Bridges are an integral part of Japanese gardens, both in the way they serve as a transition from one garden area to another, and in their spiritual significance. For many, the crossing over a bridge is symbolic of the passage into the afterlife and the cleansing of one's burdens. Others find them aesthetically pleasing and use them as practical tools for moving from one section of a Japanese garden to another.
Japanese bridges can be built from a variety of materials, including wood (sori bashi), stone (ishibashi) and bamboo or earth, and can come in a wide range of shapes and sizes. They can also be constructed over a wide range of waterways, such as rivers and lakes.
The first bridges in Japan were made of wooden construction, and they are still a common sight today. In some areas, however, they are largely gone because of the harsh weather conditions that make them difficult to maintain.
During the Heian period, when Japan was the focus of many world events, leaders looked to bridges as a means of promoting peace. This is reflected in coloured woodblock prints that depict a wide range of Japanese bridges, from those that have been destroyed to those which are still in existence.
Some of these ancient Japanese bridges were also erected over a river to facilitate transportation for people and goods. For example, the famous Edo-Tokyo Museum in modern-day Tokyo has a huge wooden bridge that crosses the Sumidagawa River.
A traditional Japanese bridge is usually rectangular in shape, but it can be arched as well. It is typically a single story, and it can be used for both pedestrians and vehicles.
They are often painted red, as it is a very important color in Japanese culture, and is considered to be a symbol of wisdom and transformation. This color is also believed to encourage people to reject their attachment to physical things and move forward in a spiritual direction.
The zig-zag structure of a Japanese bridge is also a sign of respect to the spirit world, as it helps confuse evil spirits that might follow a straight path. This design is also a very effective tool for bringing people into the present moment and encouraging them to take in the beauty of the scenery around them.
In addition, a bridge with a zig-zag design is said to be beneficial for those who suffer from depression or other mental disorders. This is because it allows those who cross the bridge to walk in a more relaxed, unhurried fashion, and it also encourages them to take the time to enjoy the scenery and the company of other people.
Throughout history, many people have sacrificed themselves for the building of Japanese bridges to ensure that they would be able to withstand typhoons and other harsh weather. This was particularly true of the Nagara Bridge, a famous bridge in Tsurumi Province (modern-day Hyogo Prefecture) where it is said that a peasant's life was sacrificed for the construction.
Sometimes there are markets on the bridges and gatherings!