Global Issues: Japan/Militarism/Kotokoi Bridge
The Kototoi Bridge
Kototoi-Bashi which literally tranlsates into Kototoi Bridge rests on the Sumida River in the heart of Tokyo (Asakusa District) The Kototoi Bridge, dating from 1928, was reconstructed at the location of the bridge which linked two nearby temples -- the Mimeguri-Jinja and the Matsuchiyama-shoden. The Bridge was a vital intersection of crossing into Tokyo back in the mid 1940's and remained a prominent passing lane and hub for the citizens. The Sumida River back then did not have as many bridges that it has today (Seven) and the Kototoi bridge remained one of the most important bridges.
The Kototoi Bridge remains a constant reminder that few know of and remember in Tokyo society. A monument stands at the head of the bridge to all the fallen civilians that died in the Tokyo Air raid in 1945. The B-29 Super fortress bomber made its first appearance over Tokyo on November 1, 1944 - a single plane flying at 35,000 feet; beyond the reach of the defender's anti-aircraft guns and fighter planes. The intruder dropped no bombs. This was strictly a reconnaissance mission. The B-29 Bomber made its effective recon run over Tokyo and thus began the preparations of making the war of attrition on Japan. The most devastating bombing campaign in all of the war in the Pacific. The Tokyo Air Raid started as a high altitude level carpet bombing over the main cities of Japan. Tokyo being one of them, was initially activated by the new Commander, Major-General Curtis Lemay. The high level bombing runs proved to be ineffective in a military standpoint. This was due to the air flow over Japan which caused much of the allies ordinance to miss its primary targets. General Lemay then came up with the idea of using incendiary low level missions at night to cause significant damage and hasten the end of the war. A successful incendiary raid required ideal weather that included dry air and significant wind. Weather reports predicted these conditions over Tokyo on the night of March 9-10, 1945. A force of 334 B-29s was unleashed - each plane stripped of ammunition for its machine guns to allow it to carry more fire-bombs. The lead attackers arrived over the city just after dark and were followed by a procession of death that lasted until dawn. The fires started by the initial raiders could be seen from 150 miles away. The results were devastating: almost 17 square miles of the city were reduced to ashes. Estimates of the number killed range between 80,000 and 200,000, a higher death toll than that produced by the dropping of the Atomic Bomb on Hiroshima or Nagasaki six months later.(http://www.eyewitnesstohistory.com/tokyo.html) The bombers' primary target was the neighboring industrial district of the city that housed factories, docks and the homes of the workers who supplied the manpower for Japan's war industry. The district hugged Tokyo Bay and was densely-packed with wooden homes lining winding streets that followed random paths - all the ingredients necessary for creating a perfect fire storm.(http://www.eyewitnesstohistory.com/tokyo.htm)
A first hand account of the raid... "Around midnight, the first Superfortresses dropped hundreds of clusters of the incendiary cylinders the people called "Molotov flower baskets," marking out the target zone with four or five big fires. The planes that followed, flying lower, circled and crisscrossed the area, leaving great rings of fire behind them. Soon other waves came in to drop their incendiaries inside the "marker" circles. Hell could be no hotter." The ground was set and the order begin immediately and the bombings began laying waste to the ground and buildings of Tokyo. The small wood houses nearby to the factories of Nakijima and Mitsubishi were instantly scorched burning everything inside instantly. Tokyo began to light up as a constant pelting of the city lasted all night and into dawn. The Japanese civil services were completely under manned for a titanic and colossal fires that swept through the city. In the district of Asakusa where the Kototoi bridge was the area of the most civilian casualties. The Kototoi bridge became a frantic bottleneck opening for many Japanese people trying to escape the fiery infernos that were growing rapidly. The Kototoi bridge trapped many people as people from both sides were jammed on the bridge eventually succumbed to suffocation and the fires. Hundreds of people gave up trying to escape and, with or without their precious bundles, crawled into the holes that served as shelters; their charred bodies were found after the raid. Whole families perished in holes they had dug under their wooden houses because shelter space was scarce in those overpopulated hives of the poor; the house would collapse and burn on top of them, braising them in their holes. The Tokyo Air raid remains the worst bombing in the pacific war. The site at the head of the Kototoi bridge remains as a small reminder of what happened on that summer night in Tokyo.
Kototoi Bridge Today
The bridge was remodeled and reconstructed to support heavier traffic especially after the war as it was heavily damaged. Pieces of the old bridge remain at the monument for the Tokyo Air Raid. Kototoi remains one of the busiest commercial bridges still in use and is located where the famous Cherry Blossoms bloom in the spring time.
Impact on the Author
Kototoi Bridge happened to be on the first day I visited Tokyo. This was a special place to me for the reason that I consider myself a historian and a knowledgeable at least on military issues. The Kototoi was a powerful place for me to stand there as a witness of what happened in the past. Places like the bridge where I know full well that something monumental took place, in this case a major tragedy for one side and collateral damage on the other. This and Hiroshima will remain as a powerful memory and that I'm glad I expeirenced it up close.
1. What district is the Kototoi Bridge in?
2. Who Led the Tokyo Air Raid?
• General Roy Tamashiro
• General Lemay
• Emperor Tojo
• General Patton
3. What Type of Bomber was used in the Raid?
4. Before the War when was the Bridge Reconstructed?
5. What river is located under the Kototoi Bridge?
6. What Ordinance was used in the Firebombing of Tokyo?
2. Barrell, Tony (1997). "Tokyo's Burning". ABC Online. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. http://www.abc.net.au/rn/arts/tokyosum.htm. Retrieved on 2006-11-03. Transcript of a radio documentary/commentary on the Tokyo firebombing with excerpts from interviews with participants and witnesses.
3. Hansell, Jr., Haywood S. (1986). "The Strategic Air War Against Germany and Japan: A Memoir". Project Warrior Studies. U.S. Office of Air Force History. http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/AAF/Hansell/index.html. Retrieved on December 12 2006.
4. Craven, Wesley Frank; James Lea Cate. "Vol. V: The Pacific: Matterhorn to Nagasaki, June 1944 to August 1945". The Army Air Forces in World War II. U.S. Office of Air Force History. http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/AAF/V/index.html. Retrieved on December 12 2006.