Les Clefs D'Or
Les Clefs D'Or

Your Key To The Artisanal Pride of Edo in Nihonbashi, Tokyo

In the historical mercantile district of Nihonbashi, you can still find the spirit of old Edo in the various shops and businesses where some of the oldest merchants here can trace their history back hundreds of years. They represent the artisanal traditions that are proudly reflected in the goods they produce. Products such as handmade papers and embroidered kimonos can be found almost anywhere in Japan - even at convenience stores; however, once you see the goods made by a true artisan from Nihonbashi, you are spoilt for life and will not accept anything less. With these beautiful handmade products, you are witnessing the artisanal skills and knowledge that has lived hundreds of years - traditions handed down from one generation to the next.

The following are some of my favourite shops specializing in traditional artisanal goods:

Kiya – Cutlery and Kitchen Accessories
Combining traditional craftsmanship with modern technology, Kiya has been creating high-quality cutlery for more than 200 years. This specialty shop showcases products made from new materials such as cosmic steel and titanium alloy while still retaining the old world elegance. Kiya is the ideal place to find that well-crafted cutlery, kitchen tools and related products.

Nihonbashi Saruya – Toothpicks
During the Edo period, wooden toothpicks were hand-whittled and sold at specialty notions stores and toothpick shops. Today toothpicks are mostly manufactured by machine from white birch . Since its founding in 1704, Saruya continues to make toothpicks by hand from wood of the kuromoji tree (a member of the laurel family). With their refreshing fragrance, flexibility and smooth feel against the teeth, kuromoji toothpicks are in a class of its own and apart from the mass-produced variety.

Chikusen – Kimono and Fabrics
Established in 1842, Chikusen continues to specialize in two very different types of kimonos: Edo Komon and Yukata. Edo Komon are formal wear made from silk dyed fabric in a single, subdued colour scheme and printed with traditional patterns such as morning glories, foxes, bamboo, waves, and cherry and plum blossoms. Edo Komon can be recognized easily because of their intricate designs often made by very fine dots, some the size of a pinhead. Yukata, on the other hand, are light-weight, casual kimonos made of cotton or linen, and are usually worn during the summer festivals.

Ibasen – Fans
The 400 year old Ibasen had started its business in trading washi and bamboo products to service the Edo Shogunate. Towards the end of the Edo Period, they began dealing in fans with ukiyo-e or woodblock prints depicting scenes of daily life, while also managing the production end for Hiroshige and other well-known ukiyo-e artists. Today, Ibasen prints can be found in fine art museums around the world and its shop in Nihonbashi carries a beautiful selection of traditional paper fans – an ideal place to learn about this revered art form. Last but not least, Ibasen had created the iconic fan design as Mandarin Oriental Hotel’s signature logo.

Ozu Washi – Washi (Japanese Paper)
Established in 1653, Ozu Washi is renowned for its colourful handmade paper. They also have a gallery where a beautiful selection of antique washi is on display. In addition, guests can watch the entire papermaking process in the studio and with a reservation for a small fee, personally experience the joy of making their own handmade washi.

Edokiriko Shop Hanasho – Edo Kiriko
In a serene white gallery space, this store showcases Edo kiriko, a traditional glass engraving technique. Displayed on the shelves are colorful glassware with intricate geometric engravings. At the on-site private workshop, visitors are welcome to have a go at engraving their own guinomi (sake cup) as a souvenir to take home.

Meet the Author
Masumi Tajima

My name is Masumi Tajima and I am the Director of Concierge Services at the Mandarin Oriental, Tokyo since its pre-opening in 2005. After working as a corporate secretary at a bank for 10 years, I started my hospitality career as a personal concierge at small luxury hotel in 1991. Working in the hotel industry has enabled me to expand my knowledge in many subjects and gain a wide range of experiences. I became a member of Les Clefs d’Or in 2007 and was elected as the President of Les Clefs d’Or Japan in 2011 and held the position for 6 years. For me, the golden keys are not just a symbol of service excellence, they are a way of life and are worn with pride and dignity. I am also the author of the book: “English conversation of Hotel Services”.

Mandarin Oriental Tokyo

Mandarin Oriental, Tokyo’s visionary design and award-winning service have been recognized as the epitome of sophisticated luxury in the city. Superbly located in the prestigious financial district within the historical and cultural centre of Tokyo, the first Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group property in Japan embodies the best contemporary and time-honoured architectural splendor. The Hotel features 179 luxuriously appointed guest rooms and suites, ten restaurants and bars and an award-winning spa situated within the soaring, Cesar Pelli-designed Nihonbashi Mitsui Tower. The site offers spectacular views of the city skyline while providing access to stately banquet and conference facilities within the adjacent Mitsui Main Building, a Japanese cultural-heritage property. Should you wish to stay at Mandarin Oriental, Tokyo or have any questions, please feel free to email me at mtajima@mohg.com.


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