History & Culture

Building Memories - The History of Nihombashi Mitsukoshi Part 1


143_01.jpgIn 2016 the Japanese Agency for Cultural Affairs announced that Nihombashi Mitsukoshi Main Store would be designated an Important Cultural Property, a momentous year in Mitsukoshi's history that sees our store join the Nihombashi bridge itself among other landmarks nationwide as institutions recognised for their cultural contribution and guaranteed ongoing protection for the benefit of generations to come. However, as visitors to Nihombashi Mitsukoshi can attest to the building is not just a museum nor landmark in the simple sense, even as the buildings that make up the store today are dotted with carvings, antiques and art that each have a story to tell. Rather Nihombashi Mitsukoshi's place in history is as a constantly evolving entity taking in the culture beyond its walls.


Even the Lion Entrance with its iconic lions statues that for many now is the main gateway to the store wasn't always so, having been installed in Taisho 3 (1914). It wasn't the entrance for the generation who stepped off the Ginza subway line in April of Showa 7 (1943) through the passageway designed by French interior designer René Prou that opened directly into the store, 143_03.jpgnor for the generation who used to take the fine entrance that faced the Bank of Japan which is now used as a staff entrance, even as the marvelous detailed ceiling remains. Thus there is a certain irony to Nihombashi Mitsukoshi being awarded the prestige of preservation while it is an institution defined as being in a constant state of flux with its iconic features dependent on the era and aesthetics of the time.

Potentially it is this very characteristic that marked the store for designation, with the features highlighted for protected status a journey through the stores eclectic past. A journey that guides us through the mix of architectural styles that adorn the exterior from the classical columns to the art deco inspired tower that elude to the gradual expansion of the building, the vaulted stained glass ceiling of the Central Hall that illuminates the marble beneath, right through to the Mitsukoshi Theater and Special Dining Room that reflect the eras they were built in but continue to play host to our changing times.

Perhaps it is something evident to regular visitors to the store as it stands today, but even in their case there is a long history that predates Mitsukoshi's declaration to become a Cultural Resort in Heisei 26 (2014), 143_04.jpgand even the store's place as Japan's first department store in Meiji 37 (1904). Indeed, it may surprise that to understand the institution designated to become an Important Cultural Property in Heisei 28 (2016) we have to travel back to the first year of the Enpō era (1673) where our story begins in Edo Japan. It is a history too that tells the tale of the whole Nihombashi area.

Join us over the coming months to see for yourself the path Nihombashi Mitsukoshi took to where it is today, through the very buildings now enshrined in Japan's history.

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