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Yamaguchi Prefecture, Japan


Iwakuni is a small city of 150,000 people in southeastern Yamaguchi Prefecture, 40km down the coast of Hiroshima Bay from Hiroshima and it is best known for its structurally unique Kintai-kyo Bridge. Beautiful around the year, the bridge is particularly attractive during the cherry blossom season, which usually takes place in early April.

During the Edo Period, Iwakuni used to be one of the feudal domains of Japan. Its former mountain-top castle was reconstructed in the 1960s and counts to the city's other tourist attractions. Iwakuni is easily visited as a side trip from Hiroshima.

Iwakuni has a double face. It is an old castle town, with its samurai quarters and one of Japan's most famous traditional bridge. And on the other side, it is also one of the two US Marines bases on the Japanese mainland.

The Kintai-kyo or "Brocade Sash Bridge", has been Iwakuni's most distinguished landmark and a subject of admiration for hundreds of years. The 210m long bridge spans the Nishiki river and was originally built in 1673 under daimyo Kikkawa Hiroyoshi, without using a single nail. It was swept away by floods caused by Typhoon Kezia in 1950, and was almost identically reconstructed in 1953.

The bridge is composed by five sequential wooden arch bridges on four stone built piers as well as two of wooden piers on the dry riverbed where the bridge begins and ends. Its five steep arches are typical for Edo era bridges. In old times, only samurai were allowed to use the bridge, leaving other people to cross the river by boat.

Declared a National Treasure in 1922, Kikkou Park, which includes the bridge and castle, is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Japan, especially for the Cherry Blossom festival in the spring and the autumn color change of the Japanese Maples.

How to get there: Iwakuni is about 35-40 minutes away from Hiroshima on the JR Sanyo main line. Shinkansen trains use the Shin-Iwakuni Station, while other trains stop at Iwakuni Station. Each station is about 5km from the Kintai-kyo Bridge in opposite directions. Buses travel from both Iwakuni Station and Shin-Iwakuni Station to Kintai-kyo bus stop. The trip takes 20 minutes and costs 240 yen from Iwakuni Station (buses every 5-15 minutes), or 15 minutes and 280 yen from Shin-Iwakuni Station (buses every 30 minutes).