Nikkol group Nikkol Group News Letter


Nihonbashi Stories – No. 1 (in Edo times)

      Tokyo's Nihonbashi district is a bustling center of culture and commerce. It continues to be a cultural and business hub, and its evolution can be traced from the "floating world" woodblock prints of the Edo period (1615 – 1867), the "moving pictures" of the Taisho era (1912 – 1926), and even the current Nihonbashi area undergoing development.

Why Nihonbashi?

      Nikko Chemicals Co., Ltd. of NIKKOL GROUP started out here in Nihonbashi in 1946, as Asahi Trading Co., Ltd. Over the ensuing 69 years, Nikko Chemicals witnessed many changes in the district. And today, Nihonbashi is again a focus of great attention. Besides being in the midst of redevelopment, there is a movement to restore the famous bridge that gave a name to a district to its original appearance by the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. For Nikko Chemicals, historically located in Nihonbashi, this area of Tokyo is a very special place.

Nihonbashi during the days of the Tokugawa Shogunate in the Edo period

      Nihonbashi is situated on the opposite side of Tokyo Station from the site of what is now the Imperial Palace (and was once Edo Castle), and was originally home to tradesmen and commoners. The district greatly grew during the days of the Tokugawa Shogunate. Tokugawa Iemitsu, the third shogun, instituted the rule requiring provincial lords to reside in Edo (present-day Tokyo) every other year. This meant that clan leaders from all provinces had to make the trip to Edo Castle in alternate years, taking along many of their vassals. The visits of these vassals to the districts in the vicinity of the castle enlivened the whole area and spurred the development of culture and commerce. One of such districts was Nihonbashi.

      Many of the names of township sections ("cho") of Nihonbashi begin with the word "Nihonbashi," such as Nihonbashi-Ningyocho, Nihonbashi-Kabutocho, Nihonbashi-Odenmacho and Nihonbashi-Kakigaracho. Some of these names are legacies from the Edo period. This is true of Nihonbashi-Bakurocho, which is where Nikko Chemicals is located. One theory has it that, in old Edo, its name meant a place for horse-trading. It subsequently became known as a section of inns where people prepared for journeys. It is said that travelers used to buy gifts and supplies for their trips here in Nihonbashi-Bakurocho. The streets lined with wholesale stores around the current Bakurocho Station are vestiges of those days.

      Next to Nihonbashi-Bakurocho is Nihonbashi-Kodenmacho. It is famous as the location of the jail in which the late-Edo thinker Yoshida Shoin, among others, was imprisoned. And next to it is Nihonbashi-Odenmacho, the district which used to specialize in trading horses for mail delivery (mail horses or "denma" in Japanese). And the next section over is Nihonbashi.

     Nihonbashi was designated the starting point of Japan's five major post roads (Tokaido, Nikkokaido, Oshukaido, Nakasendo and Koshukaido). It was from here that people set out for destinations in all parts of Japan or hurried homeward. For this reason, it may readily be imagined how Nihonbashi was both the starting point and final destination for many journeys.

     The gathering and mingling of people in this Nihonbashi district also fostered the growth of a distinctive dietary culture and entertainment, but we will share about this in later issues of the mail magazine.

※The term “bakuro” refers to appraisers and middlemen who appraised horses and cows to discern their worth before sending them to market.