The inspiration people seek: As its name suggests, the first image everybody associates with Rainbow Bridge is the grand suspension bridge lit up in the colors of the rainbow against the nighttime backdrop of Tokyo’s skyscrapers. But the angles that people actually see it from differ greatly, like from the window of an airliner as you take off or land at Haneda International Airport, from inside a car or on a motorcycle while navigating the Shutoko or from the windows of the many high-rise buildings dotting the Tokyo bayside.
The waterside shopping and entertainment area on the man-made island of Odaiba has one of the highest visitor rates of any weekend or holiday destination in the Tokyo metropolitan area. The view of Rainbow Bridge from the island’s gently washed shores is one of the most popular, but if there was just one better view to recommend, it would be from onboard a cruise boat in the bay.
If you want to enjoy the uncanny mix of this giant high-tech structure and an atmosphere with traditional Japanese aesthetics and omotenashi (hospitality), a cruise on a yakatabune (food and entertainment boat) is an excellent choice. Then again, a cruise on the futuristic, spaceship-like Himiko, a water bus designed by renowned manga and anime creator Leiji Matsumoto, offers a different but perfectly matched platform for viewing Rainbow Bridge from the water. Both promise you a clear look at how elements starkly contrast but coexist in Japan and Tokyo: a blend of the historical and the latest technologies, and traditional culture alongside pop culture. You can say that Rainbow Bridge is another place that paints a “very Japanese” picture in this sense.
In short: The bridge’s official name is the Tokyo Wan Renraku-kyo (“Tokyo Bay Connector Bridge”) while “Rainbow Bridge” is its common name chosen by a public naming contest. It is a 798 meter-long suspension bridge built with a combination of advanced design and structural technologies and the skills of tobi craftsmen (traditional Japanese construction workers that specialize in high-rise structures). It rises to a highest point of 126 meters above sea level at the top of its main towers and serves as an essential link of a multi-transit network consisting of the Shutoko’s Route No. 11 Daiba Line, the harbor area’s internal road system (rinko-doro) and the Yurikamome rapid transit system. Although it’s a lesser-known fact, there’s also a walkway by which you can walk across the bridge. Another thing the bridge is known for is its nighttime lights. There are a number of illumination patterns, but the rainbow pattern referred to in the bridge’s name is usually used every winter. The bridge also provides a choice view of Mt. Fuji in the distance on clear days.
Some background: It was in November 1986 that a pier was built for construction purposes at the end of one of the Daiba (battery fortification) that were originally built in the bay for the defense of the port of Edo near the end of the Edo Period. After a construction period of roughly seven years, the Rainbow Bridge was completed and opened to traffic in August 1993. Read more In the 21 years since it was opened, the bridge has only been closed to traffic three times, with the exception of temporary closings due to severe weather conditions such as strong winds or because of traffic accidents. The first “closing” was in a scene of a movie released in 2003, the second time was on March 1, 2009 for the “Tokyo Rainbow Walk” event held as part of the promotional campaign for Tokyo to win the right to host the Olympics and the third was when U.S. president Barack Obama visited Japan in April 2014. The bridge has also been “destroyed” a number of times in Godzilla movies.