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Tokyo’s storied Nihonbashi raises profile to promote historical role

by Yoshiaki Miura

Staff Photographer

The Nihonbashi district prospered as Japan’s financial and trade center after shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu moved the capital to Edo, the old name for Tokyo, in the early 17th century.

Its geographical advantage contributed to fast-track development. Nihonbashi was the starting point of five major roads at the time, which linked the new capital to outlying regions beyond the Kanto plain, allowing the district to thrive as businesses built footholds in the area.

Now that more than 400 years have passed, Nihonbashi is trying to maintain its relevance by making efforts to transform the old merchant center into a place where tourists can learn about Japanese culture and traditions.

Coredo Muromachi, a shopping complex that opened this spring near Mitsukoshimae subway station, showcases outlets of long-established stores that market local delicacies and other merchandise from around the nation.

The complex has foreign staff on standby to assist foreign tourists.

On July 19, two of the guides, Alia Carter, a 26-year-old American, and Spaniard Paloma Free, 28, helped foreign tourists while dressed in traditional kimono.

Carter is working after finishing her JET program, and Free is attending Japanese school. Three other foreigners are part of the team.

Two of the visitors that day were Terrie Wright Chrones, a 62-year-old food writer, and English teacher Charles Robert Hixon III, 61, both from the United States. Both are fans of Japanese cuisine.

After a 90-minute tour of the complex, each said the guides’ detailed explanations helped them better understand Japanese culture and get a feel for “omotenashi,” Japan’s brand of customer hospitality.

The English tours of Coredo Muromachi start at 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. on Saturdays, cost ¥1,000 and last about 90 minutes. Souvenirs are included. For more information, call 03-3242-0010 or email guide@nihonbashi-info.jp.

This section, appearing on the first Monday of each month, offers a snapshot view of areas that may interest tourists.