The Akashi Kaikyo Bridge (明石海峡大橋, Akashi Kaikyō Ō-hashi), also known as Pearl Bridge, is a suspension bridge in Japan that crosses the Akashi Strait; it links Maiko in Kobe and Iwaya on Awaji Island as part of the Honshū-Shikoku Highway.  It is the longest suspension bridge in the world to date, as measured by the length of its center span 1,991 meters (6,532 ft), substantially longer than the second longest suspension bridge, the Danish Great Belt Bridge.  Total length is 3,911 meters (12,831 ft).

Before the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge was built, ferries carried passengers across the Akashi Strait in Japan.  This dangerous waterway often experiences severe storms, and in 1955, two ferries sank in the strait during a storm, killing 168 children.  The ensuing shock and public outrage convinced the Japanese government to develop plans for a suspension bridge to cross the strait.  The original plan called for a mixed railway-road bridge, but when construction on the bridge began in April 1986, the construction was restricted to road only, with six lanes.  Actual construction did not begin until May 1986, and the bridge was opened for traffic on April 5, 1998.  The Akashi Strait is an international waterway and required a 1,500 meters (4,921 ft) wide shipping lane.

The bridge has three spans.  The central span is 1,991 meters (6,532 ft), with the two other sections each 960 meters (3,150 ft).  The bridge is 3,911 meters (12,831 ft) long overall.  The central span was originally only 1,990 meters (6,529 ft) but was stretched by a further meter in the Kobe earthquake on January 17, 1995.

The bridge was designed with a two-hinged stiffening girder system, allowing the structure to withstand winds of 286 kilometers per hour (178 mph), earthquakes measuring to 8.5 on the Richter scale, and harsh sea currents.  The bridge also contains pendulums that operate at the resonant frequency of the bridge to dampen forces.  The two main supporting towers are 298 meters (978 ft) above sea level, and the bridge can expand up to two meters in one day.

Akashi Kaikyo Bridge Exhibition Center

A model of the longest suspension bridge in the world.

A picture of how they got the huge pylons in place in the middle of the Akashi Strait.

Look at the size of this thing ... it is sitting in a baseball stadium.

A model of how the bases were positioned in the water.

I was really tired and it wasn't super interesting for me since most of it didn't make sense.

A cross-section of the main cables.

A bigger model of the bridge. This is what they used to test wind, vibration, etc. before starting construction on the bridge.

A painting robot.

A really big barge out in the water.

The world's longest suspension bridge.

I'm not super happy about being out in the cold wind.

Underneath the bridge.

It was almost painfully windy. I was freezing and felt like I was going to be blown over!

This is us leaning into the wind to try to stand up and not get knocked down!

Mom and Dad are having a blast ... uh, Ashley, maybe not so much!

Leesa just thought that it was so fun! She's crazy!

At least he doesn't have hair flying in his face! He is actually leaning back!

She was trying to be Mary Poppins! But it was a cheap umbrella so it flipped almost instantly and some of the pegs came off.

Walking on the catwalk underneath the bridge, very windy and very neat!

The beach nearby and some house next to the bridge.

It was really windy up here too! There was no escaping the wind!

You could walk across this 'log' with windows on both sides. It was kind of strange because you're way up in the air.

Sitting on a light in the bridge.

Another window in the floor.

Directly in the center is where the stone monument is positioned where we were taking our pictures with the bridge in the background.

Us with the Kobe Bridge sign.

Hang on!

They had too much fun with the crazy wind!

There is mom and Ashley just left to the base, it is huge!

We drove across the bridge, just to do it, but took a couple pictures from Awaji Island.

Pictures out our hotel window in Kobe the next morning.

The harbor.