Mouth-watering food, beautiful castles, cherry blossoms, anime, geishas, samurais, and the likes are the usual things that we think of when talking about Japan.
But for a country as extra as they are, even bridges have earned spots on lists of tourist attractions and cultural assets!
Japanese bridges are not as cold and gray as they usually seem. From awe-inspiring aesthetic views to engineering and architectural marvels or even with deep religious or philosophical significance, bridges in Japan have definitely made their mark!
Here are the 16 most famous bridges in Japan!
1. Rainbow Bridge
Location: Minato City, Tokyo
Spans: Tokyo Bay
Going for something Instagram-worthy? Then Tokyo’s iconic Rainbow Bridge would be a good spot for you!
This 798 meter-long suspension bridge connects central Tokyo to the man-made island Odaiba (the home of the famous Gundam statue!). It harmonizes with the breathtaking view of the Tokyo skyline during the day. Then at night, the bridge wows everyone with its gorgeous play of lights.
From its towers to the cables, the whole Rainbow Bridge illuminates with hundreds of lights. The pattern differs per season and for special occasions!
If you want to see why it’s named as such, make sure to visit during the Christmas and New Year period, to see the rainbow-themed light pattern!
Here’s one important thing to remember: vehicles and pedestrians are allowed on the bridge. However, biking is prohibited.
2. Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge
Location: Kobe and Iwaya (Awaji Island)
Spans: Akashi Strait
If you are looking for Japan’s famous bridge that is also a record-holder, then Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge is a must-visit!
Recognized by Guinness World Records as the longest cable suspension bridge, it has six roadway lanes and four emergency lanes. Its main span measures 1.24 miles and has a total suspended length of 2.43 miles.
Constructing this bridge cost about $4.3 billion and took almost ten years to build. It was opened to the public in 1998 with the assurance that it can withstand typhoons, earthquakes, and strong sea currents.
Want to make your visit more interesting? Time your visit by late afternoons or evenings to witness the Akasi-Kaikyo Bridge’s colorful light shows from sunset to midnight!
3. Eshima Ohashi Bridge
Location: Matsue, Shimane Prefecture and Sakaiminato, Tottori Prefecture
Spans: Nakaumi Lake
‘Terrifying’ and ‘not for the faint-hearted’ are just some of the descriptions given to one of the crazy bridges in Japan… if not the craziest!
The Eshima Ohashi Bridge’s steep upward slope earned it the nickname ‘the rollercoaster bridge’ as it seems like cars will climb and descend almost vertically.
But in reality, the insane climb or descent is just a matter of optical illusion. You will need to take the photos and videos from a certain distance and angle, which distorts the perspective, making the bridge look steeper than it really is.
The bridge’s highest point is at 44.7 meters and its incline measures 6.1% on the Shimane Prefecture side and 5.1% on the Tottori prefecture side.
So why was it built steep and tall? It was to allow ships to pass through!
4. Kintai Bridge
Location: Iwakuni, Yamaguchi Prefecture
Spans: Nishiki River
Interested to walk through a bridge that is more than 300 years old? Then you must not miss a visit to the Kintai Bridge.
This Japanese bridge has five arches and is supported by four pillars. The Kintai Bridge is for pedestrians, and visitors have to pay a fee to cross.
Before this 5-arched incarnation of the bridge, earlier bridges were constructed but were wrecked by storms and the river’s current. A feudal lord of Iwakuni then commissioned this bridge, which was opened in 1673.
The bridge stood for more than 200 years until parts were washed away by a violent typhoon in 1950. Reconstruction efforts were made and completed by 1953.
The Japanese government recognizes the Kintai Bridge as a Site of Scenic Beauty. It was also awarded two stars by the Michelin Green Guide to Japan.
5. Shinkyo Bridge
Location: Nikko, Tochigi Prefecture
Spans: Daiya River
A bridge from the gods?
Legend says that Shinkyo Bridge was formed after the god of the river helped a head priest cross the Daiya river by releasing two snakes that transformed into a bridge.
The Shinkyo Bridge stands at the entrance of the mountain where Nikko’s shrines and temples stand but is officially a part of the Futarasan Shrine.
This current design was constructed in 1636 but had to be renovated in the early 1900s after it was devastated by the flooding of the river.
Truly aesthetic, its red color (or vermillion to be more exact), stands out from the backdrop. It also amazingly blends with the red and orange leaves during autumn.
It is one of the Japanese bridges that is considered an important cultural property and is also a World Heritage site inscribed in 1999.
Originally, only imperial messengers and military leaders were allowed to use the bridge. Then in the 1970s, the bridge was opened to the general public. Visitors can walk along the bridge for a fee.
6. Saruhashi Bridge
Location: Otsuki, Yamanashi Prefecture
Spans: Katsura River
Here is another bridge that seems to have sprouted amid dense foliage and with its origins based on a legend!
A gardener named Shirako was said to have constructed the bridge after witnessing monkeys form a bridge using their bodies to cross the gorge in the year 610.
Many tales are told about the bridge’s beginnings. And the common theme? Monkeys!
This is why the Saruhashi Bridge is popularly known as the monkey bridge.
The Saruhashi Bridge is admired because of its hanebashi style. The bridge is supported by four layers of cantilever beams from both sides of the gorge instead of piers.
Location: Nagasaki Prefecture
Spans: Nakashima River
When we list down the most notable bridges of Japan, Meganebashi will surely be included!
Also known as the ‘Spectacles Bridge’, it resembles a pair of spectacles or eyeglasses when the two arches reflect on the river.
Constructed in 1634, it is recognized as the oldest stone arch bridge in the country and designated as an Important Cultural Property. Floodwaters damaged the bridge in 1982; however, it was rebuilt using the recovered stones.
If you are looking for a place to do some romantic nighttime strolling, walk along the stone walkway by the riverbank. Meganebashi and the other bridges will help set up the tone with their soft glowing lights, and you can even look for heart-shaped stones in the river walls!
8. Tsunoshima Ohashi Bridge
Location: Shimonoseki City, Yamaguchi Prefecture
Spans: Sea of Japan
Clear skies, nature views from the nearby island, and wide cobalt blue sea bisected by a long straight road; this is the breathtaking vista you can see while traversing the Tsunoshima Ohashi Bridge.
Considered the second-longest bridge in Japan, the 1,780 meter-long bridge connects the main island to the isolated Tsunoshima island. The nearby island has a white-sand resort, plus one of Japan’s oldest lighthouses.
Get the best viewpoints and photo spots of the gorgeous panorama from observatories on both sides of the bridge.
It has become one of ‘Japan’s top-class scenic points,’ making it a popular location for TV shows, commercials, and movies.
Vehicles, bicycles, and pedestrians are all allowed to cross the bridge. And the best part: crossing the Tsunoshima Ohashi Bridge is toll-free!
9. Taushubetsu River Bridge
Location: Kamishihoro, Hokkaido
Spans: Lake Nukabira
Meet the bridge that shows up and hides depending on the season, the Taushubetsu River Bridge!
Known as the phantom bridge, it appears on the lake’s surface from January to May when the dam’s water level is low.
It then starts to get submerged in June and can be found at the bottom of the lake around August to October.
The concrete bridge has 11 arches and is 130 meters long. It used to be a part of the former Japan National Railway Shihoro line that was rerouted after the Nukabira Dam was constructed.
This is a Hokkaido Heritage Site. However, the bridge is deteriorating and may fully disappear in the near future due to constantly being frozen and submerged in water over the years.
10. Nijubashi Bridge
Location: Imperial Palace, Tokyo
Spans: Imperial Palace Moat
The case of the mistaken bridge?
Often featured in the photos of the Tokyo Imperial Palace, the Nijubashi is mistaken for the stone bridge with two arches.
In reality, there are two bridges, and the Nijubashi Bridge is the iron bridge behind the stone bridge.
Constructed during the Edo Period, it used to be made of wood and supported by wooden beams – hence, why it was named Nijubashi, or the double bridge.
It became an iron bridge in 1888 and was reconstructed in 1964.
The bridge is used for special occasions such as official state visits and the welcoming of foreign guests.
It is open to the public only for two days a year: the Emperor’s birthday on December 23rd and during the Visit of the General Public to the Palace for the New Year Greeting every 2nd of January.
11. Nagare Bridge (Kozuya Bridge)
Location: Yawata City and Kumiyama Town, Kyoto Prefecture
Spans: Kizu River
This 356.6 meter-long wooden bridge may not look much, but Nagare Bridge’s amazing design can be seen during flooding.
The decks are not fully attached to the support beams and are only connected to the bridge by cables. When the water rises, pieces of the deck will rise and float. Once the water subsides, these pieces are easily returned to place.
In 2014, a study was done if the bridge should be dismantled since repairs are becoming expensive and there is a modern road bridge constructed nearby.
The residents fought to maintain the Nagare Bridge since it was also a major tourist attraction in the area.
There are no electric poles in the area, and there is a nearby tea plantation, which is why the bridge is used as a location for period films and shows.
12. Horai Bridge
Location: Shimada City, Shizuoka Prefecture
Spans: Oi River
Horai Bridge is one of Shizuoka Prefecture’s most popular tourist spots, and you can even see Mt. Fuji from the bridge if the skies are clear!
This footbridge was completed way back in 1879, for farmers to conveniently transport their produce over the Oi River, from the Makinohara area to Shimada. It stood over the Oi River through the years, until the wooden supports were destroyed by floods. These were replaced by concrete in 1965.
In 1997, the Horai Bridge was awarded by Guinness World Records as the longest wooden footbridge in the world with its length of 897.422 meters, or 2,944 feet.
Visitors can walk or bike across the bridge after paying a ¥100 toll. Meanwhile, vehicles are prohibited.
Fun fact! The Horai Bridge was said to be named after a legendary wizard known for performing miracles to make everyone happy.
Location: Miyoshi City, Tokushima Prefecture
Spans: Iya River
Suspension bridges made of mountain vines, known as Kazurabashi, have become popular Iya Valley sightseeing spots! These bridges are handwoven and anchored to giant cedar trees at both ends.
People can cross the bridges only in one direction and for a fee. The bridges are reinforced with concealed hidden steel cables and are rebuilt every three years for safety.
Originally, 13 suspension bridges were built in the valley, but only 3 remain standing.
Iya Kazurabashi is the most accessible and the largest bridge at 2 meters wide and 45 meters long. Planning to cross this bridge? Make sure you’ve got the stomach for heights as it is suspended 14 meters above the river.
Delve deeper into the valley to see the double vine bridges or the Oku-Iya Niju Kazurabashi. The larger bridge, which is closer to the nearby waterfalls, is called the Husband Bridge. Meanwhile, the lower bridge, built about 100 meters upstream, is called the Wife Bridge.
Want something even more adventurous? Try the Wild Monkey Bridge, located next to the Wife Bridge. This wooden cart can carry 3 people, who will pull themselves across the river through its wires.
Location: Chuo, Tokyo
Spans: Nihonbashi River
This bridge is where the Japanese journey starts, literally.
Nihonbashi directly translates to ‘Japan bridge’, and is the kilometer zero marker for the major highways in Tokyo. This is the base point where any location’s distance from Tokyo is measured. This district is also one of Tokyo’s representations of prosperity and history.
Its first incarnation as an arched wooden bridge was constructed way back in 1603, during the Edo Period. It has been reconstructed several times since then, including its transformation into a dual-arched stone bridge during the Meiji Era.
The Nihonbashi has become an iconic local symbol and is one of Japan’s Important Cultural Properties. However, the picturesque view from the bridge was obstructed when the Shuto Expressway was built above the bridge.
This is why a movement to relocate the elevated highway underground was started a few years back, with the goal to bring the sky back to Nihonbashi!
15. Shimanami Kaido Bridges
Location: Hiroshima and Ehime Prefectures
Spans: Seto Inland Sea
A haven for cyclists, with a heavenly view!
Shimanami Kaido is a 60-kilometer-long highway that connects the islands of Honshu and Shikoku.
It passes through six smaller islands, linked together by 6 bridges: Innoshima Bridge, Ikuchi Bridge, Tatara Bridge, Ohmishima Bridge, Hakata-Ohshima Bridge, and the Kurushima-Kaikyo Bridge.
Vehicles are allowed to pass this road after paying a toll fee. But this route is more popular with its 70-kilometer-long bicycle route! Quite a long journey on two wheels, but it is made easier by establishments, rest areas, and maintenance stops that are available for cyclists.
Leisurely ride your bicycle while enjoying the scenic view, or plan stopovers to explore the islands along the way!
16. Mishima Skywalk
Location: Mishima City, Shizuoka Prefecture
Enjoy the majestic view of Japan’s highest mountain, Mt. Fuji, and its deepest bay, Suruga Bay, while crossing the country’s longest pedestrian suspension bridge!
You can experience all these top-tier moments 70 meters above ground at the Mishima Skywalk.
Crossing the 400-meter bridge is not just the highlight of each visit; a lot of activities are available for the whole family in the north and south areas.
There is an Observation Deck, a Forest Adventure Park and Adventure Course, a Hydrangea Trail and a long zip line, right below the bridge! A walking trail through the forest is also offered, as well as segway tours! Planning to bring your pet along? Small and medium-sized dogs are allowed to frolic leash-free on the grass lawn!
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