Aerial Stroll : Crumbling "Phantom Bridge"

Heading north across the Tokachi Plain towards the grand Taisetsuzan Volcanic Group that stands tall in central Hokkaido, a pure white “expanse” surrounded by mountains came into view. This is Lake Nukabira in Tokachi region’s Kamishihoro Town. Across the frozen lake surface lined with colorful wakasagi smelt fishing tents, the sandy-tan colored Taushubetsu River Bridge awaits.
This is a 130-meter-long and 10-meter-tall concrete bridge. It was constructed in 1937 as one bridge in a series of arch bridges for the Shihoro Line of the former Japan National Railway, but was left behind in the lake with the construction of the Nukabira Dam in 1955.

Well known by local residents, it was finally certified as a Hokkaido Heritage Site in 2001, and entered the larger public spotlight. When it was used in a Japan Railway poster in 2008, it garnered even more acclaim. Popularity on social media has drawn many tourists to see it from all over Japan.

However, over 80 years have passed since the bridge was built, and it has been extremely weathered from the change in water level characteristic to dam lakes and winter freezing. Even from an aerial view, the massive crumbling is plain to see in the shadow of the bridge stretching across the snow field.

In addition to the aerial observation, reporter participated in a tour given by Higashitaisetsu Nature Guide Centre and viewed the bridge from the ground level as well on February 8, right before the lake surface area closed to the public. I was able to see firsthand the natural deterioration of the bridge not visible from the aerial view, including iron bars popping out from deteriorated concrete and arches inflicted with major cracks stretching to the underside.

The bridge has stood for some 80 years in a severe environment, exposed to the wind and rain, covered with water and snow. It has still maintained its basic shape as a bridge, but it is also clear that the days of being able to see this 11 arch span are nearly over.


Taushubetsu River Bridge