Akashi Kaikyo Bridge, or Pearl Bridge as it is popularly called, is the world's longest suspension bridge with a central span of 1,991 meters. Overall, the bridge is 3,911 meters long. Connecting Honshu and Awaji Island, both part of Hyogo Prefecture, the Bridge World facility offers a unique attraction with its two and half hour guided tour to the top of the bridge. It offers one of the most thrilling panorama views of the city of Kobe, Awaji Island and Osaka in the distance on a particularly clear day. It's a unique experience from the top of a bridge rather than from a natural structure or a standard Ferris wheel and costs slightly higher at 3,000 yen a trip.
The tour to the top of the bridge is heavily influenced by weather conditions, and although you can register two months in advance, it's good to reconfirm on the day of the tour at the Bridge World office.
The guided tour includes an introductory session, a video showing the history of the construction of the bridge, which was thrown open to the general public in 1998. Emphasis lies on the construction challenges to withstand strong typhoon winds and earthquakes and it lasts about 15-20 minutes. The staff is very helpful for foreigners and language is no hindrance in this tour. A walk around the museum on the first floor of the facility gives information on bridge engineering, history and even the night-time bridge light-up variations.
Post the small session, the most exciting part begins: Going to the top of the bridge. It starts with helmets distributed to the participants, and instructions on all loose items like camera, mobile phone be strapped to the body jacket are provided. You really don’t want to drop any item from the top down on the unsuspecting vehicles crossing the bridge. Yes, it's a no glass open-air view that the tour promises from floor 99 of the bridge!
The trip to the top starts with a 1 km-walk on the bridge, and you can enjoy watching the passing trawlers beneath. On a particular sunny day the greenish blue ocean looks wonderful. Once at the base, participants are guided to a high-speed elevator, which goes right to floor 98 of the bridge column. From there you climb to floor 99 and a breath taking view awaits you.
I believe the photos will do the talking, rather than me giving more details about the experience, which personally was the most unique travel experience I've had in Japan.
On the way back the Bridge World Tour gives you a couple souvenirs: a CD (included in the tour price) and a photograph taken on top floor by the staff; although you might have clicked dozens yourself.
You can also stop by at Maiko-Koen, a park in the vicinity, and watch the evening light up, which again is a very beautiful sight.