[Video] Tokyo Time Travel Tour, Imperial Palace & Nihonbashi
In this video, a nationally certified guide leads a foreign visitor through the Imperial Palace and Nihonbashi Bridge, starting from Tokyo Station and passing through Wadakuromon Gate.
To explore its charms, we travel back in time about 200 years to the year 1805. The Imperial Palace, called Edo Castle, was the residence of the Tokugawa shoguns who ruled the country.
Nihonbashi, on the other hand, was a leading commercial area in Japan, where a variety of goods from all over the country were sold, attracting not only samurai but also merchants, craftsmen, farmers, and fishermen of all ages. The city was depicted in a painting called "Kiyo-dai Shoran," which is displayed in the underground concourse of today's Nihonbashi.
With reference to this picture, two videos will introduce the charms of the Imperial Palace and Nihonbashi today.
Main places to visit, Ozu Washi, Yamamotoyama, Ninben, Kiya of cutlery, local shop operated by Toyama Prefecture.
Video 1. Join a tour for foreigners departing from Tokyo Station in this video.
Departure is from the Marunouchi Central Exit of Tokyo Station. The Tokyo Station building, designed by Kingo Tatsuno, is an attraction.
The tour will take you along Gyoko-dori Avenue to the Wadakuromon Fountain. This is the widest and most beautiful street in Tokyo.
Walk through the East Gardens of the Imperial Palace. We will walk through the East Gardens of the Imperial Palace, where we will learn about the Imperial Family and the Edo Castle. The past and the present will intersect.
We will visit Nihonbashi. Nihonbashi was a node of five highways and was connected to waterways all over Japan.
As such, Nihonbashi was one of the most prosperous commercial centers in Japan.
The tour will visit and experience various long-established stores such as Ozu Washi, Yamamotoyama, Ninben, and Kiya, which have been in business since the Edo period.
Nihonbashi has been a gathering place for products from all over Japan since the Edo period. Even today, there are as many as 12 shops specializing in local products of each prefecture.
One of them is that of Toyama Prefecture. Toyama Prefecture is home to Mount Tateyama, Mount Tsurugidake, and the Kurobe Valley. Toyama is a rice-producing region blessed with abundant fresh water even in summer.
Therefore, there is a wide selection of sake brands. We will introduce you to Toyama Prefecture's specialties and a sake tasting experience.
The East Gardens of the Imperial Palace and Nihonbashi Bridge were filmed with a 360-degree camera. Move your mouse to view the 360-degree view.
panese Sake Tasting, and more!
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A map of Edo, historical Tokyo. As you can see it is quite different from other castle areas.
In medieval Europe, castles and towns were surrounded by high stone brick walls and fences. Edo Castle, on the other hand, which was the main castle for Edo, was protected by layers of waterways. These waterways were built of a combination of natural rivers and man-made canals.
Moreover, the boats that ran along these canals were used to transport goods and people. This helped created the city.
Edo in the Edo period was a city of water transportation, comparable to Amsterdam and Venice.
Also, in this map, areas outside of Edo Castle can be seen divided vertically and horizontally.
This is the commercial district, and Nihonbashi was the closest commercial district to Edo Castle.
(Imperial Palace East Garden)
Part of the Imperial Palace is now open to the public as the Imperial Palace East Garden. You can see a lot of flowers and greenery here.
The East Garden was the location of the Honmaru and castle tower. This was most important area of Edo Castle. Let’s take a further look at the gardens.
(The Bank of Japan)
First, let’s look at the Kinza area. During the Edo period, there was a gold mint called Kinza, which literally means “gold mint”. It was located between the Nihonbashi shopping district and Edo Castle.
It was a government facility that produced gold coins, particularly small-sized ones called koban.
As you may imagine, the manufacturing and distribution center for silver coins was located in what is now Ginza, which means “silver mint”.
But back to Kinza, the silver mint. The Bank of Japan, the central bank of Japan, was built on the site of this gold mint. Can you see it here?
What’s most special about this building is that when viewed from above it is in the shape of the Chinese character that represents the Japanese Yen, in other words, it is in the shape of the character that represents money! The architect was Kingo Tatsuno, the same architect who designed Tokyo Station.
Now, let’s travel to a different area: Mitsukoshimae Metro Station. There is a long painting on the premises of this metro station. It is called the Kidai Shoran. It is a 43-cm long and 12-m wide painting depicting the commercial district of Edo, which of course, was Nihonbashi.
As mentioned, the Kidai Shoran is a 43 cm long by 12 m wide painting that depicts the Nihonbashi Bridge, which was the main commercial district in Edo, historical Tokyo.
The original is in the collection of the National Museum of Asian Art in Berlin, but a reproduction can be seen in the basement concourse of the station. The painting is said to have been painted in 1805.
At around that time, in the early 19th century, the United States had just purchased Louisiana from France, and the British were victorious at the Battle of Trafalgar.
Let’s look a little further at the painting. Can you see Mt. Fuji in the distance? Nihonbashi, which is located just 100 km from the mountain, is thought to be the nexus of all land and sea routes in Japan.
As Tokyo Bay was a rich fishing ground, fish from there and further afield were bought and sold here in Nihonbashi, and so during the 19th century, Nihonbashi was Tokyo's main fish market. Every day, vendors purchased fish and shellfish from this market and sold them in the streets of Edo.
Near the bridge was also the area of Hirokoji, which was even more crowded with people.
Of course, Nihonbashi not only sold fish, but also a variety of other foods.
For example, this is a sign for a yaoya, the name for a grocery store in Japanese. Like modern day grocery stores, it sold vegetables. Various other stores on the street also sold other types of food.
And it wasn’t just food! This store you can see here is called Kiya, which to this day is still a famous knife and cutlery store. We will be checking out Kiya later on!
Next, as you can see, there are a number of stores in the shape of the letter "3" lining this street. Echigoya is one of them.
Echigoya was a store that sold kimonos. By selling kimonos to cash buyers in large quantities and at low prices, the store became the highest-selling shop in Nihonbashi.
Then, after the Meiji Restoration in the nineteenth century, the company developed into Japan's largest department store, Mitsukoshi. It also developed into Mitsui Bank and Mitsui & Co., a general trading company. This combination made it Japan’s largest zaibastu, in other words conglomerate, by the 20th century.
But back to the Kidai Shoran! The painting clearly depicts 88 wholesalers and stores, plus 1,671 people, 20 dogs, 13 horses, 4 cows, 1 monkey, and 2 hawks passing by. That's quite the image!
The piece also shows a great variety of stores including pottery stores, apothecaries, stationery stores, furniture shops, paper wholesalers, dye suppliers, sushi restaurants, and liquor stores.
In addition to these fixed stores, on the streets, there are temporary stalls selling vegetables, confectionery, cutlery, colanders, and dolls, as well as fortune tellers and other temporary pop ups.
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