Misadventures with Miso

Misadventures with Miso

Thursday, September 8, 2016

The Center of Japan Nihonbashi Bridge

Wandering through the barren concrete buildings of Nihonbashi I came across something that warranted a stone marker.

Written in Japanese I could not tell you what it says. My guess is that it's a history of what it is next to.

Which is the actual Nihonbashi, which translates to Japan Bridge. Originally it was made of wood when first constructed in 1603 during Tokugawa's reign. The current steel frame and stone Renaissance style bridge was designed by architect Tsumaki Yorinaka and built during the Meiji era in 1911. It survived the WWII fire bombing yet there is still a mark somewhere on it from an incendiary bomb.

There is calligraphy by Tokugawa Yoshinobu at the base of these beasts. He was the last Shogun who passed away in 1913. In a way the new bridge symbolized the change from Edo to Tokyo.

The beast may look familiar. In Japan they are called Komainu. They are protectors meant to ward off evil spirits at shrines. Given their locations at the end of the bridge they could be thought of as sandō komainu 参道狛犬  or visiting road komainu. In this case they are protecting the commercial center of Tokyo and just beyond that the Imperial Palace.

Both the statues and lamps are made of bronze and are very detailed and striking. It's quite the surprise to see all this in a very modern area. Yes that is the Expressway covering the bridge and Nihonbashi River.

I don't know what the above lamp is made of. There must have been quite a fight to cover the most famous bridge in Japan with the Shuto Expressway like this. There is a reason why this specific lamp is placed where it is.

If you look at the back tire of the yellow truck you can see the center of Japan. All road kilometer measurements showing distance to Tokyo actually are showing the distance to this spot on the Nihonbashi Bridge. This practice began in the Edo era. The Gokaido, the five main roads leading to and from Tokyo, started here. The Expressway lamp is directly over the marker so people driving there can know when they have passed the center of Japan.

The sadly covered Nihonbashi River. It has been looked into what it would take to uncover at least the Nihonbashi Bridge by putting the Expressway under ground. Billions of yen and more. Not likely to happen in the near future.

This amazing looking dragon is a Qilin, a mythical creature with aspects of several animals including giraffes. Also called Kirin in Japan (which is the word for giraffe in Japanese) and the image of kirin are used by Kirin Beer. They are believed to be very powerful and great protectors which may be why they are on the bridge.

I apologize for not having better photos of the bridge. It was super hot and actually crowded when I arrived there. At least I have decent ones of the kirin.

The Nihonbashi Bridge (saying bridge twice helps to define it from the Nihonbashi area) is definitely worth checking out. Another site I hope I can see again when it's less hot and not so busy. Lots of cool photos online. Information there is interesting. Some give the name as originally being the Edo Bridge but it seems there may have been a second bridge near it that was actually the Edo Bridge. No matter what, it is definitely a great bridge.

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