Nihonbashi is home to Tokyo’s most famous bridge, a department store where the best of Japanese culture is on display, and Art Aquarium, a must-see, only-in-Japan summertime event.
The Mitsukoshi flagship store in Nihonbashi is the best place in Tokyo to see kimonos with all the trimmings. If we get there around 9:55 a.m., we can watch the 10:00 store opening ceremony and be the first to walk between the rows of bowing staff when the doors open. Let’s head toward the Goddess of Serenity, then circle around to the “up” escalator.
Here’s what’s great on every floor of this store, starting at the top:
• Roof: There’s a nursery that sells bonsai trees and plants, and a fancy shrine.
• 7th floor: Special exhibitions, usually traditional goods and foods that are the specialties of a single prefecture, and a florist that specializes in the outrageous multi-tiered orchids sent for business openings.
• 5th floor: Housewares (ceramics, lacquerware, woodwork, etc.) They stock beautiful examples of ceramics and lacquerware from all over Japan.
• 4rd floor: The kimono department. As we get off the escalator, turn right. Here we’ll see kimonos and bolts of kimono cloth made by the very best dyers, weavers and needleworkers from all over Japan. Some of the breathtakingly expensive kimonos are made by Notional Living Treasures.
• 1st floor: Typically Japanese accessories, like handkerchiefs, washcloths, parasols, fans, and umbrellas.
• Basement: Food Hall – This is a great place to taste things that you’ve been curious about. Most counters have a little basket of bite-sized samples. Desserts, gift food, tea, rice crackers, high-quality take-out. If you buy candies or desserts that need to be refrigerated, they will ask you how long it will be before you get home and pack your purchase in the appropriate amount of dry ice. Everything is extremely fresh, and most stands are operated by the most famous makers of each speciality in Japan. Note: there’s nowhere at the store to eat your take-out – you have to take it home or to a park.
Mitsukoshi is open every day from 10:00 – 20:00.
If you’re in Tokyo during cherry blossom season, take a night off from seeing the fluffy trees and get off the train at the Mitsukoshimae station to see the buildings all lit up in pink. There’s also a shrine and a street with animated cherry blossom lights.
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Jonelle Patrick is the author of five novels set in Japan
The Last Tea Bowl Thief was chosen as an Editor’s Pick for Best Mystery, Thriller & Suspense on Amazon
“A fascinating mix of history and mystery.” —Booklist
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