Nagasaki’s Symbolic Megane-bashi Bridge: Japan’s Oldest Arched Bridge Looks Like Glasses
Megane-bashi Bridge is a tourist spot in Nagasaki, which is easily accessible in a 5 minute walk from Tsukimachi tram station. It was constructed in 1634 by Mokusu Nyojo, the Chinese priest of Kofukuji Temple, which is located in Teramachi, Nagasaki City. The bridge was once partly destructed in a flood in 1982 but was repaired the next year. It is now designated as an important cultural asset of Japan.
The bridge is 22 meters in length, 3.65 meters in width and 5.46 meters in height above the water surface and known as Japan’s first arched bridge. Because of the wide recognition, it is often seen as the symbol of Nagasaki. It was named “Megane-bashi (Eyeglasses Bridge)” because the two semi-circular arches reflected on the water surface look like a pair of glasses, which is called “megane” in Japanese.
Here we would like to take this opportunity to introduce to you the must-visit tourist spots around the bridge.
Find the Heart-Shaped Stones!
When you visit the bridge, make sure to look for heart-shaped stones. In the embankment wall between Megane-bashi Bridge and another bridge called Uoichi-bashi, you can find three heart-shaped stones embedded. These stones are said to be embedded at the time of a flood-control construction. Heart-shaped stones can also be found at Glover Garden, another tourist spot in Nagasaki that is designated as a World Heritage, so it might be interesting to plan a trip to visit both Megane-Bashi bridge and Glover Garden to find all the heart stones.
Chirin Chirin Ice Cream, Nagasaki’s Specialty Sweets
Photo by flickr
In Nagasaki, you can find “Chirin Chirin Ice,” sorbet like vanilla flavored iced treat, sold cheaply at 100 yen. Some experienced vendors can make a beautiful flower shape with it. During summer, you can easily find the vendors of “Chirin Chirin Ice” around Megane-bashi Bridge, Nagasaki Seaside Park and at event sites. The ice is pleasantly plain vanilla flavored and you can easily finish the whole thing. Make sure to give it a try at least once.
18 Stone Bridges Over Nakashima River
After the construction of Megane-bashi bridge in 1634, other old wooden bridges over the river were rebuilt in stone one after another. These stone bridges supported the livelihood of the merchants, craftsmen and other residents in Nagasaki and also served as the approach for those visiting Buddhist temples.
Nakashima River is only 5 kilometers in total length. But there are as many as 18 bridges hung over this relatively short river! Nowhere else can you find so many bridges concentrated in such a narrow area. These bridges, which may seem just a bit too many, were constructed with the non-governmental fund raised by priests, merchants and other private citizens. They symbolically tell us of the wealth accumulated in Nagasaki back when the area was under the direct control of the Tokugawa shogunate and served as the only gateway for trades with Western countries amidst then ongoing national isolation policy.
The area around these stone bridges have many establishments you would want to visit such as Koeiji Temple, souvenir shops, Chinese restaurants and cafes. They are all within walking distance, so make sure to visit one of them or two as you stroll around counting the number of bridges.
Creatures Inhabiting Nakashima River
Carps, turtles and other creatures inhabit the tranquil stream of Nakashima River running under Megane-bashi and other bridges. You may also be able to find rare kinds of bird around here. You can use the steps located near Megane-bashi Bridge to go down to the river bank and watch creatures in the stream up close if you wish.
Light Up Event at Megane-bashi Bridge
Nagasaki Yoichi Night Market
An event called “Yoichi,” which basically means “night bazaar” or “night market,” will be held on the 6th, 7th, 20th and 21st of August this year and Megane-bashi Bridge and Nakashima River will be lit up with 200 lanterns. From around dusk to night, the area around the bridge will be lined up with many street stalls mainly offering food, accessories and various other items from China and other Asian countries. The area around here becomes extremely hot during daytime in summer, so people avoid the risk of heatstroke and enjoy street stalls, traditional performing arts, magic shows and various other festival features at night when the air feels relatively pleasant.
During the period of Lantern Festival from late January until early February, the area around Megane-bashi and other bridges will be lit up beautifully again with yellow lights of lanterns. With ornaments of Pegasus, Shichifukujin (seven deities of good fortune) along the roads and white swan-shaped lanterns floating in the river, very fantastic scenery will be created in the area at night.
Other Tourist Spots Accessible from the Bridge
Megane-bashi Bridge can also provide easy access to other tourist spots such as the China Town and Hamanomachi Shopping Arcade. Also, the small paths leading from the stone bridges here will take you to the area with Kodaiji, Enmeiji, Kofukuji and other shrines. Megane-bashi Bridge is not only the symbol of Nagasaki but can also serve as a base of sightseeing tour in Nagasaki.
<By Bus> From Nagasaki Station Higashiguchi (East) bus stop, take a bus bound for “Chuobashi” (via “Shinwa Ginko Mae”). Get off at “Shinwa Ginko Mae” stop and walk for about 5 minutes.
<By Tram> Take a tram from “Nagasaki Ekimae” tram station bound for “Shokakuji”, get off at “Tsukimachi” station and walk for about 5 minutes.
<By Car> Drive for about 5 minutes from Nagasaki Station.
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