links to APDL and KCC link to KCC homepage link to APDL homepage

Roads of Oku: Home

Inspiration ...

Matsuo Basho's Narrow Road to the Deep North, Translated by Nobuyuki Yuasa / Google Map: Bashō's Oku no Hosomichi ("Narrow Road to the Deep North")

Journeys ...

Spring 2004: On the Road in Kansai / Google Map
Summer 2005: Roads of Oku / Google Map
Fall 2006: Where Gods Alight / Google Map
Summer 2007: Hōkūle‘a in Yokohama / Map
Winter 2008: Snow Country / Google Map
Spring 2008: Full Bloom & Festivals / Google Map
Summer 2009: Fireflies & Sweet Fish / Google Map
Fall 2009: North Country Colors / Google Map
Summer 2010: Legends of the Land / Google Map
Spring 2011: On the Far Side of Disaster / Google Map
Summer 2012: Travels in the Fifth Moon / Google Map
Summer 2013: Far Roads: Finishing Touches / Google Map
Summer 2015: Saké-Tasting in the Kingdom of Local Brew

Memorable ...

Roads / Seacoasts & Coastal Roads / Bridges / Ferries / Walks & Hikes / Mountains / Ropeways / Rivers / Waterfalls / Lakes / Trees / Rocks / Caves / Hot Springs / Sakura / Fall Colors / Archaeology and History / Castles / Shrines / Temples / Gardens / Festivals / Food / Drinks
Photography: Dennis Kawaharada and Karen Ono

Note ...

On Driving in Japan

Roads of Oku: Journeys in the Heartland

A collection of essays on Japanese culture, history and literature. Available at (Far Roads Press, 2015).


Updated: Summer 2015

Nihonbashi, Tōkyō. Summer 2015

Nihonbashi crosses the Nihonbashi River at the north end of Ginza, in Tōkyō. The first bridge was built in 1603; the current bridge, built of stone on a steel frame, dates from 1911.

Nihonbashi was the starting point of the two roads between the new capital city of Edo and the old capital of Kyotō: Tokaidō, along the Pacific Coast, and Nakasendō, through the central mountains. Distances from Edo were calculated from this bridge.

Today it sits beneath the expressway that circles central Tōkyō:


Nihonbashi, c. 1960, before the expressway was built overhead

Nihonbashi: Hiroshige Prints

Hiroshige's Nihonbashi

Akashi Strait Bridge. Akashi and Awaji, Hyogo. Fall 2006 and Spring 2011

The longest suspension bridge of its time (2.4 miles long, 4 kilometers, completed in 1998), the Akashi Strait Bridge connects Honshu and Awaji Island. We drove over the bridge from Honshu to Awaji in Fall 2006, and from Awaji to Honshu in Spring 2011. The drive at night (2006) was like flying between the lit-up harp strings of the suspension cables.

Akashi BridgeAkashi BridgeAkashi BridgeAkashi Bridge

Seto Grand Bridge, Okayama to Kagawa. Spring 2011.

Eight-miles long, the double-decked Seto Grand Bridge crosses the Inland Sea, connecting Kurashiki, Okayama, on Honshu, to Sakaide, Kagawa, on Shikoku.

Seto grand bridge

Shimanami Kaido ("Sea Road"), Imabari to Onomichi. Summer 2010.

A series of ten bridges connecting Imabari, Ehime, on Shikoku, to Onomichi, Hiroshima, on Honshu, via nine islands, a distance of 37 miles (60 kilometers).

Shimanami KaidoShimanami Kaido

 Ikuchi Bridge (above), linking Ikuchijima (foreground) and Innoshima islands. Photo by alon adika, Japan Times, Oct. 9, 2011.

Kanmon Strait Bridge, Kitakyushu, Fukuoka, and Shimonoseki, Yamaguchi. Fall 2006

We drove over the Kanmon Strait Bridge from Kyushu to Honshu.

Kannon StraitBridge

Naruto Bridge, Nandan, Hyogo, and Naruto, Shikoku. Fall 2006

The Naruto Bridge is the part of the Kobe-Awaji-Naruto Expressway connecting Awaji Island to Shikoku. A walkway under the bridge allows you to walk from a park in Naruto out over the strait to view the whirlpools that form when the tides change as water flows into or out of the Seto Naikai (Inland Sea).

Naruto bridge Swirling water

Aqua Bridge, Tōkyō Bay. Summer 2012.

A six-mile long undersea tunnel goes from Kawasaki Ward in Tōkyō and emerges in mid-bay at Umihotaru, an artificial island with parking, restaurants, souvenir shops and viewpoints, before continuing on a bridge over two-miles long to Kisarazu on the Boso Peninsula. You can see Mt. Fuji and the Tōkyō Sky Tree from Umihotaru on clear, calm day, which this one wasn't. The 20-30 knot winds churned up the water with white caps and the horizon was hazy with sea spray.

Kintai Bridge. Iwakuni, Yamaguchi. Summer 2009

Originally built in the Edo period, in 1673, Kintai Bridge crosses the Nishiki River in five arches. Early twentieth century photo:

The bridge was rebuilt in 1953 after it was destroyed by a flood in 1950.

Ukai (cormorant fishing) begins on June 1 upstream of the bridge. We attended the the opening ceremony in summer 2009:

Uji Bridge, Ise Shrine, Mie. Spring 2004 and Summer 2012

The rising sun shines through the grand torii at the front end of Ujihashi, the bridge crossing the Isuzu River to Ise Shrine.

woodblock print uji bridge

Woodblock print by Tomikichi Tokuriki (Sept. 1941)

Togetsu-Kyō ("Moon-Crossing Bridge"), Arashiyama, Kyōto. Summer 2012.

Shinkyō (“Sacred Bridge”), Nikko, Tochigi. Fall 2009

This red-lacquered bridge arches gracefully over the Daiya River. Its legendary origin is this: in 766, when the priest Shonin arrived in Nikko, the river was swollen. He prayed to the river kami for help in crossing it. The kami released two snakes, which entwined to form a bridge over the river, allowing him to cross before disappearing. Later a real bridge was built over the river at the spot of Shonin's crossing. The bridge has been maintained over the centuries, the latest restoration in 2005.

Narugo Gorge Bridge, Miyagi. Fall 2009

The Narugo Gorge Bridge is a favorite site in northern Japan to view fall foliage.

Aomori Bay Bridge. Aomori. Fall 2009

When we first saw this bridge in summer 2005 from our hotel window, lit up in blue, I thought of it as a Bridge of Dreams. The color of the lights on the bridge changes from blue to green to red. In Fall 2009, we crossed the bridge on the way to Cape Tappi, the northwestern tip of Honshu.

Bridge in AomoriBridge in daylight

Tateyama Ohashi ("Big Bridge"), Toyama. Summer 2010

On the way up to Tateyama, a sacred mountain in the mountains of Toyama, the Tateyama Ohashi crosses the Joganji River.

Ayatori (“Cat’s Cradle”) Bridge, Yamanaka, Ishikawa. Winter 2008

Ayatori Bridge, designed by Hiroshi Teshigahara with a curving form, crosses the Daishoji River in Yamanaka Onsen.

Ayatori bridgeOn the bridge

Yume no Kakehashi ("Dream Suspension Bridge"), Fukui. Summer 2010

On our way from Hakusan to Takayama, on Route 158, we passed Yume no Kakehashi, a mini-Golden Gate across Lake Kuzuryu. It's said to be modeled on the Seto Big Bridge, which joins Shikoku to Honshu over the Seto Inland Sea.

Oshima Island Bridge, Suo-Oshima Yamaguchi. Spring 2011

The Oshima Island bridge connects Yanai, Yamaguchi to Suo-Oshima, offshore. From Mt. Iyino on the island, you can see the bridge from above, with the swift currents of the Inland Sea swirling beneath it as the tide changes.

Oshima BridgeOshima Bridge

Kazura-bashi (“Vine Bridge”). Oku Iya, Tokushima, Shikoku. Summer 2009

Getting to Kazura-bashi is half the adventure, as it’s on a remote narrow road in Oku Iya Valley on Shikoku. Traditionally, the bridge was made of vines; today the vines are reinforced with steel cables for safety.

Vine bridgeView of bridge

Megane-bashi (“Eyeglasses bridge”), Nagasaki, Kyushu. Fall 2006

Megane-bashi, built by a Chinese Buddhist monk in 1634, crosses the Nakajima River in central Nagasaki. The bridge’s two stone arches, reflected in a canal, resemble a pair of round eyeglasses.