The Truth about Eshima Ohashi

You may have seen pictures of the Eshima Ohashi Grand Bridge online without knowing where it was, or if it was fake. Here is a short summary of facts and the truth about this mysterious-looking bridge.

What is the Eshima Ohashi Grand Bridge?

The Eshima Ohashi Grand Bridge is a bridge in Japan built over Nakaumi lake. It connects Matsue City in Shimane Prefecture to Sakaiminato City in Tottori Prefecture. It is 1,446.2 meters in length and is the largest rigid-frame bridge in Japan. It reaches a height of about 45 meters at the top to allow 5,000-ton class ships to pass underneath. 

The slope on the Matsue City side has become famous in Japan and beyond because of its peculiar shape. In Japan, after it appeared in a car commercial in 2013, the slope got nicknamed “betabumi-zaka,” which can be roughly translated as “the slope where you REALLY have to push on the accelerator.”

The car commercial that made the Eshima Ohashi Grand Bridge famous in Japan. 

Outside of Japan, the bridge got popular on various buzz websites as the slope looks very impressive—almost vertical when seen from far away—and was often nicknamed “roller coaster bridge” in English.

Eshima Ohashi Grand Bridge

Is the Eshima Ohashi Grand Bridge really like a roller coaster?

If you come to Japan, rent a car, and head to the Eshima Ohashi Grand Bridge to get the thrill of your life, you definitely should not. Not because it is dangerous, but because you will be very disappointed.

It is a bridge: it is made to be used comfortably by many people every day. You do not have to push on the accelerator like crazy. Although the slope is a bit steep, once you get closer to it, you soon realize… it is a normal bridge.

Eshima Ohashi Grand Bridge
The truth is rather underwhelming.

Why the chill-inducing pictures then? Are they fake? Not exactly, in the sense that they have not been retouched digitally to look like that. It all comes from an optical illusion.

First, on the Matsue side, the bridge does a sudden curve a little after the slope, which prevents the rest of the bridge and background from being seen in the picture.

Secondly, the pictures are taken with a telephoto lens. That creates the illusion that the slope is very short and high. But, for it to work, you must go as far as possible. Most of the pictures have been taken on the road about a hundred meters from the entrance of the bridge (Nakaumi lake prevents it from going further). The most impressive ones are taken from a boat! 

Further Thoughts

Eshima Ohashi Grand Bridge at sunset
The bridge has other photographic qualities that do not require an illusion.

Online, the Eshima Ohashi Grand Bridge is often described as “crazy,” “terrifying,” or “not for the faint of heart,” when the truth is that it is a perfectly normal bridge.

Although many websites tend to exaggerate a lot of facts to get more views, Japan seems to have a special treatment not only in buzz-inducing or fun websites but in news in general. Conversations about Japan often revolve around two main themes: “weird/crazy Japan” (which often exaggerates rare facts or distort reality, like in the case of the Eshima Ohashi Grand Bridge) and “exceptional Japan” (which presents Japan as having unique qualities like the punctuality of its trains or the cleanliness of its streets). However, like the picture above, Japan has a lot to offer without having to exaggerate things—and you may discover some of them by further exploring this website.

The Eshima Ohashi Grand Bridge is a reminder that every time you come across news on “facts” about Japan that look impressive—whether in a positive or a negative way—do not forget to take a step back and cross-check different sources. In short: look at things from another angle. It all might be just an illusion.

Born in France, I've been living in Japan since 2011. I'm curious about everything, and living in Japan has allowed me to expand my vision of the world through a broad range of new activities, experiences, and encounters. As a writer, what I love most is listening to people's personal stories and share them with our readers.