Tokyo/ Olympics 1964/ Nihonbashi bridge

Images above show the Metropolitan Expressway route being constructed over the historic Nihonbashi bridge in Chuo Ward, 1963 and the conditions of the site today.

Victim of the construction of the Metropolitan expressway and Tokaido Shinkansen for the preparations of the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo is the iconic Nihonbashi bridge built during the Meiji Era. The high cost of constructing the Tokai Shinkansen line led to a lack of funds which affected highway construction as it became necessary to build overhead expressways above existing waterways to avoid more financial stress through purchasing land which resulted in the concrete eyesore above the Nihonbashi bridge.

Nihonbashi is the town at the heart of Tokyo, with customs and trades that have existed for more than 300 years. Nihonbashi bridge, which translates to “Japan Bridge”, stretches across the Nihonbashi River and is one of the oldest bridges in Japan from the Meiji era that survived. This bridge is in the business district of Nihonbashi under the Chuo ward in central Tokyo, a commercial hub since the Edo period. Construction of this bridge served as a connection for all the merchandisers from various neighboring districts for effective trading, thereby making Nihonbashi the most crowded and commercialized area of the Edo period. It played an important role as an economic driver for trade businesses in Nihonbashi.

The iconic Meiji Era bridge at Nihonbashi was a historic depot for the old Tokaido Road footpath and economic centre, the ‘zero point’ from which all distances are measured in Japan. The bridge was built back in the Meiji Era (1868-1912) to provide a view of Mt. Fuji for anyone crossing from the East to the West. Its appearance was ruined by the enormous highway overhead, ‘like a giant concrete lid’, eradicating the sky. The construction of support columns penetrates the waterways, polluting it and filled the area with smell from the toxic water in the canal.

Tokyo is selected again to host the 2020 Olympics and uses this opportunity to rethink past decisions as the city begins to consider about its national image. The 1.2 km section of the expressway will be moved underground, project approved and in the process of planning, construction begins in 2020. As the city renews its urban fabric preparing for the 2020 and years beyond, Infrastructural moves that deals with the negative impact of 1964’s rushed infrastructural development had to be made. Although the 2020 Olympics may lift the spirit of the Japanese people, there will be a price to pay for the privilege and hopefully it will not be as much as the 1964 Olympics which took Japan over 30 years to pay back its loans to build roads in 1964 from the World Bank.

Although business executives working around the Nihonbashi area called for the removal of the elevated expressway over the bridge, the costs estimate to ¥3.8 trillion ($3.5 billion) which is nearly as must as the proposed budget for the 2020 Olympics. While this could be the first step to beautify the area and revive Japan’s historical and aesthetic heritage, the high-cost operation is skeptical and remains controversial.


  1. Nihonbashi Uncovered: The Eyesore of 1964 to Disappear after 2020. (2017, July 24). Retrieved from
  2. (n.d.). Retrieved from


1 Comment on “Tokyo/ Olympics 1964/ Nihonbashi bridge

  1. Your interpretation on the policy and vision of Japanese government on the infrastructure planning construction and establishment of a national image on the grounds of Olympics, the negative aspects of the large-scale transportation system construction and the controversial bridge as an example are good. You also answered my own questions about the financial resources and land expropriation policy for the infrastructure construction and it will be good to interpret it deeper. I am intriguing about how latter generation of Japanese government carried on the 1964 urban planning schemes and extended the principles but not change them.

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