If you’re not a huge fan of rollercoasters, you might want to give Eshima Ohashi Bridge a big miss – it’s said to be the steepest in the world, and it has nauseatingly sharp slopes on both of its sides.
Nicknamed the Rollercoaster Bridge, it was constructed with such impressive gradients so that it could allow large ships to easily pass underneath – but when you see it, you might think it was meant to be a ride at a fairground instead. As well as its rollercoaster moniker, it’s also been dubbed the Bridge to the Sky, a fitting name, as it does seem as if it’s ascending to the heavens.
The dual lane, concrete structure is Japan’s largest rigid frame bridge – and the third largest in the entire world. Its broad, robust design is 11.4 metres wide, while its length spans just over a mile, reaching across Lake Nakaumi to connect up the cities of Matsue and Sakaiminato.
When you first see vehicles driving up or down its slopes, they look as if they might go sliding off its steep gradients, which are a panic-inducing 5.1 % on its Tottori side, and a blood-curdling 6.1% on the Shimane side. On its steepest incline, that equates to drivers ascending or descending about 6 feet for every 100 feet travelled!
Despite its terrifying appearance, Eshima Ohashi bridge is apparently pretty safe, as since its completion in 2004, there have been virtually zero recorded serious accidents. Although the slope appears as if cars could just slip right off of it, in reality, drivers gradually ascend and descend, so it’s easier than it looks for them to get used to the sharp gradients.
The bridge was built on the original site of an old drawbridge, which slowed down traffic considerably, as every time a ship passed under, drivers would have to wait for up to 8 minutes. On top of that, the flow of traffic would be interrupted near-constantly, sometimes as much as every 10 minutes – and so, Eshima Ohashi was born.
Over the years, Japan’s scariest bridge has picked up its fair share of fans, as visitors from all over the world now come to see it, and some even dare to experience driving on it for themselves. As it has a cycle lane, tourists can also cycle or walk to the middle of the bridge, to enjoy stunning views of Lake Nakaumi, and the panoramas from the middle of the bridge have become so infamous, free telescopes and binoculars are now provided for tourists.
The bridge is such a celebrity, it even starred in its own tv commercial, for the Daihatsu Motor Co in Japan, with the company’s Tanto minivan tackling its perilous slopes, to prove the vehicle’s durability.
Despite its surprising track record for safety, many experienced drivers do suffer anxiety attacks when preparing to navigate Eshima Ohashi’s sharp inclines, which due to their design, look much steeper than they are. Apparently, once you get on the bridge, it’s nowhere near as scary as it seems, but though we’d love to see it for ourselves, we think we’ll give driving on it a swerve.