top コラムTokyo Photobook Tour17 特定の場所から見る東京:皇居の東側に架かる「二重橋」をめぐる写真集たち

Tokyo Photobook Tour

17 特定の場所から見る東京:皇居の東側に架かる「二重橋」をめぐる写真集たち

John Sypal

This week, instead of focusing on a particular Tokyo book I’d like to look a particular Tokyo place- one that ‘ve found picturedhrough a few different books.


The spot is the Nijubashi bridge. One of the best-known bridges in Japan, it’s located on the eastern side of the Imperial Palace grounds and draws crowds due to its fame and proximity to both the Emperor and history.  


For many Japanese- of a certain age at least- a commemorative photograph here is evidence of really having visited Tokyo. International comparisons could include the White House, the Hollywood Sign, Times Square, Big Ben in London, and the Pyramids.  (In meaning this spot is perhaps somewhat of a combination of the White House, Buckingham Palace, and for some, St. Peters).



The view is undeniably photogenic. With its calendar-perfect composition of the moat, bridges, stone walls, and watch tower peeking out behind the trees, one can only imagine how many millions of photographs have been taken from this spot over the decades. The exact number is impossible to know but I’d like to show you a few that I’ve come across in photobooks. 


Reappearances of a particular place in photographs is fascinating. Seasons and years and people pass but these places remain- both in the real world and in pictures. Photographs do not exist in a vacuum- each one is contribution to an ongoing, visual conversation held across time and paper. What’s said might not be easily translated into words, but it can be felt deepest through the connections- the sparks- discovered between two or more pictures of the same subject matter. 



As I said, Nijubashi has long been a place to have one’s photo taken.  I’ve been collecting found photos for a few years now and am always pleased to find a “Nijubashi Bridge” snapshot. This genre consists of two types of photos taken there; those of people, and those of the place.  
Here are a few of both from my collection:
やはり、二重橋は昔から写真を撮られる場所でした。 私は数年前から拾い物を集めているのですが、「二重橋」のスナップ写真を見つけると、いつも嬉しくなります。これらは、そこで撮られた人物の写真と、場所の写真の2種類で構成されています。 ここでは、私のコレクションから写真集をいくつか紹介します。 


As for photobooks, Hiromi Tsuchida’s picture in Counting Grains of Sand (Tosei-sha, 1990) brilliantly combines people and place- and a sense of humor. The regal view here is populated by tired tourists framed between a trash can and a young woman scratching her nose. 


Indeed, where people gather, photographers appear. The act of taking a photo can be its own kind of spectacle- or, at the very least, provide a photographer with still, grouped subjects, as seen in Issei Suda’s shot from the late 70s that appears in Fragments of Calm (Tosei-sha, 2013)

Nijubashi has also served both as a popular backdrop for history, and for news reports. In this image taken by Shinya Arimoto, Australian newscasters are filmed on the first day of the Imperial Era Reiwa, on May 1, 2019.  It appears in his book Tokyo Strut (Zen Foto Gallery, 2022).
二重橋は、歴史の背景として、また報道の背景として、人気のある場所でもあります。有元伸也の『Tokyo Strut』(Zen Foto Gallery、2022年)に掲載されている写真は、2019年5月1日の皇紀礼讃初日に、オーストラリアのニュースキャスターを撮影したものです。




Nijubashi Bridge is a recurring theme in the work of Nobuyoshi Araki.
Its most prominent appearance is the cover of his 1984 book, Tokyo, in Autumn. 



The pictures in this book are accompanied transcripts of conversations Araki and his wife Yoko had while viewing the images. In it, Araki compares Nijubashi as a stage- with Yoko noting that the young couple in it are probably on their honeymoon.  



Araki replies that he likes that kind of stuff- “a couple on honeymoon in Tokyo, visiting places like Tokyo Tower and the Imperial Palace”, adding that this the best picture in the book. 


Perhaps, with this picture in mind, he posed for a snap on the same spot in 1985.
For a man of the Showa age, the date is important.  August 15, 1945 was the day the emperor’s surrender speech was broadcast, marking the end of the war.  
It’s also worth adding that the stone bridge has the nickname of “spectacle bridge”, since its arches look like a pair of half-submerged glasses. Or, in this case, like Araki’s trademark ones. 


Moving ahead a few years-  in Araki’s Tokyo Summer Story (WIDES, 2003) the palace grounds are seen from his taxi window.



And it appears twice in 2005’s Kotoshi (This Year) - first as reference (Homage? Parody?) to Tokyo, in Autumn:
そして、2005年の『今年』ではこの場所が2回登場します。まずはペンタックス67で撮った記念写真。これは『東京は、秋』へのオマージュか? パロディー?



And then, a few pages later, date-stamped (and printed quite small).

The last image of the bridge that I’m aware of in Araki’s books is this brilliant one from Tokyo Radiation (WIDES, 2010). It was presumably taken from a taxi, obviously with a longer focal length. The visual compression of the crowd adds a touch of poignant distance, to my eye. 



Lastly, having lived and photographed in Tokyo for many years, I’ve likewise photographed this scene many times. 
On an early, quiet summer day in 2014 I saw an out of town couple standing in front of the same willow as Araki’s cover couple did in the mid 1970s.   With his picture in mind I raised my camera to my eye. Was it my turn to add to the conversation? Instead of posing for a photo, these two, with their compact digital camera, were taking their own pictures.  Captured in photographs across forty years, these two couples have a connection to each and every person who’s been photographed before this bridge.  


2014年の初夏の静かな日、荒木さんが表紙を飾ったカップルと同じ柳の樹の前に、町外れのカップルが立っているのを見かけました。 荒木さんの写真を思い浮かべながら、私はカメラを目前に掲げました。カシャ。今度は私がここまで営まれてきた「写真的会話」を深める番なのでしょうか。コンパクトデジタルカメラを手にした二人は、ポーズをとるのではなく、自分たちで写真を撮っていた。 40年の時を超えて写真に収められたこの2組のカップルは、この橋の手前で撮影された人たち一人ひとりとつながりをもっている気がします。


Photography is really about threading a ribbon of silver (or data) through life, time, and place.  
The official Chiyoda ward webpage for Nijubashi:


The Nijubashi bridge page on


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