Akashi Kaikyo Bridge, Japan
This is the longest suspension bridge in the world and the bridge's two towers are also the world's highest. Trust me, I saw the Guinness World record certificates displayed in the bridge's museum. It links Maiko in Kobe and Iwaya in Awaji Island. The bridge opened in 1998. The bridge type is a 3 span 2 hinged truss-stiffened suspension bridge.
To get to Akashi Kaikro bridge, you can take the JR coastal train which stops at Maiko station. From there, it is a short walk to the bridge's park (Maiko Marine Promenade), where the museum and viewing avenue or observatory hallways are located. We bought the JR all-day pass for 2000¥ and therefore it was very cheap for us to travel to anywhere in Kobe. Without the day pass, the price for transportation will be over 2000¥.
There is a viewing avenue or observatory hallway for tourists but there is a certain fee you have to pay to enter; for adults it is 240¥ to 300¥. We took the guided bridge tour and paid 2100¥ per person. For that guided tour, you will have to book in advance as there are limited places available. The above picture was taken at the viewing avenue; clear glass panels lined a small portion of the walkway giving everyone the view of the straits's seawaters below, about 50m below.
Underneath the roadway
Underneath the roadway - setting sun
The advantages of the guided tour are: 1) we got to go underneath the bridge's platform or road way and walked for about 2 km to reach the first tower in order to take the elevator to the highest point of the tower. 2) we got to go up to the highest point of the tower - awesome view of the bridge, Kobe and Awaji Island, and not forgetting the straits. 3) explanations of various structures, constructions and building techniques etc, although the explanations were in Japanese.
The wind was so strong, even at the promenade. At the top of the tower it was not so bad, unless you put your head down (when you want to view the scene below). The safety helmet that we all had to wear was too big for my head (my head is too small - most hats don't even fit me!) and I had to keep holding it to keep it from flying off my head ( but there are safety buckles, so it won't fly off but will hang uncomfortably behind my neck). This makes taking pictures of the view below a bit difficult (I don't think the guide would have appreciated me taking off the helmet!), so at one point I had to ask Oyabu-san to hold my helmet while I took the pictures!
Awaji Island end
I tell you, I am humbled by the sheer size and magnitude of this bridge. Up there, on the tower, the view was magnificient. It helped that the weather was very good that day, giving us a perfect view of Kobe city, Awaji Island, the bridge and the Awaji straits below. The symmetry of the bridge is simply amazing.
And to see vehicles looking like little ants is like wow.
View of Kobe city shoreline
The Kobe earthquake happened in 1995, during the bridge's construction. The earthquake expanded the central span of the bridge one meter further to the current length of 1991m. The bridge is designed to withstand severe winds, harsh sea conditions and eartquakes measuring 8.5 on the Richter scale. The two towers stand at about 928ft tall. The total length is 3910m.
Close-up shot of the cars below
We saw the mini documentary about the making of the bridge before the guided tour begun. One of the best part of the construction was the laying of the gigantic steel cylinder (80m in diameter and 70m high) on the sea bed; it supports the two main towers. It had to be laid precisely; the strong sea currents at the straits made that task difficult. After that concrete was poured unto the steel cylinder. We could see it when we reach the first tower. Can you imagine what it would be like to see the construction of that particular structure? It took several ships to tow the cylinder structure to the appointed place. I would have so love to have been there when they were towing the structure: what a sight to see. Amazing!
Shadow of the tower we were on. See the horizontal bar right at the top of the tower? That was where we were at.
The bridge has illumination display at certain days of the year. The illumination display was designed to celebrate special occasions such as holidays, memorial days etc. It even displays light colours that reflect the birthstone colours of each month!
One thing I was a little disappointed with the tour was that we didn't get enough time to spend on top of the tower. I felt it was too short a time! Hahaha...
A better view of Kobe city.
And lastly, one of my favourite pictures of the day.