On August 26, 2011, the Rainbow Bridge, which connects central Tokyo and the waterfront subcenter, celebrated its 30th anniversary. To celebrate this milestone, a “Main Tower Climbing Tour” was held on August 26 to climb the highest “Main Tower” of the Rainbow Bridge. The tour took 24 lucky couples selected by lottery to the top of the Rainbow Bridge’s main tower, which is normally inaccessible to the public. The number of applicants was 1,753, 73 times higher than the number of applicants who applied for the tour.
Before we get into the details of this “extremely rare tour,” let us look back at the history of the Rainbow Bridge. Construction began in January 1987. Construction began in January 1987 with the aim of creating a bridge that would connect the center of Tokyo with the Rinkai subcenter, which was to be built at the time, and provide both convenience in terms of transportation and aesthetically pleasing scenery in order to relieve traffic congestion in the center of Tokyo.
The bridge is known as a beautiful suspension bridge with a length of 798m, but there is a reason why it became a suspension bridge. The bridge was built for a reason: ships using the Port of Tokyo needed a space 50 m high and 500 m wide for navigation under the bridge. In addition, the height of the bridge was limited to 155 m due to the presence of Haneda Airport nearby. The requirement to curve the road at both ends also imposed various restrictions on the length from the main tower to the anchorage (the block used to fix the main cable of the suspension bridge). As a result of satisfying all of these conditions and taking economic and technical considerations into account, the suspension bridge format was adopted.
At the time of the Rainbow Bridge construction, I was working as an editorial reporter for the Nikkan Jidosha Shimbun newspaper on the coast of Minato Ward, and for several years I watched the bridge being completed while taking breaks at Hinode Pier, located just a short distance from my office. It is quite moving to think that it has been 30 years since the bridge opened to traffic.
At that time, the nickname “Rainbow Bridge” did not yet exist, and was simply called the “Tokyo Port Liaison Bridge. The name “Rainbow Bridge” was chosen from a public contest, but the name was not made public until November 1992. Mikiko Ishii, a world-renowned lighting designer, was in charge of the lighting, and I recall her saying, “It was difficult to design the lighting for a bridge whose name had not even been announced. It was not until 2000, seven years after the opening of the bridge, that the beautiful rainbow-colored lights that have become synonymous with the bridge came to be used.
The tour to the top of the main tower was conducted by 12 groups in the morning and 12 groups in the afternoon. Participants listened to an overview of the bridge and listened to episodes from the construction period while viewing a model made before construction and a rare video made shortly after the opening of the bridge at the exhibition room on the anchorage on the Shibaura side. After the lecture, the participants moved in groups of two or three to the main tower on the Shibaura side in Shibaura South Pier Park.
Although I had seen the tower every day since before it opened to traffic, this was the first time for me to climb it. I wondered, “How in the world am I going to get up there? I wondered, “How in the world am I going to get up there?” Then my turn came and I took the stairs from the base of the main tower to the elevator platform. From there, we took a small elevator to the 126-meter summit. Since the elevator is for maintenance and inspection inside the bridge girder, the number of passengers per ride is about four. It takes about two and a half minutes to get to the top. It was hot, cramped, and nerve-wracking, but thankfully cold drinks were available at the bottom of the elevator.
After that, it was another 30 steps up a narrow indoor staircase that looked like a ladder. As I reached the top, the blue sky came into view. I was at the top of the Rainbow Bridge, which I was climbing for the first time. Below me, I could see small cars running on the Rainbow Bridge. The sky overhead is a wonderful blue, and the buildings around Odaiba and the deep greenery in the background are dazzling to the eye.
The Metropolitan Expressway has held several tours to the top of the main tower. Each time, the number of visitors has been extremely high, but there are plans to hold more tours in the future. The next time will be in 10 years, or maybe even 20 years. …… I am looking forward to it.
Interview and text by： Kumiko Kato PHOTO： Hiroto Kato