Walking through Tokyo, you are often surrounded by busy people, big shopping centres, illuminated advertisements and innumerable restaurants and convenient stores. It’s a setting in which it’s easy to forget about Japan’s rich and beautiful culture. Visiting Imasa is a great way of being reminded of traditional culture that still remains today.
Located next to Kanda Myojin shrine, the building offers an example of how merchants used to live in the past. The original was occupied by the Endo family, lumber merchants at Edo Castle between 1603 and 1868. Therefore it is a rare surviving prewar combination of shop and residential building. The name of the lumber shop was ‘Imasa’, hence the name of the building.
In the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923, the building was damaged, but rebuilt in 1927 by the Endo family. It was moved to its current location in 2009 and is still owned by that same family.
Using traditional techniques from the Edo period, craftsmen put all their inherited skills into constructing the house with the finest materials available back then. It is not possible to build a house like Imasa anymore, because parts of the house consist of Yakusugi, cedar from Yakushima Island that is at least one thousand years old and now protected from harvesting.
The house has luckily survived the bombings of World War II and been designated as a tangible property by Chiyoda City for as an invaluable work of wooden architecture.
On site, you can get a house tour, enjoy a cup of tea or simply admire the traditional seasonal displays inside the former shop space. Here, the festivals and seasonal events that used to take place in Kanda are highlighted. When I went to visit in March, around Hinamatsuri (Doll’s Day or Girl’s Day), I got to see the Doll’s festival exhibition.
Imasa is worth a visit in any season to experience a breeze of old Japan in the buzzing heart of Tokyo.
A 5 minute walk from Ochanomizu Station, located in Miyamoto Park next to Kanda Myojin shrine. If you take the rear exit of the shrine's souvenir shop you will arrive right in front of the property.