Kyoto’s Road to Nowhere
Bridge to Nowhere -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2007 Jeffrey Eric Francis Friedl,
Nikon D200 + Nikkor 17-55 f/2.8 @ 17mm — 1/80 sec, f/4.5, ISO 320 — map & image datanearby photos
Bridge to Nowhere

On the drive into the mountains the other day, we were on a twisty mountain road and came across the surreal sight of a bridge leading directly into the rocky face of a mountain.

Nikon D200 + Nikkor 17-55 f/2.8 @ 55mm — 1/125 sec, f/5.6, ISO 320 — map & image datanearby photos
Yup, absolutely Nowhere

Taking this bridge would mean a really short trip.

Nikon D200 + Nikkor 17-55 f/2.8 @ 17mm — 1/200 sec, f/7.1, ISO 320 — map & image datanearby photos
This Would be a Short Trip

Of course, it's a work in progress. A tunnel will certainly follow, thereby cutting off a long and dangerous segment of the current road....

Nikon D200 + Nikkor 17-55 f/2.8 @ 17mm — 1/125 sec, f/5.6, ISO 320 — map & image datanearby photos
View From the Current Road

I expected the road to become dangerous, but what followed the Bridge to Nowhere was actually fairly pleasant, and not narrow nor at all dangerous. A shockingly short 1/3rd mile (500m) later, we came across its counterpart, the Bridge From Nowhere....

Nikon D200 + Nikkor 17-55 f/2.8 @ 17mm — 1/90 sec, f/5, ISO 320 — map & image datanearby photos
Bridge From Nowhere

Nikon D200 + Nikkor 17-55 f/2.8 @ 26mm — 1/100 sec, f/5, ISO 320 — map & image datanearby photos
As Short a Trip as Before

Nikon D200 + Nikkor 17-55 f/2.8 @ 17mm — 1/250 sec, f/8, ISO 320 — map & image datanearby photos
View From the Current Road

I can't fathom why these bridges were built. Even if I had free rein to spend other people's money in any way I wanted (that is, if I were a politician), I could find so many thousands of better things to waste money on than this.

Take a look at this map (via Google) that shows that the second bridge has been there long enough to actually appear on the map, indeed, coming from nowhere.

Map of Nowhere

This shows that they're building two bridges and boring a 90m (100 yard) tunnel through solid rock, all to turn a pleasant, scenic 500m (0.3 mile) section of road into a 300m (0.2 mile) drive. Where is the sense in this?

If the tiny section of road being bypassed were somehow a bottleneck or dangerous, I could understand, but it's quite tame by any standard, and downright pleasant in comparison to other sections of road nearby, which are indeed narrow/windy/dangerous.

It just makes absolutely no sense. Welcome to Japan.

Continued 5½ years later, here...

All 13 comments so far, oldest first...

It’s possible that it’s being done because that tight hairpin bend of the river becomes problematic during thaw season and such. Maybe the erosion issues at that point are such that the river is washing out the road slowly (or even regularly… there’s plenty of roads in my area that really *should* be diverted because — even if you can’t see it by looking at them — every winter like clockwork the spring thaws wash them away and they’re completely rebuilt year after year).

Dunno if that’s the case, but it at least might offer some explanation.

That would make sense if it were an isolated curve, but as I noted, it’s quite pleasant, and as straight as an arrow compared to other sections of the same road. Consider this section of road a few miles to the south-east, which is full of steep hairpins. Regardless of your approach, you’ll have to navigate steep hairpins like this on either side of the bridges.
I’m sure there’s an answer to why they’re doing this, but I’m guessing it’s the pork-barrel politics kind 🙁 —Jeffrey

— comment by Derek on March 25th, 2007 at 8:33pm JST (17 years, 4 months ago) comment permalink

Surely nothing more simple old-fashioned pork barrel politics at work. That’s our taxes, that is.

— comment by Dan on March 25th, 2007 at 9:16pm JST (17 years, 4 months ago) comment permalink

A possible third opinion might be that building the roads first allows much more convenient access to removing the earth from the tunnel and adding shoring as it is dug. It seems that some sort of access road would be needed even to begin construction, so instead of building both a tempory and a permanent road, they let one suffice,thus saving money in the long run. However, that doesn’t seem to be how government works as a rule, so Derek and Dan probably are both right.
Did enjoy the photos as usual, Jeff

Certainly, if you’re going to build a tunnel here, it makes sense to build the bridges first so that you have easy access. The question I raise is why do any of this? Mostly, though, I posted this because the bridge leading into a sold rock face makes for a surreal sight….—Jeffrey

— comment by Grandma Friedl on March 25th, 2007 at 11:30pm JST (17 years, 4 months ago) comment permalink

I was less concerned about hairpins in the ROAD as I was about hairpins in the RIVER.

Hairpins in a RIVER are recipes for erosion issues, and considering that the road at that point seems to be nearly right above it (or at the very least, in the area that would be being eroded away), it might be a proactive measure to prevent the road from being wiped when that bend finally wears that road away. Now that’s not the tightest river-bend I’ve ever seen, but judging from the photos, it looks like it’s the kind of river that sees some significant increase in flow during thaw-season.

I see. I suppose that could be… I’ll have to check it out next time I go. I’ll be sad when they put the tunnel in, though, because I think a bridge deadending into a solid rock face is sort of cool 🙂 —Jeffrey

— comment by Derek on March 26th, 2007 at 1:24pm JST (17 years, 4 months ago) comment permalink

Nice find! Reminds me of our mountain areas up here in Iwate, where many such shortenings are built in places where they don’t seem very necessary, and lots of incredibly wide roads lead to incredibly small villages.

Welcome to Japan, as you said.

— comment by Julia on March 26th, 2007 at 5:59pm JST (17 years, 4 months ago) comment permalink

Careful review of map gives a posible hint that there will be another tunnel strait ahead

— comment by warren on October 26th, 2007 at 3:43am JST (16 years, 9 months ago) comment permalink

LDP’s pork barrel politics are famous… A way for local politicians to buy the support of affiliated local contruction companies (most of them are also linked with yakuza)…

— comment by Guillaume on February 10th, 2008 at 6:03pm JST (16 years, 5 months ago) comment permalink

Dear Jeffrey,

I am an English professor and have a book coming out called Post Apocalyptic Culture with the University of Toronto press. I really like your bridge to nowhere photos, and I am wondering if you would let me use one of them for the cover? (you would be fully acknowledged of course). I am sending a couple of ideas on to the publisher later this week, so let me know if this might be possible. Thank you. Best, Teresa

— comment by Teresa Heffernan on February 13th, 2008 at 5:53am JST (16 years, 5 months ago) comment permalink

hmm, let’s see, shortening the distance between 2 points, allowing less time wasted in the travel process… Which part exactly doesn’t make sense here?

You’re joking, right? Spending millions of dollars to shorten a pleasant drive by 30 seconds for a few dozen cars a day? What part does make sense here???? Are you a politician, or something? —Jeffrey

— comment by Rui Brito on May 10th, 2008 at 1:56pm JST (16 years, 2 months ago) comment permalink

I’m surprised no one has mentioned this yet, but I find myself thinking of some of those Wile E. Coyote vs. Roadrunner cartoons, where Wile E. paints a tunnel where a road dead ends along a cliff and Roadrunner runs into it as if it really there, and then a truck comes out of it and runs over Wile E. He then tries to run into the painting, only it turns out to really be a cliff for him. LOL

— comment by Ernie on April 23rd, 2010 at 7:14am JST (14 years, 3 months ago) comment permalink

I have never seen anything like this before. Surely, the planners got fired for coming up with this costly mistake.

— comment by Abraham Lincoln on February 12th, 2011 at 8:09pm JST (13 years, 5 months ago) comment permalink

Japan is famous for its overbuilt infrastructure. Basically, the government doesn’t know how to stimulate the economy, except by building infrastructure. So they just keep building infrastructure. Even when it’s already overbuilt, they continue to build more and more.

The planners are basically in the situation of having to come up with places to spend money, even when there’s no need for it. Bridges and tunnels are good ways to “absorb” excess money, because of their extreme cost.

— comment by Tom on July 6th, 2011 at 10:39am JST (13 years ago) comment permalink

Nice, when you walk around with google map, you can see pictures of the tunnel being made.
you now have a 2 lane straight road instead of the small one lane going around 🙂
Probably better in winter or for big truck.

— comment by Cyril on December 5th, 2012 at 2:38pm JST (11 years, 8 months ago) comment permalink
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