A rare view of the two part Naniwabashi bridge, built in 1876 (Meiji 9).
The sacred torii gate of Hokoku Jinja shrine, built in 1879 (Meiji 12), can already be seen in this image, but Nakanoshima Park, which was built in 1891 (Meiji 24), does not yet exist. This image can therefore be dated to the 1880s.
Naniwabashi was originally built as a single bridge. A new bridge consisting of two separate bridges was built when the island of Nakanoshima, dividing the river Okawa into Tosaborigawa (in front) and Dojimagawa, was extended eastwards.1
During the Edo Period (1603-1868), the area around the bridge was extremely popular among Osakans to enjoy the cool evening breeze. People would go boating here, have parties with geisha in boats or enjoy watching fireworks in summer. A small boat can actually be seen passing under the bridge in this photograph.
The bridge was, together with Tenjinbashi and Tenmabashi, considered to be one of the Three Large Bridges of Naniwa (the historical name for Osaka). While most bridges in Osaka were built by business people, these three were managed directly by the Tokugawa Shogunate. Such bridges were called Kogibashi (公儀橋). Naniwabashi became a Kogibashi in 1661, at the same time as Tenjinbashi.2
In 1915 (Taisho 4), a new Naniwabashi was opened. It was located slightly east of the original bridge to connect with Sakaisuji (#8 on the vintage map below) so that the new streetcar line on that recently widened avenue could use the bridge.
Yukichi Fukuzawa, whose face is displayed on the largest bill in Japan, the 10,000 yen bill, recounts some of his wild streaks during his youth in his autobiography. In one of such episodes, played out during the 1850s, Naniwabashi plays a leading role3:
This rough person would go on to become a widely published author, inspiring teacher, translator for the government, an entrepreneur, a political theorist and the founder of Keio University. He is now seen as one of the founders of modern Japan. Something to ponder the next time you cross Osaka’s Naniwabashi.
For a view of the Naniwabashi opened in 1915, see Osaka 1930s • Naniwabashi Bridge.
1 Metadata database of Japanese old photographs in Bakumatsu-Meiji Period, 1047 From Yodogawa-bashi to Tenjin-bashi. Retrieved on 2008-06-29
2 大阪の橋の地図。難波橋（なにわばし）。Retrieved on 2008/06/29.
3 Fukuzawa, Yukichi (1899/1972). The Autobiography of Yukichi Fukuzawa. Schocken Books: 74.
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Reference for Citations
Duits, Kjeld (). Osaka 1880s: Naniwabashi Bridge, OLD PHOTOS of JAPAN. Retrieved on June 3, 2023 (GMT) from https://www.oldphotosjapan.com/photos/290/naniwabashi-bridge-wood
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