The Rainbow Bridge in Tokyo Bay is a symbol of the capital, but it is less known that the walkways of the suspension span offer great ocean views fringed by skyscrapers, including an island fortress built in the 19th century to defend against the American Black Ships that ended Japan’s isolationism.
The bridge has a two-deck structure. The walkways are on the lower deck, along with the automated Yurikamome train line, while the upper deck is part of the Shuto Expressway.
Shibaura Anchorage, about five minutes’ walk from Shibaura Futo Station on the Yurikamome Line, is the entrance to the walkways, which are free of charge and open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. between April and October and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. between November and March.
People jog, admire the view and take pictures of such landmarks as Tokyo Tower and the Roppongi Hills complex while exploring the walkways, which run on the north and south sides of the bridge. In the central parts, the walkways are about 50 to 60 meters above sea level.
Pedestrians can also see areas with signs of a changing Tokyo. Ariake is slated to host several competitions in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The new Toyosu fish market will open in November this year after it replaces the aging Tsukiji market.
Another feature visible from the 1.7-km walkways is the Harumi Passenger Ship Terminal. The athletes’ village will be built in the area for the 2020 Games.
Tokyo Skytree, the world’s tallest broadcasting tower at 634 meters, can be seen hemmed in by skyscrapers, while airplanes swoop into Haneda airport and cranes tower over Oi Wharf.
The south side of the walkways offers views of the popular Odaiba area and Fuji Television’s headquarters. But in between the glittery districts and the bridge lies a small man-made island, Daisan Daiba (No. 3 Battery), built in 1854 by the Tokugawa shogunate.
The previous year, U.S. Commodore Matthew Perry’s Black Ships arrived, putting an end to Japan’s policy of isolationism and opening its ports to trade.
In an effort to protect Edo, which was how Tokyo was known at the time, from potential attack by Perry, a number of island fortresses were quickly built in the bay, including Daisan Daiba, to host cannon batteries.
The walkways are closed every third Monday and on strong wind days.