KINTAIKYO – Building a Japanese Bridge

14 September until 16 November 2012

Admission is free, but photo ID is necessary to gain entry to the Embassy.

Embassy of Japan
101-104 Piccadilly, London W1J 7JT

Open weekdays 09:30 - 17:30, closed weekends
[t] 020 7465 6500 [e] info@ld.mofa.go.jp


This exhibition looks at the iconic Kintaikyo, or ‘Brocade-Sash Bridge’, first built in 1673 CE over the Nishiki River in Iwakuni, Yamaguchi Prefecture. A masterful example of engineering in wood, the beauty of its form is celebrated throughout Japan. It is periodically rebuilt to ensure its survival. In this way the important technological knowledge is passed down through the generations. The present bridge is the fourth.

Initially built to connect the two administrate centres of the city, its five-arch construction was employed to help combat the potentially destructive forces of the Nishiki River. The bridge’s fame grew at the beginning of the 19th century with the growing popularity of domestic tourism in Japan and it was the subject of woodblock prints by both Hokusai and Hiroshige.

This year students from Kingston University, supported by tutors Tim Gough and Takeshi Hayatsu, using sustainably sourced timber from Scotland, have recreated an elegant and robust one-third scale interpretation of one of the five arches of the bridge. The idea behind the building of this arch was to create a structure efficiently and economically, using multiple small pieces of timber. It has already been tried and tested over the Hogsmill River in Kingston and it can be found in the Embassy of Japan in London.

Suo Iwakuni Kintai-bashi by Utagawa Hiroshige; c 1853-56 CE
© The Trustees of the British Museum

One of the arches of Kintaikyo under construction and an interpretation by students from Kingston Univeristy.
Photograph credits: archive photograph courtesy of Kintaikyo World Heritage Promotion Office, Colour image from Kingston University by Chris Thomas

The exhibition is a part of International Architecture and Design Showcase 2012 in collaboration with the British Council and the London Design Festival and also a part of Asian Art in London.

This exhibition and the construction of the bridge has been made possible with the support of Austin Winkley & Associates, architects; Peter Christian; James Jones & Sons Ltd.; Japan National Tourist Organization; Kingston University; Kintaikyo World Heritage Promotion Office, City of Iwakuni; Price & Myers, structural engineers; Sumi Michiko, Sumi Shuzo & Sumi Yoshihiko, United Business Media, Ecobuild.