Every year, from January to May, when the water level of Lake Nukabira decreases, a crumbling structure resembling an ancient Roman aqueduct makes its appearance from beneath the reservoir’s surface: this is the Taushubetsu River Bridge, a lonesome “phantom bridge” doomed to be lost before long.
Originally part of the now-discontinued Shihoro Line railway’s route, the bridge was built in 1939 across the Taushubetsu, a small tributary of the Otofuke River. The name means “birch-infested river” in the tongue of Ainu, the indigenous people living in northern Japan.
In 1955, Nukabira Dam was constructed on the site, forcing the railway to make a detour and practically abandon the Taushubetsu Bridge. Now standing in the middle of a man-made lake, the ill-fated bridge is submerged under the water for most of the year. The resulting water pressure and the annual cycle of snowmelt causes most of the damage to the structure, and there has been no attempt to repair the bridge despite its scenic appeal. This was largely due to its inconvenient location, the lack of demand for preservation, and economic circumstances.
Although several media outlets reported in 2017 that the bridge was facing an imminent collapse, as of today it continues to stand. However, its surface is growing more brittle by the day. While there’s no doubt that it will be sorely missed when it finally crumbles to dust, some believe that its true attraction lies in its mortality, and many vow to watch its final days attentively.
Know Before You Go
There is a lakeside observation spot by Route 273. Since 2009, due to the number of traffic accidents happening there, it has been forbidden to take the section of the road leading up to the Taushubetsu Bridge (unless you have the permit); pedestrians are allowed to pass, but as it's approximately 2.5 miles away and the area is infested with brown bears, you should be advised to bring along some bear bells and do not venture this way alone.