A few days ago, we drove to see the Kintai Bridge and surrounding park. Thousands of people visit the Kintai-kyo area each year to see the structure, billed as one of the three great bridges of Japan. The 5-arched wooden bridge crosses the Nishiki River and was originally constructed in 1673. It is an example of brilliant engineering that once separated the commoners from the samurai elite. Built and rebuilt numerous times due to flooding, the bridge was finally built with modern construction after a small tax was implemented to assist with care and maintenance. In 1950 typhoon Kijia took down the bridge, and repairs from the typhoon lasted until the reconstruction of 2004 when the arches were dismantled one-by-one to be transported to a workshop off-site. Using the existing pieces as a template, the bridge was constructed off-site to ensure everything fit properly, dismantled, and then transported to the bridge site and re-assembled.
We also toured the park built on the bridge site. I was particularly struck by a beautiful statue of Kojiro Sasaki, the rival of the famous double-sword samurai Musashi Miyamoto. According to the novel of Musashi Miyamoto written by Eiji Yoshikawa, Kojiro was born in Iwakuni and was a handsome samurai who used a very long sword. In a novel written by Genzo Murakami, Kojiro was born in Fukui but may have only been a character in folklore. Stories say that Kojiro would practice his long sword under the Kintai bridge and fatally lost a battle against Musashi in 1612. (But the Kintai Bridge wasn’t constructed until 1673! Hmmmmmm…) Regardless of the glitches in his history, the man obviously has great taste in literature.
These white strips of paper that are carefully tied to trees and bushes are actually fortunes. Popular during festivals and new year celebrations, but found all year round, omikujis will either provide ‘great good luck’ (daikichi) or ‘great bad luck’ (daikyo). They are tied to tree branches for good fortune to come true and for bad fortune to be averted. This tree was just inside the entrance of the Kikko Shrine.