The five arches of Kintaikyo across the Nishiki River.
Kintaikyo in Iwakuni, a lovely wooden bridge with not one, not two, but five elegant arches that straddle the Nishiki River, is said to be one of Japan's most beautiful bridges. Built out of timber, the Kintai Bridge was first constructed in 1673 by Kikkawa Hiroie, the first feudal lord of Iwakuni. The unusual number of arches is a design meant to make the bridge more durable. Despite this, the bridge still had to be rebuilt several times due to flood and erosion damage — the current version is the fourth iteration and completed in 1989.
Walking across Kintaikyo
To ensure the bridge lasts for generations to come, local artisans and carpenters have been trained in the traditional methods of bridge-building, and a special forest grows wood solely for the maintenance and future building requirements of the Kintaikyo. A small fee is charged to visitors crossing the bridge, and all the proceeds go towards its maintenance.
Kintaikyo is particularly picturesque during spring. It's also popular as a hanami (a Japanese tradition of watching and appreciating the beauty of blooms) spot as cherry blossom trees line the nearby riverbank during springtime. On summer nights — from June to early September — look out for Ukai or Cormorant fishing, a traditional method where fishermen use trained cormorant birds to catch Ayu, a small trout that can be found in the Nishiki River.