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Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan


Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan

MCAS Iwakuni is a mission-ready air station, capable of providing continuous base-operating support for tenant organizations and follow-on U.S. and allied forces during training, combat or contingency (HA/DR) operations throughout the Indo-Asia Pacific region.
Kintai Bridge: Iwakuni’s enduring, iconic symbol

By Lance Cpl. Claudio A. Martinez | | March 18, 2010

Iwakuni’s story starts over 410 years ago and centers around its most unique and iconic symbol, the Kintai Bridge.

The Kikkawa family of the Mori Clan was responsible for founding Iwakuni and building the Kintai Bridge.

After the Battle of Sekigahara in the year 1600 which placed the Tokugawa Shogunate in power, Hiroie Kikkawa, the first lord of Iwakuni, was given the lands of Iwakuni to rule over.

Hiroie, looking for a defensive position to operate from, built Iwakuni Castle atop Mount Yokoyama in 1603.

Iwakuni Castle was one of the first of its kind as most castles were built atop small hills.

Although it took approximately five years to build, the castle stood for only seven years.

Hiroie was forced to dismantle the castle after the Tokugawa Shogunate passed a law saying only one castle per province was allowed.

Today’s Iwakuni Castle tower is a reproduction built in 1962.

Hiroie’s next step was to construct a government domain at the foot of Mount Yokoyama which housed his high officials and samurai.

Room was limited at the foot of Mount Yokoyama, and as the town grew and prospered, its boarders expanded past the Nishiki River.

The mid- to lowerranking officials who lived across the river were forced to board ferries to cross the river, which became extremely dangerous at high tide.

Hiroie decided to build a bridge to connect both sides of the river to ease the trip for his officials.

Every bridge he built over the river was washed away because of the Nishiki River’s sandy riverbed.

It wasn’t until Hiroyoshi Kikkawa, the third lord of Iwakuni, came into power that a proper bridge was built.

One legend says Hiroyoshi designed the Kintai Bridge while cooking rice cakes. He noticed how the cakes warped upwards as they baked.

In truth, Hiroyoshi wrestled with the idea for a strong bridge day and night.

He knew the answer laid in building an arched bridge which could span across the river, but he also knew the river was too wide.

While trying to come up with a solution, Hiroyoshi fell ill and was forced to bed to rest. A visiting Buddhist monk named Dokuryu treated Hiroyoshi’s illness.

One day while Dokuryu was treating Hiroyoshi, he showed him a book from his hometown Xihu in Hangzhou, China.

As Hiroyoshi flipped through the pages, he came across an illustration of an area called Sokoutei, which translated to Kintai or brocade sash.

The illustration showed a series of small islands interconnected by stone arch bridges, which all together resembled a brocade sash.

Excited by what he saw, Hiroyashi pounded the table with excitement as he came up with an idea for the bridge he was trying to build.

Hiroyashi had a series of five small stone islands built in the middle of Nishiki River and connected them with five wooden arched bridges, which would later be known as the Kintai Bridge.

The bridge was completed on the evening of Oct. 1, 1673, and actual construction of the bridge took approximately three and a half months.

Although the bridge was washed away a few times, its design, which cannot be found anywhere else in the world, proved to be more resilient than any other.

The Kintai Bridge has proved to be of great importance to the local community throughout Iwakuni’s history.

Its importance to the community was never more apparent than in Sept. 14, 1950 when Kijia Typhoon struck Iwakuni, endangering the bridge 277 years after its construction.

Local townspeople braved the storm chanting, “save the bridge,” as they struggled to save their bridge against the rising currents. Despite their efforts, the bridge was washed away at 9:40 a.m. that day.

It wasn’t until a regional movement began to demand the bridge be reconstructed that construction began in 1951 and was finished in 1953.

Since then, as before, the bridge has remained the iconic symbol of Iwakuni and a source 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, and the Web site http://iwakuni.albadesign.co.jp/en/kintai.html.