Return to Nijubashi Bridge

Nijubashi Bridge image

Nijubashi Bridge, Tokyo Japan

February 1954. Mom, sister Dawn and I boarded the General E.D. Patrick troop ship in San Francisco and headed to Yokohama, Japan where we rendezvoused with my father, Sgt. E.F. Curtis. I was only three years old and these are the earliest memories of my life, thanks to a number of photographs that Dad took while we were there for the next 12 months. I had a desire to return to Japan and recreate one photo in particular. We visited the Nijubashi Bridge near the Imperial Palace, among several other popular tourist attractions around Tokyo. I needed to complete the circle of my life.

Nijubashi Bridge 1954

Nijubashi Bridge 1954

I had planned to travel in 2020, but you know… ”the thing” (Covid-19) happened that ended that opportunity. Finally, on September 27, 2023, I was able to fulfill my dream. On a return trip from Los Angeles to my home in China, I decided to stop over in Tokyo for two days. I did not have enough time to visit all the places in those old black-and-white photos from 1954, but enough to complete my lifelong mission.

The first day there I ventured out to the location near the Sakuradamon Metro Station. I had to talk to people on the street to find the route, and everyone was very willing to help an obvious foreigner. As I walked through the entrance gate, my heart began beating faster, knowing that the exact spot of the original photo was steps away. As I walked past the ancient rock wall, it was like a warm light began to fill my body… or maybe it was the burning hot sun. And then it revealed itself, looking exactly like it did in 1954. I stood in awe; my eyes began to fill with water. After standing in front of the scene for several minutes, I set up my camera to match the old photo and snapped a few pictures. Standing there for the first time in 69 years brought a flood of memories of my year in Japan. I wished that my sister could have joined me at that moment.

Nijubashi Bridge 2024

Nijubashi Bridge 2023

With help from Yuki Rhinehart, a 20+ year fellow Military Brat friend who lives in Tokyo, we planned to shoot that special photo the next day. Since my sister would not be joining me, Yuki, a very popular singer/songwriter, radio personality, and voiceover artist, agreed to stand in her place.

We met for the first time the next day at exit-4 of the subway station and walked across the street, stopping in front of the historic Sakurada Gate, the site of the Sakuradamon Incident in 1860, and took a quick photo before walking to the bridge that was waiting to fulfill my dream.

The cliché that says “You can never go home again” isn’t true. I just did it. I returned to the first “home” that I remember. It’s not a house, it’s an emotion. Home is more than a physical place; it’s where our memories are rooted.


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