橋 hashi—bridge

Awajishima is an island in the Inland Sea not far from the cities of Osaka and Kobe. Although it is not one of the 4 main islands of Japan, it is not tiny either, being over 50 kilometres long.

At the north end of Awajishima is the longest single-span suspension bridge in the world; at the southern end, the world’s fourth-fastest tidal current generates the famous Naruto whirlpools. Today, we saw both.

The central span of the Akashi-Kaikyou bridge is 1,991 metres long, and the total length of the bridge is 3,911 metres. The bridge was built in 1998 as part of a project to link the main islands of Honshu and Shikoku by road.

Like any large suspension bridge, its elegance and lightness of form belie the extraordinary scale and mass of its towers and pillars.

At the north end of Awajishima island, an expressway service area is very popular with sightseers for the views it offers over the bridge, the strait, and the city of Kobe on the other side.

There were warnings to beware (“chuui“) of tonbi (kites) when eating and drinking, as they have been known to swoop down and steal food.

Later, at Naruto, Yuko took some photos of kites.

At the service area there was also a display of a section of main cable from the bridge, serving as a reminder that each of those cables strung in an elegant catenary above the bridge deck is actually a complex construction about a metre in diameter, weighing thousands of tonnes.

Like many expressway service areas in Japan, this one had a dog run, where the dogs can run off the lead and socialise with other travelling dogs.

There was also a mascot or character called “Wataru”.

Wataru’s purpose in life is to serve as a platform for self-timer cameras, so that visitors can take a photo of themselves with the bridge in the background.

A note on the word of the day:

The left-hand side of the character 橋 hashi is the element 木 meaning wood. On the right side I like to delude myself that I can make out the form (in cross-section) of some vehicle crossing a bridge over a river. That’s not really how it works, but it was good enough for me as a mnemonic when I had to learn to recognise the character. In reality, the right-hand part is a phonetic element kyou, representing the “Chinese” pronunciation of the character. So, the left-hand (semantic) element says “something made of wood”; the right-hand (phonetic) element says “something pronounced like kyou“; put them together and “Aha! it’s hashi, a bridge!”

I think I like my way better – squint until you can convince yourself it looks like a bridge!

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2 thoughts on “橋 hashi—bridge

  1. I’m sure you know this, but the character is almost certainly called “Wataru” because, in addition to being a common man’s name, it is also the word “to cross” ie a bridge, etc (and it’s even written with the same character).

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