Did you know that there is a bridge that is known as the symbol of Niigata City (新潟市)? The bridge is called Bandai Bridge (萬代橋) and it is the perfect place to picnic, see blooming tulips and even cherry blossoms! Let’s learn more about this historic and beautiful site!
Niigata City is the largest and most populous city in Niigata Prefecture. It has a long history of being a port town, and after the Meiji Restoration (明治維新), it became a free port. In Japan, the longest and largest river is called the Shinano River (信濃川), which flows from Nagano Prefecture (長野県) to Niigata Prefecture. Crossing over this river is the iconic Bandai Bridge which is popular among the locals and also visitors.
The bridge is so important that on the 75th anniversary of the 3rd incarnation of the bridge in 2004, the government of Japan recognized it as an Important Cultural Property of the country. In the same year, Bandai Bridge was reconstructed to make it look like its original form. Aside from being an essential representation of the city, it is also among the most beautiful spots in the area, particularly at night when the bridge lights up. When the annual Niigata Festival rolls around, one of the traditions is to have a folk-dance procession across the bridge. This is a tradition which started in August 1989.
Bandai Bridge was originally built in 1886. With a length of 782 meters, it was the longest bridge in Japan at that time. The bridge was constructed to encourage trade as it was inconvenient to travel by boat to cross the river. Unfortunately, as it was made of wood, the bridge was not able to withstand a large fire that caused the destruction of most parts of the bridge. In 1909, the bridge got its second incarnation using planks.
The bridge got its third incarnation in 1929 but it is shorter compared to the previous two incarnations. This is because the river’s width had become narrower as a result of water diversion projects, which drastically decreased the water level from 770 meters to 270 meters. However, the bridge was constructed to be wider which allows vehicles to cross the bridge with ease.
At present, the bridge has a length of 306.9 meters, and a width of 21.9 meters. There are six arches in the bridge that gives it a symmetrical, graceful look. The bridge is made from reinforced concrete with granite siding that proves to be really sturdy as it was able to withstand the 1964 Niigata earthquake that had a magnitude of 7.5 or 7.6. Although the bridge remains intact, the base had sunk about 1.2 meters due to the earthquake.
Along the riverbank, visitors can take a stroll on the walking trail which is graced with cherry blossoms and tulips in the spring. The scenery is no doubt splendid, and if you are hungry, you can eat at one of the cafes nearby. You should definitely visit this bridge if you happen to go to Niigata City!
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