Tokyobling's Blog

Coredo Muromachi Opening

Posted in People, Shops by tokyobling on March 27, 2014

On Friday last week I visited the Coredo Muromachi center opening in Tokyo’s central Nihonbashi district. The latest of seemingly never ending stream of new commercial developments in central Tokyo (look back through this blog and you’ll find dozens of them!). The new Coredo Muromachi consists of three buildings connected by underground and overground walking passages, tunnels and bridges. Physically it is located in the middle of the long underground subway tunnels of the Mitsukoshimae Station on the Ginza line. It is quite possible that many weary commuters will be lured off their long walk in the underground to the glittering stores, cinemas and restaurants above and around them (this last sentence doesn’t make sense unless you have had the experience of changing lines at the Mitsukoshimae Station, from the Ginza to the Tozai line, but if you have, you will get it).

Nihonbashi is the old heart of the old Edo, the capital of the shogunate until the start of the modern era of Japan in the 1860s. The area of Nihonbashi and Muromachi was the place to go shopping in old Japan as stores, markets and entertainment buildings of all kinds lined the streets from east to west towards the entrance of (the now destroyed) Edo Castle. This absolutely does not make sense when you actually walk around in the area, as all the streets are aligned north to south, and all the old established old-fashioned stores are located on the much smaller east-to-west streets in the back streets. The reason behind this peculiarity is that in the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 many of the buildings in the area was destroyed and when the area was re-built in 1932 it was decided to realign the streets and readjust the addresses and town names. Hence you’ll find old tucked away stores that used to be on the main street but is now hidden on a back street with an address that is several hundreds of meters incorrect. It is an interesting mental exercise to walk these streets and imagine that the back streets are the main streets and vice-versa! Not all is lost though, in the last photo you can see a shop surviving from the old days, a bonito store, with its short side towards the new north-west main street, absolutely dwarfed by the nearby Coredo buildings.

There is a famous saying about this area that has survived to the present day, “一日に三千両の落ちどころ”, Ichinichi ni sansenryo no ochidokoro, in English losely translated as “3000 ryo (old Japanese currency) place”, or a 30 000 dollar a day town. Why three? Well, in the morning Muromachi was a lively fish market that sold the catching from as far as Shizuoka in the west and Fukushima in the north-east, in the afternoons it was an entertainment town with many theaters of all kinds and at night it transformed into a massive red light district with all sorts of prostitution and gambling. If you were lucky enough to own a storefront in here in the 17th century, you (and all your family) could make massive profits. Many a fortune was made in this area and many of the rich elite of Japan today still have their roots in the merchant classes of Muromachi. Today the fish market has moved to Tsukiji, the entertainment to Shinjuku or Ginza and the red light district to Kabukicho.

The connection beteen fish market and entertainment might seem a little vague, but we have to remember that fishing in those days was a heavily regulated industry with clans and powerful feudal lords lobbying for rights and favors with the ruling elite, hence the need to entertain, wine and dine these shogun bureaucrats. When the shogunate fell so did the importance of entertainment in this part of the city and it was only ranked fourth in a famous list of red light districts in 1885 with a mere 89 geisha! Another guidebook of Tokyo written in the same period mentions that Nihonbashi and Muromachi is hopelessly old fashioned with “no western style modern buildings from Kyobashi all the way to Manseibashi”.

Coredo is a development of the Mitsui group, one of the old zaibatsu or trading houses that dominated all of Japanese industry and finance from the 19th century to 1945. Although they were broken up by the occupation government after the war they are still immensely powerful and one of the biggest, Mitsui, had their origins in Muromachi.

Fans of Japanese history will also note that in 1600, the English navigator from Gillingham, Kent, a Mr. William Adams lived here in Muromachi while teaching gunnery and shipbuilding to the Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu. His Japanese name was Miura Anjin and the observant foreigner can still find a few places and streets named after this man in the area. His story was made famous in the book and TV series Shogun by James Clavell.

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10 Responses

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  1. tokyohamster said, on March 27, 2014 at 6:48 am

    Oh it’s finally open! I go to this area often and have seen it throughout the construction process. Looks great!

    Like

    • tokyobling said, on March 27, 2014 at 7:56 am

      Yes, it was a long build! I think the whole area will be the genkier for it! (^-^) So much construction going in Tokyo right now. Always makes me laugh to read those “the two lost decades of Japan” stories in the international press. (^-^;)

      Like

  2. amadl said, on March 27, 2014 at 2:59 pm

    The overground passage sure Looks inviting ^^

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    • tokyobling said, on March 28, 2014 at 1:26 am

      I thought so too! The building itself was far too crowded for me to try it out though. (^-^)

      Like

  3. C said, on March 27, 2014 at 7:53 pm

    If that Mitsukoshimae underground walk is half as long as the Yurakucho-to-Hibiya walk, I’d want to stop too. That was ridiculous — I was leaving the Muji flagship store and wanting to get on the Chiyoda line, and the signs kept luring me to keep going underground. May as well have walked above ground! But I could see it being a welcome respite in harsh weather.

    I saw the same new construction near Roppongi Itchome station too. So who is doing all the building and where are they getting the money to do these mega projects? That’s what I wonder.

    Like

    • tokyobling said, on March 28, 2014 at 1:28 am

      QE? Haha… Seriously though, Tokyo is growing, fast.

      Haha… yes I know that walk. Have done it several times and I think it is about half of the walk from Tozai to Ginza in the Mitsukosimae Station…! (^-^)

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  4. C said, on March 28, 2014 at 6:20 am

    I got too curious and read some articles about construction in Japan right now. Looks like these mega projects will slow down soon…if nothing else, because the construction companies are hesitant to accept new projects with an aging workforce — too much demand (public works, Olympics, private, and post-tsunami projects), not enough supply (20% of construction workers are over 60 already).

    And if that’s half the walk, then that’s crazy! Well, maybe not in the dead of winter or miserable summer heat. But 20-30 minutes in an underground tunnel seems like a looong time.

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    • tokyobling said, on March 28, 2014 at 6:24 am

      Funny thing, on a Japanese scale I don’t think this is a mega project, but still it wouldn’t be a bad thing to slow down here in Tokyo, a couple of these a year are more than enough! Olympics will do flatten entire neighborhoods so its good if they save some energy for that I guess. I do the walk in less than five minutes, the new decoration in the tunnel is really good. I am saving it for another blog post!

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  5. Die Bilderbummler said, on March 29, 2014 at 5:51 pm

    Hey, great pictures, I like your blog! Greetings fom Germany, Miri

    Like


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