Shikoku with Onomichi in Hiroshima Prefecture can actually be walked or biked by more intrepid travelers. Stop off on any of the islands along the way to learn more about things like the harvest and production of sea salt and this region’s rebellious pirate history.
3. Kintaikyo (Iwakuni)
On her recent visit to Iwakuni this past spring, my daughter likened this bridge to a camel. And with its five humps spanning the Nishiki River on the edge of Iwakuni city, it’s an observation that’s not too far off. You have to pay to actually cross this bridge, but it allows you to get a close up look at the unique wooden structure, a 70-year-old reconstruction of the one that first stood here in 1673. You can also view the bridge for free from the stony riverbank.
4. Meganebashi (Nagasaki)
Megane is the Japanese word for spectacles and that is exactly what this bridge in urban Nagasaki looks like, if you catch it right. When the double-arched bridge is reflected in the river it crosses over, the effect is like looking like a pair of glasses. Several events for the winter Nagasaki lantern festival take place around the bridge. In the spring, this is one of the top spots to catch the city’s famed hydrangea in bloom.
5. Rainbow Bridge (Tokyo)
The Rainbow Bridge spans part of Tokyo Bay, linking the eastern side of the city with the Vegas-like playground of Odaiba. During the day, the bridge looks like most other spans in the city. But at night, when the sun goes down, it’s clear to see how the structure got its colorful moniker. The best views, in my opinion, are from the waterfront promenade in front of the Decks building in Odaiba.