The Kintai Bridge, Iwakuni’s most prominent and symbolic structure, begins its tale over 410 years ago.
MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, Japan -- The Mori Clan’s Kikkawa family founded Iwakuni and was responsible for constructing the Kintai Bridge.
Hiroie Kikkawa, Iwakuni’s first lord, was given the land of Iwakuni to rule after the Battle of Sekigahara in the year 1600.
In 1603, Hiroie built Iwakuni Castle upon Mt. Yokoyama in an attempt to create an easily defendable operating base.
The castle took approximately five years to build, yet only stood for seven.
Hiroie was forced to dismantle the castle after the Tokugawa Shogunate passed a law saying only one castle per province was allowed.
The castle standing today is a reproduction, which was built in 1962.
Hiroie next constructed housing at the foot of Mount Yokoyama and provided it to his high ranking officials and samurai.
As the town flourished, its borders expanded past the Nishiki River.
Hiroie decided to build a bridge to connect both sides of the river, easing the trip for mid-to-low ranking officials.
The sandy riverbed of the Nishiki River destroyed every bridge Hiroie built.
A lasting bridge wasn’t built until Hiroyoshi Kikkawa, the third lord of Iwakuni, came into power.
One legend says the Kintai Bridge’s design came to Hiroyoshi as he cooked rice cakes and noticed how the cakes arched up while baking.
While contemplating the rice cakes, Hiroyoshi became ill and bedridden. A Buddhist monk named Dokuryu treated Hiroyoshi’s illness.
One day, while Dokuryu was treating Hiroyoshi, he showed him a book from Xihu, his hometown in Hangzhou, China.
Flipping through the pages, Hiroyoshi came across an illustration of the area called Sokoutei, which translates to brocade sash.
The illustration showed a chain of islands connected by stone arch bridges, which all together resembled a brocade sash.
Hiroyashi pounded his table with excitement as he formulated an idea for the bridge he wished to build. Using five small stone islands built in the middle of the Nishiki River and connected with five wooden arched bridges, Hiroyashi built what would be known as the Kintai Bridge.
The bridge was finished Oct. 1, 1673 and has since shown to be of great importance to Iwakuni’s local community.
When Typhoon Kijia hit Iwakuni Sept. 14, 1950, the bridge’s importance to the community was proven.
Locals chanted, “Save the bridge,” as they fought to save their bridge against the elements. The bridge was destroyed despite their valiant efforts.
Reconstruction of the bridge began in 1951 and was finished in 1953.
Through the years, the Kintai bridge has remained the iconic symbol of Iwakuni and a bastion of pride for the local community.
Editor’s note: References used for this article include the documentary The History of The Iwakuni Domain and Kintai Bridge.