Relive Traditional Urban Culture at Japan’s Cardinal Point – Nihombashi [Special Extra]

The Rich Culture of Edo Remains

A diorama of Edo-era Nihombashi
A diorama of Edo-era Nihombashi
Nihombashi as it is today
Nihombashi as it is today

Nihombashi – literally “Japan Bridge” – was once the terminus of the main artery connecting Edo and Kyoto. It boomed as a mercantile district from the 17th to 19th centuries. Indeed, the bridge serves at the cardinal point for measuring distances to Tokyo. Local arts flourished, with residents enjoying kabuki, sumo, ukiyo-e, ikebana, musical performance and literature. Japan’s first gourmet guides were even published here.

Street scene in Nihombashi
Modern commercial buildings on the rise

The Nihombashi of today is a financial centre crisscrossed with elevated highways, but Edo’s legacy is eternal. Dine at long-running sushi and tempura restaurants and browse cutlery, brush, and paper boutiques that have remained in business since the Edo era. In recent years, modern shopping meccas and state-of-the-art cinemas have opened.

Find Old Japan in Central Tokyo

Nighttime illumination at Edo Sakura-dori
Edo-Sakura-dori’s cherry blossoms are illuminated from late March to early April

Nihombashi is within walking distance of Tokyo station. Despite being one of central Tokyo’s most famous districts, a detour onto its side streets transports you to a different world. Every spring, the cherry blossom trees along Nihombashi Sakura-dori and Edo-Sakura-dori bloom into a pink wonderland.

People lined up to visit the Fukutoku Jinja Shrine
Japan’s Shogun once visited Fukutoku Shrine
(C) Chuo City Tourism Association

Incredibly, the Fukutoku Shrine dates back to the 9th century. After the massive 1923 earthquake it was relocated, but in 2014 it was returned to its Nihombashi origin. Today, visitors come here to pray for lady luck at the lottery!

Passengers riding a cruise boat
A different view of Tokyo from its river cruises
(C) Chuo City Tourism Association

Nihombashi’s canals were what helped spawn its growth. Why not get a fresh view of Tokyo from the cruises that run along the Sumida and Kanda rivers?

Nihombashi bridge summer cleaning ceremony
Nihombashi bridge summer cleaning ceremony
(C) Chuo City Tourism Association
(Left) Traditional fire ladder acrobatics show (Right) Nihombashi-Kyobashi Festival
(Left) Traditional fire ladder acrobatics show (Right) Nihombashi-Kyobashi Festival
(C) Chuo City Tourism Association

Local residents celebrate Nihombashi’s history throughout the seasons, which means plenty to see and do. At New Year’s, local fire brigades that have operated since old Edo put on an acrobatic fire ladder show! Befitting Japan’s cleanliness, every July the district’s namesake bridge receives a ritual cleaning from local businesses and children. During autumn’s “Nihombashi-Kyobashi Festival” you can watch parades and buy all manner of products at outdoor street stalls.

The Oldest Department Store in Japan

Outside of Nihombashi Mitsukoshi Main Store, Annex building
1st floor Central Hall of Nihombashi Mitsukoshi Main Store
Various exhibitions held on the main floor of Nihombashi Mitsukoshi Main Store

One of Nihombashi’s most iconic landmarks is the Nihombashi Mitsukoshi Main Store department store. Mitsukoshi has its roots in a kimono seller established in 1673. It converted into a department store in 1910 and was rebuilt in 1935 – the building which stands today. More than a store, Mitsukoshi is a living museum of Japanese culture.

Painting decorations on Kutani ware
Painting decorations on Kutani ware
Try your hand at painting on Kutani Japanese porecelain ware.

On Mitsukoshi’s permanent gallery floor, you can view traditional paintings, pottery and handicrafts. On this day, Miss International contestants visited Mitsukoshi to promote the country’s time-honored appeal to the world.

Live demonstrations of craftsmanship
Live demonstrations of craftsmanship (comb-making pictured)
Japanese tea taste testing
Japanese tea taste testing

At the Fukujuen tea shop – first established in Kyoto in 1790 – you can sample green tea poured from a antique iron pot. Better yet, learn the art of preparing your own cup of delicious green tea at one of the shop’s popular daily events.

Souvenirs to Commemorate Your Memories of Nihombashi

Sales floor for traditional Japanese handicrafts
Sales floor for traditional Japanese handicrafts

You can find myriad handicrafts and household goods at Nihombashi Mitsukoshi Main Store. Venture further into Nihombashi’s local shops of old to peruse the best of Japan’s traditional products such as Japanese knives – world famous for their razor-sharp quality – and beautiful “furoshiki” (Japanese wrapping cloths).

Food selling area in the basement of Nihombashi Mitsukoshi's main store

Surely the most delicious spot in all of Nihombashi is Mitsukoshi’s basement-level fine food market – commonly referred to as “depachika”. You’ll be stunned at the endless selection of snacks, bento boxes, and local specialty items from across Japan. Food and drink events are ongoing throughout the year. Your stomach won’t know where to begin!

Seasonal confectionaries on sale. A rich part of Japan’s food culture.

Foreign Customer Service Counter
Tax-free shopping is easy

If you’re visiting Japan, you’ll want to get your consumer tax refund after you’re done shopping. Just go to the Foreign Customer Service Counter on the 2nd floor of Mitsukoshi and you’ll be done in a few minutes.

Welcoming patrons
Welcoming patrons

The masses have loved Mitsukoshi’s flagship Nihombashi Mitsukoshi Main Store for over 100 years, not only for its products but the ultimate in customer service. Each morning you can witness the ritual greetings the staff carry out to welcome patrons. This is part of what makes shopping in Japan a one-of-a-kind experience!