Kintai Bridge is located in the city of Iwakuni about 30 miles south of Hiroshima and was built in 1673, a full 65 years after the town’s magnificent Shogun castle on the hill above. The bridge in Iwakuni Japan serves today as a bridge to the castle’s main gate. The castle was torn down only seven years later because of an ordinance stating the country have only one castle. Today, there is a beautiful reconstruction of the castle (built in the 1960s), which is one of the popular attractions during the Kintai Bridge Festival and other similar special events and festivals.
The present castle is perched high on a hill, commanding magnificent panoramic views down onto graceful Kintai Bridge with lovely green mountains and the Seto Inland Sea dotted with picturesque islands in the background. Inside the castle is an excellent collection of Shogunate era artifacts and art. The bridge itself is a simple and elegant stone structure; along with the Meganebashi Bridge in Nagasaki and the Nihonbashi Bridge in Tokyo, it is one of the oldest and considered one of the most beautiful bridges in the country.
The Kintai Bridge Festival is held on the fourth Sunday of April each year. This is when cherry blossoms across the nation burst into magnificent color, and the 3,000 or so trees around the bridge in Iwakuni Japan are no exception. Scores of people dress in traditional samurai costumes and parade across the bridge, and thousands come out to admire the cherry blossoms and picnic along the riverside. In addition to the Kintai Bridge Festival that dates to the time when only samurai were allowed to cross the bridge, you can enjoy the ancient practice of cormorant fishing under the bridge at night during the summer months. This traditional activity involving a unique bond between fisherman and bird has been going on in Japan and China for centuries. However, it is believed that it was practiced in Peru as long ago as the fifth century, making it older than the Asia tradition. During the cormorant nights, the fishermen dress in ancient traditional costume and the shore is alight with bonfires, making it a wonderful spectacle. Many also come to visit during the third weekend in October for the Iwakuni Festival, celebrating the autumn changing of the exquisite Japanese maple trees.
Other things to do and attractions to see in the town around the bridge in Iwakuni Japan include visiting lovely Kikkou Park, which surrounds the bridge; the Nagaya Gate of the Kagawa family residence, a typical samurai house, and the impeccably preserved Mekata family residence, dating to the Edo period. The Nishimura Museum contains an important collection of samurai armor, weapons, and artifacts that chronicle one of the most important periods of Japan history.
Kikkou Park and its Kintai Bridge and Iwakumi Castle were designated as National Treasures in 1922. You cannot fly into the city for your visit, as the airport is restricted for military use only, but it is a good day trip from any of the Hiroshima hotels.