Visiting Famous Bridges in summer – Part 1

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Visiting Famous Bridges in summer – Part 1

The bridge spans 36.6m and it rotates 90 degrees in 70 seconds, in order to let ships and boats go along a canal. Before the bridge rotates, a whistle can be heard and the portion of the bridge which rotates will be off limits. Once the ship or boat has passed, the bridge rotates back to its original position.

There is a small house beyond the river which houses the control room of the bridge. In 1923, this bridge was wooden and it was manually operated until 1960, when it became electrical. These days, the control room maintains radio contact with ships and staff would push a button to rotate the bridge. Each day, the bridge rotates up to 40 times, depending on how many boats need to go through the canal. Before the bridge was built, people used to cross the river by boat. So this bridge not only helps ships to pass through the canal but also helps people to cross to Amano Hashidate easily.

To see the bridge from another angle, go to a restaurant beside the bridge. It is located on the second floor and commands a beautiful view of the surroundings. Popular dishes on the menu include Asari clam rice bowl with eggs and seafood rice bowl.

After lunch, return to Kyoto and stay overnight at Inaka-Tei. It is located along a street called Ishibei Koji in Gion district. This hotel is housed in a building which is almost 200 years old. Do note that only supper is served at this townhouse-style inn. So later, head out to an Italian restaurant beside Kamo River for dinner. The chef has been cooking Italian cuisine for 13 years and personally buys fresh vegetables from contracted farmers every morning. He whips up dishes such as ripe tomatoes seasoned with salt and olive oil and topped with warm mozzarella cheese, olive oil and mint leaves; mixed vegetables served with a warm sauce made of anchovies, garlic and olive oil; and pasta with raw sea urchin and fried seasonal eggplant.

The following day, make your way to Tofukuji Temple. It was constructed in 1236 is a well-known spot for viewing maple leaves. Interestingly, a famous bridge is located inside the temple. Tsuten Bridge, situated at the end of a long corridor from the main hall, is 27m long. It was first built in 1380 but was destroyed by a typhoon in 1959. It was subsequently reconstructed. There is a deep valley and river below the bridge. There is also another Buddhism hall across the valley. In the past, priests had to go down and cross the river to reach the hall, where they would go for prayers twice a month. So this bridge was constructed for their benefit and convenience.

From Tsuten Bridge, you see Gaun Bridge - a bridge over the lower stream of the valley - and the Engetsu Bridge over the upper stream. Together, these three bridges are called the Great Three Bridges of Tofukuji Temple. Besides the bridges, the temple is also famous for its beautiful Hojo Hasso Garden.

After this, head to Nara to visit yet another famous bridge. Travel by Kintetsu Super Express to Yamato Yagi, from where you have to transfer to a bus heading to Shingu in Wakayama prefecture. The journey from Yamato Yagi takes three hours. Alight at a bus stop near the Tanize Suspension Bridge, located at Totsugawa Village in Nara. The bridge is nearly 298m long and 54m high from the Kumano River below. It is one of the longest suspension bridges in Japan. In the past, children had to cross log bridges to go to their school beyond the river. However, these bridges would get washed away easily when it rained heavily. Without the log bridges, there was no other way for the residents to cross the river. So this bridge was built in 1954 and in 1986, it became an official road for the village. The bridge was built at a cost of 8 million yet – 6 million yen was paid by 30 families whereas 2 million was paid by Totsugawa Village. The village is in charge of the bridge’s maintenance.

The suspension bridge is held together by thin steel wires so you’ll have to be very careful when crossing it. After successfully crossing the bridge, take a break at the Suspension Bridge Tea House, where you will receive a certificate which states you have successfully crossed the Tanize Suspension Bridge.

Our next trip takes us to the Kanto area, where we will visit more well-known bridges. Travel by train from Tokyo to Nishi Nasuno Station, a journey which takes slightly over an hour. We first check out a suspension bridge over Shiobara Valley. It is a 25-minute bus ride from the station. The huge pedestrian bridge, constructed in 1999, is located in the north of Tochigi prefecture. Built in the middle of nature, the Momiji Dani Great Suspension Bridge has been visited by over 500,000 tourists. It costs 300 yen to cross the 320m-long bridge, which is suspended with very thick and strong wires. Momiji Dani means “valley of the maple”, so in autumn, one can enjoy the stunning view of maple leaves from the bridge.

After this, head by train to Nikko Station. A popular sightseeing spot in this area is Kegon Falls, one of the best three waterfalls in Japan. The waterfall is linked to Daiya River and the Futarasan Shinkyo Bridge stretches over the river. The bridge is walking distance from Nikko Station. Futarasan Shinkyo has been designated as an important cultural property and is also a world heritage site. Painted with red lacquer, this sacred bridge was constructed at the end of the Nara period. It is owned and maintained by the Futarasan Shrine and was renovated into its current shape in the Edo period. During the Edo period, when Nikko Toshogu was built, this bridge was regarded as a front entrance to Nikko. At that time, only the Shogun was allowed to cross the bridge to visit Toshogu. Now, it is open to everyone but one has to pay to cross the bridge. Before the bridge, there is a red shrine gate, where visitors would normally bow once. The shrine is dedicated to Hashihime Shin, a god who protects the bridge. After praying to Hashihime, you can cross the bridge, which is beautifully lit up at night.

Spend the night at Nikko. You may wish to stay at Koyoen, which is directly managed by Nikko Toshogu Shrine. Its premises spans over 13,000sqm. You will notice Japanese cedar wood being used all around the hotel. After relaxing in the comfortable guest room, head to the hotel’s alkaline hot spring and soak in the bathtub made of 350-year-old Japanese cedar.

Tips:

1) Don’t be surprised if you are charged a fee to cross certain famous bridges.

2) When visiting bridges, talk to the locals to find out the bridges’ history and special features

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