The Seto Inland Sea breeze invigorates the atmosphere of Iwakuni, an ancient feudal domain in Edo period (1600-1868). As a matter of fact, it is not the seaside, quite industrialized, that attracts visitors, but the city’s historical heritage.
Like in a Miyazaki movie, Kintai-kyo Bridge displays its waves in the heart of Iwakuni’s historical center. The scenic five-arches bridge was first completed in 1673, when its wooden structure connected the shores of Nishiki river over stately stone pillars. The first construction, commissioned by lord Hiroyoshi Kikkawa, whose statue is now at the entrance of Kikko Park, was celebrated in a ceremony on November 8. Unfortunately, it was almost immediately destroyed by a tempest, and a new, sturdier bridge was rebuilt a year later, on 1674, November 30.
The wonderful new bridge lasted several hundred years, only to be destroyed again by a typhoon on 1950, September 14. It took three years to the inhabitants to restore Kintai-kyo Bridge. Since then, it has been regularly maintained; the last great works finished in 2004, and cost a quite expensive price, that was said to amount to 2 billion yen (~US$ 18,301,999.80). Skeptical visitors might be reluctant to pay a fare only to walk on the bridge. However, the sight and the unique atmosphere, as well as its original history make the bridge a must-see in Iwakuni, especially in spring, when the pink cherry trees are in bloom.
The five-story donjon stands in a forest in the heights of the city, at 200 meters above see level, at the top of Mount Shiroyama. The landscape can be admired from the ropeway giving access to the castle.
The castle was initially built in 1608 by the Kikkawa clan, but destroyed seven years later, due to a shogunal decree forbidding to built more than one castle by province. It was only in 1962 that the present castle was built in reinforced concrete, with a similar looking architecture. However, instead of its original location at the end of Kintai-kyo Bridge, it was placed a little bit higher than its original model, to offer a better view on the sea and make the construction look bigger. The original castle foundation stones are still preserved a couple dozen of meters behind the reconstruction.
A detailed exhibition about the castle’s history, with various archive documents, as well as genuine samurai’s armors and katana swords that will please amateurs, is held inside. As expected, the upper level offers a wonderful panorama of the city and the coastline.
Iwakuni Art Museum, however, is worth to see, as its collection is rich, well maintained and all about local history. Japanese people are fond of ice cream sellers, who essentially are the main interest in the area, and expected to bring a joyous atmosphere in a somehow mild setting.
How to get to Iwakuni
- ~15 minutes by Shinkansen to Shin-Iwakuni or ~1h by local train to Iwakuni (respectively ¥3,060¥ / ~US$ 28.00 and ¥770 / ~US$ 7.00 or free with the Japan Rail Pass)
- Then ~15 minutes by local bus bound for Kintai-kyo from Shin-Iwakuni ( ~¥350 / ~US$ 3.20) or ~20 minutes by local bus from Iwakuni Station ( ~¥300 / ~US$ 2.70, with a higher frequency)
Location unreachable with the JR Pass
Get there with a rental car
Kintai-kyo Bridge: when cashier booths are unattended, drop the access fee in the fare box
- Adults: ¥300 / ~US$ 2.70
- Elementary School Children: ¥150 / ~US$ 1.40
- Children (under 6 year-old): free
- Adults: ¥550 / ~US$ 5.00 roundtrip ticket
- Elementary School Children: ¥250 / ~US$ 2.30 roundtrip ticket
- Adults : ¥260 / ~US$ 2.40
- Elementary School Children: ¥120 / ~US$ 1.10
Combined ticket (including Kintai-kyo Bridge, the ropeway and the castle):
- Adults: ¥940 / ~US$ 8.60
- Elementary School Children: ¥450¥ / ~US$ 4.10
Get your Japanese Yens free of charge
- Kintai-kyo Bridge: always open, night illumination until 10 p.m.
- Ropeway: open every day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
- Castle: open every day from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (last admission 15 minutes before closing hour)
How long / when to visit
Allow half a day