Meganebashi (Spectacles) Bridge

Japan’s oldest arch bridge and one of the nation’s top 3 bridges
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This bridge was built by monks and shopkeepers during the era when Christianity was banned. The stone bridges built over the Nakashima River including the Meganebashi Bridge retains a glimmer of the past.
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Uonomachi, Nagasaki-shi, Nagasaki

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Japan’s oldest arch bridge

Meganebashi was built in 1634 by the Japanese monk Mokusu of Kofuku-ji Temple. It was established as Japan’s very first stone arch bridge with a length of 22m, a width of 3.65m and a height of 5.46m down to the water surface, and it became a national standard in terms of stone bridge technique. The bridge and its reflection on the river created an image of two circles so that it resembled a pair of glasses thus giving rise to the name of Meganebashi (Spectacles Bridge). It is famous for being one of the Three Famous Bridges of Japan alongside Nihonbashi and Kintai Bridges, and it has been nationally designated as an Important Cultural Property. In 1647, it was swept away due to a large flood but was rebuilt the following year by Koumu Hirado. Also in 1982, a deluge in Nagasaki partially destroyed the bridge but again it was restored to its current form. Even now, it is used as a footbridge for daily travel.

The network of stone bridges over the Nakashima

Since the construction of Meganebashi Bridge, a group of 18 stone bridges was built in surplus throughout the short 5km distance of Nakashima River, an example that wasn’t see anywhere else in the country. At the time, Christianity had been banned in Japan so that a plethora of Buddhist temples such as Kofuku-ji were built with the introduction of Chinese culture into the country; these bridges were constructed with the personal fortunes of various people including monks and merchants, so that there was a strong feeling of Nagasaki being not only the lone port open to foreign trade during Japan’s age of isolationism but also a city under shogunate control. Currently, along with Meganebashi Bridge, Amidabashi, Koraibashi, Momotanibashi and Fukurobashi Bridges are city-designated cultural properties. In recent years, there have been efforts at river improvement to stave off any flood damage, so that along the left bank by Meganebashi and Uoichibashi Bridges, 3 heart-shaped stones have been incorporated to attract people as a power spot to pray for love. Around Meganebashi, there are many venerable shops selling the Nagasaki specialty of castella cake. So, during that stroll, you may want to drop by for a break.

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