Nihonbashi - from traditional Edo to modern Japan

The Nihonbashi District in central Tokyo has been a center of Japanese business and culture since the start of the Edo Era in the early 1600s.

Today it is a modern neighborhood with high-rise buildings and highways, but if you leave the main streets and explore its back alleyways, you can still find several traditional shops selling the same types of products they did when the Tokuagawa Shogun ruled the country.

The tour will give you a unique look at some of Japan's most interesting traditional products -  such as "washi" paper, cut glass, calligraphy brushes, kimonos, etc. as well as insight into how modern Japanese business has evolved from its historical roots.  It's all right here in Nihonbashi.


More than four centuries ago, Edo (former name of Tokyo) was a vast marshland. The Tokugawa Shogunate (1603~1868) reclaimed the land and created a network of waterways and roads for transporting goods and poeple. Nihonbashi's development and success are tied to its roads and waterways.

Because of them, Nihonbashi became a hub for merchants and craftsmen. Construction workers the Shogunate brought in  to Edo to work on castle and transportation network  lived around this area. These merchants or craftsmen engaged in the same industry were tended to live in the same areas. This made it easier for the Shogunate to manage them.

In this way cotton shops concentrated in Odenmacho, Kabuki, Joruri puppet theatre were located in the Ningyocho area. Honcho was the drug store district and today it has become the location of the headquarters of some major pharmaceutical companies, including Takeda, Daiichi-Sankyo and Asteras Pharmaceuticals. 

Edo's main fish market was located in the eastern part of Nihonbashi, but it later moved to Tsukiji.  Nihonbashi still home to a large number of paper wholesalers and printing companies. It was also a hub for the performing arts, especially in the Ningyocho area.  Moreover, Nihonbashi has a long history as a financial district. Kinza, licensed to mint gold coins, was located on the Bank of Japan 's current site.  In the Meiji era which followed the Edo period, the Central Post Office and the Tokyo Stock Exchange were also built in this area.