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Saturday, May 19, 2007

Horai Bridge

蓬莱橋、静岡

Horai Bridge in Shimada near Shizuoka is the world's longest wooden bridge and has the Guinness Book of Records plaque to prove it.


Horai Bridge, Shimada

The bridge was first built in 1879 in the early Meiji Period to span the Oi River. The wooden supports were washed away in repeated floods and were replaced with concrete in 1965.

Guinness Book of Records plaque

The bridge is 897m (i.e. just over half a mile) in length. There is a 100 yen toll to walk the bridge. Be careful as the rail is low and strong winds can whip down the river valley. Horai Bridge has featured in a number of Japanese movies and is illuminated at night.

Horai Bridge, Shimada

Shimada stands on the old Tokaido highway between Kyoto and Tokyo, now National Highway Route 1. During the Edo-period, before the building of the Horai Bridge across the river, travelers would cross the river carried in a sedan chair (rendai) or for a cheaper price on the back of a waterman. The woodblock artist Hiroshige (1787-1858) depicts this scene in one of his famous works.
The river was left without a bridge on the orders of the Tokugawa shogunate as a defensive measure to slow down any enemy army advancing on Edo (Tokyo).
Each year in summer the Kawa-goshi (or Rendai-goshi) Matsuri re-enacts the crossing of the river in sedan chairs and on the backs of latter-day coolies.

Shimada has a number of other interesting festivals. The Obi Matsuri takes place only once every three years and includes parades of participants in Edo-era costume, mikoshi (portable shrines) and the display of georgeous wedding obi belts.
The next Obi Festival is October 12-14, this year.

The Shimada Mage Matsuri is held on the third Sunday in September and features a parade of the town's hairdressers and beauticians dressed in yukata robes modeling Edo-Period hair-dos.

Access

The nearest station is Shimada on the JR Tokaido Honsen Line. Coming by car the nearest Highway Exit is Yoshida Interchange on the Tomei (Tokyo-Nagoya) Expressway.


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