Practical Tourism Study and Field Trips
Report on First Practical Tourism Studies Tour: Nihonbashi Area; Mitsui Fudosan Co., Ltd.; Katsuhisa Nanao
With support from Mitsui Fudosan, the First Practical Tourism Studies Tour was held on April 22, 2019 in the Nihonbashi area. The tour began with a presentation by Mr. Katsuhisa Nanao, General Manager of the Nihonbashi Urban Planning and Development Department at Mitsui Fudosan, on initiatives underway in Nihonbashi. After the presentation, participants toured the Nihonbashi area with representatives of participating companies.
The history of Nihonbashi
When Tokugawa Ieyasu built his capital city of Edo (now Tokyo), he needed to secure a route to transport materials and food for those digging the Dosanbori canal and erecting Edo Castle. Many merchants and traders gathered at Nihonbashi, which served as a center for water transport. Later, Nihonbashi developed into the center of urban Edo life, with a concentration of riverside fish markets (distribution), gold mints (finance), merchant Echigoya (commerce), and Edo Kabuki halls (culture/entertainment).
The bridge called Nihonbashi, which gives the area its name, was built in 1603. In the following year, the Edo Shogunate declared Nihonbashi the starting point for distance measurements in Japan, the central point of the network of all roads across the country. The bridge was subsequently destroyed and rebuilt numerous times due to fire and other disasters. The bridge standing today was built in 1911 by the municipality of the then called Tokyo-shi.
With a tradition dating back to the Edo Period, Nihonbashi is home to numerous long-established shops that have been in operation for more than a century, including Nishikawa (originally from Omi), Shirakiya, Yanagiya, Ise’s Mitsui Echigoya, Kokubu, Ninben, Kiya, Ozu Washi, Mikawa’s Ibasen, Kyoto’s Yamamotoyama, Tsunashima’s Yamamoto-Noriten, Hanno’s Eitaro Sohonpo, and Koshigaya’s Sembikiya Sohonten.
Building something new while retaining and reviving the old
Mitsui Fudosan, which has its roots in the Nihonbashi area, is advancing urban redevelopment plans to revive Nihonbashi, which thrived during the Edo Period to an unprecedented degree as a center of commerce, finance, distribution, and culture. The goal is to build an attractive new community for the future while retaining historic structures and the traditional and long-established shops and reviving the area by invigorating its urban streetscapes, water, landscaping, and other aspects. The redevelopment plans are based on four concepts: industry creation to develop new industries through the interactions and joint efforts of a wide range of people from industry, government, and the academy; neighborhood creation to create a bustling area by reviving the streets, including the alleys, of Nihonbashi; community coexistence through festivals and other events with local residents; waterfront revitalization to revive Nihonbashi as a “City of Water” by moving the Shuto Expressway underground and redeveloping the community.
To give practical form to these concepts, Mitsui Fudosan is proposing integrated intangible services to enable smart living, work, and recreation, seeking to create a center for mutual interaction and stimulation among people from growth businesses like finance and healthcare, as well as state-of-the-art industries. Mitsui Fudosan is also moving forward with creative environmental improvements intended to boost intellectual productivity by creating spaces with abundant landscaping to enrich time spent both at and away from work. To prepare for natural disasters, it is installing its own high-efficiency gas power generation equipment, which will supply electricity and heat to nearby facilities, and building a 3,000 square meter space to accommodate those unable to return home after a disaster, centered on the underground space beneath Edosakuradori Avenue. These initiatives will dramatically increase the energy efficiency and disaster resilience of the Nihonbashi area overall.
Inbound tourism in Nihonbashi
Most overseas visitors to the Nihonbashi area are foreign individual tourists (FITs) from Europe and America. Characteristically, they are familiar with Japan and arrive with an appetite for intellectual and cultural experiences. They often come with clear ideas of where they want to go and what they want to do and eat.
To meet the needs of such travelers, the daily Omotenashi Nihonbashi activity tour provides easy ways to experience Japanese culture led by English-speaking guides: for example, wearing kimonos or experiencing a Japanese tea ceremony. It offers a program that lets travelers from overseas enjoy and feel closer to Nihonbashi’s proud traditions and culture.
In addition, Suigian, a hall where guests can watch authentic Noh and Kabuki performances in comfort while enjoying wine and delicious meals, has opened underneath the Fukutoku Jinja shrine. It has proven highly popular among overseas visitors, thanks to how easy it makes it to enjoy traditional performing arts, which to date have presented high barriers to entry, in intimate settings. For example, Noh and Kabuki performers take turns appearing on stage for 30-minute performances, then walk around the audience to explain the performances.
Tour of the Nihonbashi area
After the presentation, participants split into three teams touring the Nihonbashi area, led by Omotenashi Nihonbashi guides. After a summary description of Nihonbashi on Edosakuradori, they head toward Coredo Muromachi, where they view a demonstration of knife sharpening by Kiya, which has sold knives and blades for 227 years, and experience shaving dried bonito into flakes at Ninben, a dried bonito flake shop founded 320 years ago. After that, they pay their respects at the Fukutoku Jinja shrine, recently rebuilt as part of the redevelopment project, and enjoy a Kabuki performance in Suigian Hall, which opened in 2018 beneath the shrine. While the tour is brief, participants get to see, touch, walk around, and experience the attractions of Nihonbashi, a region that fuses tradition with innovation. Plans call for redevelopment to continue in the Nihonbashi area. Construction is slated to start in 2021 on moving the Shuto Expressway underground; the roadway currently looms over Nihonbashi. As tour’s end, participants’ thoughts typically turn to the past and future of Nihonbashi.