Japan’s little-known maritime past – BBC Travel

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Almost every aspect of the construction of the bridges was a world first, said Toshio Kutsukake, director of the highway division of Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism. Chief among them was the development of concrete and steel composite materials. “Materials that are difficult to work with,” he said, “because they affect the strength of the bridge.” But they were essential to achieve the long spans of the bridge while minimizing abutments to protect the environment. The Geiyo Islands are located in Setonaikai National Park, Japan’s first national park established in 1934, and the bridges needed to blend into the seascape.

As I was traveling the Shimanami Kaido it was not crowded at all, and with interchanges on each island, the route seemed made for exploring.

In its own way, it was. Unlike two other routes built as trade routes through the Seto Inland Sea, the Shimanami Kaido was built to be a daily-use route, Kutsukake said. Construction began in 1975 after nearly a century of pressure from islanders for a convenient and safer way to access shops, schools and hospitals. In 1955, a tragic ferry accident resulted in the loss of hundreds of lives, creating additional pressure on the road.

There are lanes reserved for pedestrians, bicycles and mopeds. In one of the Kurushima Kaikyo Bridge’s anchor towers, there’s even an elevator that goes down to the tiny island of Uma (population 13).

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