Taushubetsu Bridge: Why is it called the “phantom bridge”? The latest guide of 2023 from how to access to tour impression
As Taushubetsu Bridge in Kamishihoro Town, Hokkaido, appears and disappears due to the fluctuation of the level of Lake Nukabira, it is known as the “phantom bridge.” Now more people are visiting there to see the bridge crumbling back into nature. Although it is not an easily accessible place, we introduce how to access and how to get a close look at the bridge as well as feedback from a guided tour participant!
◎About Taushubetsu Bridge
This bridge was constructed in 1937 for transporting timber resources of the Tokachi inland region as part of the Shihoro Line of the former Japan National Railways. A large number of people and goods traveled over this bridge, making the mountain region busy and bustling. However, due to the installment of a new dam on Lake Nukabira, the line was abandoned after about 17 years and let sink to the lake bed. Now, the bridge exists there as a modern industrial heritage that reflects the history of the area.
◎How long will the bridge stay there?
The water level of the lake fluctuates depending on the amount of rain, the amount of snowmelt, and the electricity generated during the year, resulting in the appearing and disappearing of the bridge varying widely. Every year, the bridge sinks to the bottom of the lake from early summer to autumn. In winter, the water level of the frozen lake goes down, and then when the spring low-water season arrives, the whole bridge appears. Due to the impact of water and ice caused by the water level fluctuation for an extended period, the bridge has been deteriorating very badly. So, it is thought that the bridge will be able to hold on to its complete shape with all the arches connected only for another few years.
◎How to access
Since there is no public transportation service, such as bus, bringing you to the area around the bridge, the following section describes how to get to Nukabira Onsen located nearby.
JR Obihiro Sta. → 2 hours by bus (Nukabira Line) → Nukabira Gensenkyo Eigyosho stop (Adult 1,550 yen)
Tokachi Bus website: https://www.tokachibus.jp/
◎How to get a close look at the bridge
◆Option 1: Make a reservation for an access key
As Taushubetsu Bridge is located within an access-restricted area, you need an access key for the forest road gate. To get the key, you need to make a reservation for the key in advance on the website for Kamishihoro Town Tourist Association. Once you get the key, you can bring your car close to the bridge.
- You can make a reservation from the time starting one month prior to the day you want to visit.
- Per user, a donation of 1,000 yen is required.
>> How to make a reservation: Apply for the tour from the special site by the day before (maximum 10 groups per day)
>> https://kamishihoro.info/key/index.php *The reservation site is available only in Japanese.
◆Option 2: See the bridge from Taushubetsu Observatory
There is an observatory about 750 meters from Taushubetsu Bridge. Although you cannot get a really close look at the bridge, it is the easiest way to see it. (No reservation required)
◆Option 3: Join a guided tour
There is a tour hosted by Higashi Taisetsu Nature Guide Center. This tour offers commentary about the geography and history of the area. As you can go with a tour guide, you can feel safe and secure. After checking the availability of the tour on their website, you can apply for the tour by email.
-You can make a reservation from the time starting three months prior to the day you want to visit.
-Fees: Adult 4,500 yen (including rental boots)
- Tour duration: about 2 hours and 30 minutes, starting 5:30, 9:00 and 14:00 *Varies depending on season
- Meeting place: Nukabira Onsen Culture Hall
>> Check the availability of the tour → http://www.guidecentre.jp/pg169.html
>> To make a reservation, apply by the day before the tour by email (maximum 16 participants) firstname.lastname@example.org
◎Joining the guided tour
In June 2023, I joined the tour by Higashi Taisetsu Nature Guide Center! For the tour the next morning, I stayed at Nukabira Onsen. (The great part of the early-morning tour is that you can be on time for breakfast after the tour.) The meeting place “Nukabira Onsen Culture Hall” was located very close to the hotel I stayed at. Early on the morning at a temperature of seven degrees Celsius, the van with the tour participants including me entered the access-restricted area. After the van got through several fallen trees blocking the path, I saw the crumbling bridge standing in the huge space.
On that day, the lake was almost dried up, so I could walk to the bridge footing.
Although the series of 11 arches was still connected, I could see the loose parts and cracks everywhere on the concrete walls, which made me feel that the day the bridge would collapse was very close.
I went up the pebbly hill to get to the back of the bridge. The loosely-mounted gravel of the hill used to be packed inside the outer wall of the bridge supports.
I saw many dead trees in the area. Those were cut down at the construction of the dam and let to sink to the bottom of the lake. Those dead trees in their original shape looked like a grave markers, making me feel forlorn.
The statement by the tour guide, “Taushubetsu Bridge has completed its task and is now living out its remaining days,” sticks out in my mind, along with its current appearance under the aging process of reverting to nature after being constructed and abandoned by humans.