95-Year-Old Tokyo Bridge Modeled on Rhine River Design

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Kiyosu Bridge at dusk

Kiyosu Bridge crossing the Sumida River in Tokyo’s Koto and Chuo wards is an impressive suspension bridge with graceful curves. The bright aqua-colored bridge looks brilliant against the blue sky and when illuminated at night, reminding us that Tokyo coexists with many rivers as a “city of water.”

The 186-meter-long bridge was completed in 1928 in accordance with the reconstruction plan after the Great Kanto Earthquake. The name of the bridge uses three kanji, two of them taken from Kiyosumi and Nakasu, towns on both banks of the river at the time. The third means a bridge.

It is no wonder that the bridge, characterized by street lamps with pointy tops, looks as though it is located in an old European town. It was modeled after a large suspension bridge over the Rhine in Germany, which was described as the most beautiful bridge in the world. Although the German bridge was destroyed during World War II, Kiyosu Bridge, which retains the appearance of the original, was designated as a national important cultural property in 2007.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Streetlamps on the bridge

Kiyosu Bridge is often used as a location for shooting TV dramas, and became the setting for “Danjo Shichinin Natsu Monogatari” (Summer stories of seven men and women) in 1986, starring Sanma Akashiya and Shinobu Otake. Some people from the bubble economy generation may recall a scene on the bridge from the drama.

At the foot of the bridge on the Chuo Ward side is a plaque explaining the bridge. It is also embossed with the characters for “Kiyosu Bridge,” written by former Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara, who was also a writer. It shows his peculiar handwriting, which is said to have given his editors a hard time reading his work.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A plate embossed with the characters for “Kiyosu Bridge,” as written by former Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara

Reiganji temple, a short walk from the bridge on the Koto Ward side, is home to the graveyard of a lord of the Shirakawa domain, Matsudaira Sadanobu, known for his Kansei no kaikaku reform during the Edo period (1603-1867).

The names of a town in the area and the Kiyosumi-Shirakawa subway station are derived from the Shirakawa domain. Today, the Kiyosumi and Shirakawa areas are home to many unique stores, including an American-born coffee shop. The downtown area is changing into a stylish and popular town.

“When I was a child, I used to look up at the bridge and play in the river,” said Yoshiharu Suzuki, 62, the operator of local information website “Shitamachi Tanteidan.” Although those children are long gone, the 95-year-old Kiyosu Bridge still watches over the people of the town.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A yakatabune pleasure boat passes under the Kiyosu Bridge
The Yomiuri Shimbun

Kiyosu Bridge

Address: Kiyosumi, Koto Ward, and Nihombashi-Nakasu, Chuo Ward, Tokyo

Access: 8-minute walk from Kiyosumi-Shirakawa Station on the Hanzomon Line and the Toei Oedo Line as well as a 10-minute walk from Suitengumae Station on the Hanzomon Line

Memo: The bridge is illuminated 15 minutes after sunset until 11 p.m.