As I wrote in an earlier post, hubby and I did some sightseeing in and around Nihonbashi district during the Golden week holidays. On 30th April, we visited a few shrines and saw several historic buildings and structures in Nihonbashi district of Chuo Ward. Nihonbashi district is considered to be the center of Japan and it has flourished and enjoyed much commercial prosperity over the centuries. It is a unique place where past and present seem to meet and we can experience a unique blend of historical Edo period culture and modern day Tokyo. In fact, many shrines, shops, and other structures with centuries-long histories are still operating in the district today. All these places make for pleasant strolls. Walking around, eating delicious foods, and shopping in the district is very delightful.
On 30th April, hubby and I initially visited a few shrines in Nihonbashi district. We walked along a walking course called Shichifukujin Meguri and visited three of the eight shrines dedicated to the seven Shichifukujin deities of good fortune. First we visited a shrine named Koami Jinja. The shrine was founded 550 years ago in 1466 and has great historical value. Koami Jinja is one of the few existing shrines constructed with Bishu-hinoki cypress. Today’s dignified looking Shaden Main Hall and Kaguraden Hall buildings were constructed in 1942, and the Main Hall adheres to the traditional design with elaborately sculptured ornaments. These two hall buildings are registered as cultural properties of Chuo Ward. The principal deity of Koami Inari is enshrined inside the shrine. It is a deity of fertility, rice, tea, Sake, agriculture, industry, general prosperity, and worldly success. In addition, a deity of virtue and longevity named Fukurokuju, and a deity of learning and wealth named Benzaiten are also worshipped here. A statue of Benzaiten sitting in a boat is enshrined in the shrine premises. This statue was initially enshrined in Manpukuju Temple but was later transferred to this shrine in 1869. There is also a small water basin (named Zeni-arai-no-i) located in front of the deity, whose water is said to have the power to multiply the money that is washed with its water. The shrine annually holds Doburoku (crude home-brewed sake) festival on 28th November, which is regarded as one of the major Doburoku festivals in Kanto region. We noted that the shrine has a stone Torii Gate towards the eastern side and a beautiful strong straw Shimenawa hangs from the gate. We walked past the gate and appreciated the architecture of various buildings inside the shrine premises for some time. Afterwards, I washed my hands at Temizuya water fountain which is a ritual for cleansing our body and mind. At the altar of the Main Hall, I offered some coins into the offertory box, clapped my hands twice, and prayed for long life of hubby and well being of my family. I also rang a bell that hung in front of the Main Hall. Afterwards I prayed to Benzaiten deity and washed a 10 Yen coin at the small water basin located in front of the statue. I hope our money will multiply soon. We also bought a wooden Ema with Shichifukujin gods painted on it.
Hubby consulting a map while walking along Shichifukujin Meguri walking course
I am standing in front of Koami Jinja shrine
Shimenawa rope hanging from Torii Gate of the shrine
Hubby standing inside the shrine premises along with Shaden Main Hall in the background
The wooden front and ceiling of the Main Hall has intricate and elaborate sculptures and traditional designs
Enlarged view of the Main Hall front
I am washing my hands at Temizuya
I am ringing a bell hanging in front of the Main Hall
Altar inside the Main Hall
Statue of Benzaiten deity and a small water basin located in front of it
I am washing a 10 Yen coin in the water basin
Statue of Fukurokuju deity
A wooden Ema with Shichifukujin gods painted on it
We walked further along the Shichifukujin Meguri walking course for about 10 minutes and reached a shrine named Takarada Ebisu Jinja located in Nihonbashi itself. The surrounding houses and parking lot almost obscures this quiet neighborhood small shrine, but it still attracts a steady stream of locals stopping by for praying. The principal deity of Ebisu, a god of prosperous business, is enshrined inside. This statue of Ebisu located in the center of the altar is reportedly the work of Unkei or Hidari Jingoro. The statue was originally a local guardian deity of Takarada Village located in front of the Imperial Palace. Later in 1606, the statue was reportedly given by Tokugawa Ieyasu to a Samurai official of Edo Castle named Magome Kageyu. The popular annual fair of Bettaraichi is held on 19th-20th October around this shrine since Genroku era of Edo period. The fair is well known for selling the local specialty called Bettarazuke, or sweet and salty Daikon radish pickles. We appreciated the shrine architecture for some time and I prayed in front of the shrine altar for hubby’s success in job.
Hubby standing in front of Takarada Ebisu Jinja shrine
I am standing in front of the shrine
I am ringing a bell hanging in front of the shrine
Altar inside the shrine hall
We continued walking along the walking course for another 10 minutes and reached yet another shrine named Suginomori Jinja. The shrine was founded about 1000 years ago by a warrior of that time. The shrine records indicate that Fujiwara no Hidesato (Taira no Tota) prayed for the subjugation of Taira no Masakado in a battle, as well as Ota Dokan carried out a ceremony to pray for rains at this shrine. The principal deity of Ebisu is enshrined inside. The deity has a fishing rod in his right hand and a sea bream in the left hand. Ebisu was initially prayed as a god of bountiful catches but later it also came to be prayed as a god of business prosperity. During Edo period the shrine prospered and was considered as one of the three lottery-drawing shrines or ‘Edo Mitsumori’ (Edo three-‘mori’) shrines of Edo Tokyo area along with Yanaginomori Jinja of Kanda and Karasunomori Jinja of Shinbashi. Ebisu-gami festival of October is celebrated with great fanfare and excitement every year. The shrine has a gray stone Torii gate towards the western side from where we entered inside the shrine premises. We noted that the stone statues of Shishi lions guarding the shrine premises were wonderfully crafted. After washing my hands at Temizuya water fountain, I prayed at the altar of the shrine.
I am standing in front of the stone Torii Gate of Suginomori Jinja shrine
Hubby standing next to a statue of Shishi lion
I am washing my hands at Temizuya
Hubby standing in front of the shrine hall
Enlarged view of the shrine hall
A wooden tablet with Suginomori Jinja written on it hanging from the front of the shrine hall
I am ringing a bell hanging in front of the shrine hall
This time we visited only three of the eight shrines dedicated to Shichifukujin gods of good fortune and decided to visit the remaining five shrines during our next trip to Nihonbashi district. Afterwards we walked for about 10 minutes towards the west and realized that we were now in the modern part of Nihonbashi with many high rise buildings all around. While walking we saw an interesting building named Mitsui Honkan to our right side. Honkan means main building in Japanese. Mitsui Honkan was built to replace an earlier headquarters building of the Mitsui combine that had been damaged in the 1923 Kanto Earthquake. The building was designed by an American firm named Trowbridge and Livingston, and was completed in 1929. They constructed the building with advanced structural and mechanical systems but with a neoclassical architectural form. The seven-story steel-frame reinforced concrete structure has a granite-clad facade with engaged columns and paired corner pilasters of the Corinthian order. Mitsui Honkan is said to be the first building in Japan to have an interior extensively finished in marble. The building was designed as absolutely earthquake-resistant and fire-resistant design concept of the time. Mitsui Honkan building is now designated as an important cultural property of Japan. Presently two banks and a museum are housed in the building. We really loved the exterior architecture of the building.
Mitsui Honkan building
Located next to (south of) the Mitsui Honkan building, we saw a seven-storied Mitsukoshi Nihonabshi Main Store building that opened in 1935. Mitsukoshi is Japan's oldest department store dating back to 1673, when it was called Echigoya, which was a highly successful textile shop selling Kimono fabric. Echigoya founder Mitsui Takatoshi later became the founder of the Mitsui business conglomerate and Mitsukoshi stores. The successor of Echigoya textile shop is this Mitsukoshi Main Store, which is Japan's first department store and still stands in the center of the district. This building was designated as a historic structure in 1999. We appreciated the architecture of the building and noted that the doorway of the building has an impressive Renaissance-style facade and contains two bronze statues of lions. We also noted that now there is an adjacent ten-storied annex building also.
Mitsukoshi Nihonbashi Main Store building
The building facade has Renaissance-style architecture
Doorway of the building is impressive and contains two bronze statues of lions (red arrows)
Next, we continued walking towards the west along a street located in between Mitsui Honkan building and Mitsukoshi Main Store, and saw the Bank of Japan building behind Mitsui Honkan. The Bank of Japan is the central bank of Japan with its headquarters in Nihonbashi. Nowadays, the headquarters consists of three buildings namely, the old main building, the new building, and the annex building. We had reached the south entrance side of the old main building of the bank. I will describe about this old main building here. The Bank of Japan was founded after the Meiji Restoration in 1882 and was originally located a short distance away from where the present old main building is located. It relocated owing to the lack of space. The construction of the present old main building of the bank was completed in 1896 at its current site, which was the location of the gold coins mint in the Edo period. The building was designed by architect Tatsuno Kingo, who modeled the building after the National Bank of Belgium, the most advanced example at the time. The old main building has three stories above ground and one below. It is a brick-masonry building with a double wall structure, in which bricks are laid inside and outside the stone walls to make the building more resistant to earthquakes. Although features such as the central dome and entrance pillars are in neo-baroque style, the building also incorporates Renaissance characteristics in its high symmetry, walls and other design features. It also has some advanced facilities that were rare in Japan at the time, like flush toilets, elevators, fireproof shutters, cast-iron stairs, and chandeliers. The building remains more or less in its original condition today, and is designated as an important cultural property of Japan. We continued walking along a street located adjacent to this old main building and appreciated the architecture of the building. Within a few minutes, we reached the west entrance side of the building. North of this building we saw the ten-storied new building of the bank that was built in 1973 and present-day banking activities are carried out of this new building. In addition, south of the old main building is the annex building which houses the bank’s Currency Museum. The museum was opened in 1982 to commemorate the bank's centenary. We entered inside the museum and learnt about the history of Japan's currency with displays of interesting historical coins and bills. At the museum, we bought funny souvenirs like a washcloth and a hand towel with 10000 Yen bill printed on them.
Old main building of the Bank of Japan as viewed from the south
Old main building with the central dome as viewed from the south
Old main building as viewed from the west along with the Nihonbashi Mitsui Tower (red arrow)
Hubby and the west side of the old main building along with the new building in the background (red arrow)
A washcloth we bought from the bank’s Currency Museum. The 10000 Yen bill printed on it seems so perfect.
Hubby holding a hand towel with 10000 Yen bill printed on it
Afterwards we retraced our steps and walked back along the street. Next we went inside a commercial complex named Coredo Muromachi 3 located right in front of (east of) Mitsukoshi Main Store. We had late lunch at a cafe restaurant named Do Tabelka located inside Coredo Muromachi 3. The restaurant serves Japanese style Teishoku and Bento set meals. The basic composition of hubby’s lunch arrangement was of the type called Ichiju-sansai, which consisted of a soup and three dishes. My lunch arrangement was of the type Ichiju-hassai, which consisted of a soup and eight dishes. Although the lunch was rather expensive, it was extremely delicious and was worth all the money. The luxury meal really pleased our body and soul.
One of the dishes of my Ichiju-hassai lunch
Other dishes, soup, and rice of my Ichiju-hassai lunch
Hubby’s Ichiju-sansai lunch
Hubby having lunch
After lunch we decided to visit Nihonbashi Bridge which was just a short distance away. So we walked towards the south for a few minutes and saw an overhead ‘bridge’, seeing which I was doubtful and wondered as to why Nihonbashi Bridge is known as one of the most beautiful bridges of Japan. This is because the overhead ‘bridge’ was the ugliest thing I have ever seen in Japan from the view point of aesthetics. Seeing my confused state hubby told me that the street we were walking was Nihonbashi Bridge and the overhead thing was the Metropolitan Expressway that was constructed in 1963. This drab expressway is really an eyesore that causes a permanent shadow over Nihonbashi Bridge. Nihonbashi Bridge is a landmark historic stone bridge located over Nihonbashi River in Nihonbashi district. A wooden bridge was first built across the river during the Edo period in 1603 and was a favorite scene for artists of the day. The bridge was rebuilt many times, and the current stone bridge is the 20th. This stone bridge was designed by Tsumaki Yorinaka and was constructed of stone on a steel frame during the Meiji period in 1911. This stone bridge is a Renaissance-style double arch road bridge that is 49 meters long and 27 meters wide. It was designated an important cultural property of Japan in 1999. During the Edo period, the bridge marked the starting point of the Gokaido (five main roads leading to and from Edo Tokyo), namely, Tokadio, Nakasendo, Nikko Kaido, Oshu Kaido, and Koshu Kaido. These Gokaido roads connected Edo Tokyo administrative capital to the outlying provincial realms. In addition, it was traditionally the central point from which all distances in the country were measured since early Edo period, a practice that still continues today. Highway signs indicating the distance to Tokyo actually state the number of kilometers to the center of Nihonbashi Bridge. While walking along the 105-year-old Nihonbashi Bridge, I realized that it is really an aesthetically beautiful bridge though it is obscured and literally overshadowed by the elevated expressway. We noted that artistic lampposts with beautiful bronze sculptures of Shishi lions adorned both sides and both ends of the bridge. We also saw lampposts with bronze sculptures of Kirin giraffes adorned both sides of the midway of the bridge. We walked across the 49-meter-long bridge and towards its southern end, we walked down a few steps to see and appreciate the double arches of the stone bridge.
The street beyond the front crossing is Nihonbashi Bridge. The overhead Metropolitan Expressway is also seen.
I am standing towards the northern end of Nihonbashi Bridge
I am standing with a sculpture of Shishi lion towards the northern end of the bridge
Walking along the bridge
I am standing midway of the bridge along with a sculpture of Kirin giraffe
A lamppost with wonderful sculptures of Kirin giraffes
Nihonbashi River as seen while looking down from the bridge
Another view of the river
Hubby standing towards the southern end of the bridge along with a sculpture of Shishi lion adorning a lamppost
I am standing towards the southern end of the bridge
Nihonbashi Bridge looking north towards Mitsukoshi Main Store
One of the arches of the bridge
The second arch of the bridge
Hubby and the bridge
The bridge and I
After seeing the Nihonbashi Bridge, we continued walking towards Tokyo Railway Station. On our way we saw a bronze statue of Shibusawa Eiichi who was an industrialist widely known today as the father of Japanese capitalism. He founded the first modern bank named The First National Bank based on joint stock ownership in Japan. While walking we saw many high rise buildings all along the way up to Tokyo Station. On reaching the railway station, we took Tokaido Shinkansen train to go to Nagoya from where we took a local train and reached our home in Ichinomiya City at about 9 pm.
A bronze statue of Shibusawa Eiichi
Hubby and high rise buildings
Another high rise building
Hubby waiting at Tokyo Railway Station
We saw two Tokaido Shinkansen trains while waiting for our train
Our Shinkansen train
We inside the Shinkansen train
Nihonbashi district is an interesting place with many sightseeing spots. We hope to see many more places in the future.