Thursday, April 7, 2011
Nihonbashi 日本橋: Japan Bridge
It's funny how you can live in a place for a decade and miss a lot of what's right there nearby.
It's spring, the weather's been glorious here in Tokyo, and the cherry blossoms are starting to bloom.
A couple of days ago I was on tight writing deadlines, but it was superb weather again so I decided to skip out and finally go explore the area in central Tokyo around the Nihonbashi (日本橋), literally Japan Bridge - which was built a century ago this year, but rests on what has been a vital conduit spot for this city since the 17th century.
And I'd never even seen it before now.
Apparently it's also the point from which the Japanese measure distances: highway signs that report the distance to Tokyo actually state the number of kilometres to Nihonbashi.
Just before the 1964 Olympics, an expressway was built over the top of Nihonbashi, obscuring the classic view of Mount Fuji (and just about everything else) from the bridge.
To mark its centenary this month Nihonbashi recently underwent a bit of window-dressing - the removal of decades of soot and grime to showcase the granite sidewalls - and it does look rather spiffy.
There are also some jazzy lion and dragon sculptures perched on its walls.
Incidentally, Japan's first department store, Mitsukoshi, is on one side of the bridge, and there's a monument to the Edo-era fish market which was formerly in Nihonbashi - the predecessor of Tsukiji fish market.