One interesting feature of Japanese elevated highways: they often run above rivers or sea channels, using the available space above the water. Here are some of these "highways on the sea" -
The incredible Japanese road infrastructure really took off in the 1960s - check out the vintage photo on the right:
Some sections of the Hanshin Expressway suffered severe damage during the 7.2 magnitude Great Hanshin Earthquake which hit the Kobe, Japan area in January of 1995, killing over 5,500 people and costing over $200 billion.
On the bright side, the affected sections of the highway did not "pancake", as happened in the 1989 Loma Prieta quake, but instead slipped sideways and tumbled over. Either way, one doesn't want to be driving through a highway interchange or junction when a big quake hits!
Recession, what recession?
Public works spending has long been the Japanese government's preferred way to spend budget surpluses, boost employment, keep the ruling party's supporters in the construction industry loyal, or all of the above. The highway depicted below is one of those projects, steadily overtaking a quiet city street like Godzilla in slow motion.
Which came first, the highway or the building? The question is moot as both have learned to accommodate one another. The Hanshin Expressway takes a shortcut through the 5th to 7th floors of Fukushima's Gate Tower building, also known as the Bee Hive.
The story goes that the original building's owner wanted to knock it down and rebuild, but was told by city planners that the space was being allocated to a newly planned exit of the expressway. Both sides refused to budge, and the compromise was completed in 1992.
Tokyo residents can easily avoid using the highways and expressways which crisscross the city, thanks to one of the world's largest and most efficient subway systems, but when traffic is light they can be a pleasure to drive. The view can be pretty intense, as in the time-lapse photo below:
(image credit: Vladimir Zakharov)