Sanjo street digital map

Kyoto Branch Office of the Bank of Japan at the time of completion, Meiji era (Lent by THE PALEOLOGICAL ASSOCIATION OF JAPAN Inc.)
Kyoto Branch Office of the Bank of Japan at the time of completion, Meiji era (Lent by THE PALEOLOGICAL ASSOCIATION OF JAPAN Inc.)
Sanjo Street in the Meiji - Taisho period.

Bank of Japan, Kyoto Branch

After the Meiji Restoration, Kyoto underwent a series of revitalization efforts, and economic activity increased. Therefore, the Bank of Japan, the central bank of Japan, was lobbied to open a branch in Kyoto. In 1894, the Bank of Japan established a local office, and in 1906, a modern Western-style red brick building was completed at Sanjo-agaru, Takakura Dori, and the Bank of Japan Kyoto Local Office (later to become a branch) moved to this building.

The Bank of Japan Kyoto Branch (now The Museum of Kyoto Annex) is a symbolic building on Sanjo Dori, designed by Kingo Tatsuno, a leading architect of the Meiji period who also designed Tokyo Station, and his apprentice, Uheiji Nagano. Designed by them, the building brought new life to the area as a facility with modern functions.

The building features a style known as the "Tatsuno style," with brick walls and granite stripes. This is an element shared with the former Mizuho Bank (former The Dai-Ichi Kangyo Bank, Kyoto branch) on Karasuma Dori.

The exterior is three-story, symmetrical in design, with the facade facing Sanjo Street. The bronze tower on the east and west sides emphasizes the symmetry of the exterior, and the roof is made of black slate, with dormer windows that allow light into the interior spaces.

The building's design is characteristic of 19th-century eclecticism, a mixture of styles from various periods and places. Walls projecting from the exterior, the unevenness and verticality of the exterior walls influenced by 12th- and 15th-century Gothic architecture, 14th- and 16th-century Renaissance ornamentation, and references to the Indo-Saracenic style all give the building a dynamic impression.

The height and wall stripes of the adjacent main building, as well as the structure of the west condominium wall set back from Sanjo Dori, are intended to create a sense of continuity with the main building, indicating that this building is the core of the landscape formation of the area.

Kyoto branch of the Bank of Japan at the time of business, perhaps in Showa era, Collection of THE PALEOLOGICAL ASSOCIATION OF JAPAN Inc.

Kyoto Branch of the Bank of Japan (Sales Office) at the time of business, perhaps in Showa Era, Collection of THE PALEOLOGICAL ASSOCIATION OF JAPAN Inc.

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The Dai-Ichi Bank, Kyoto Branch, Meiji - Taisho Period, Source: Kyoto Memory Archive
The Dai-Ichi Bank, Kyoto Branch, Meiji - Taisho Period, Source: Kyoto Memory Archive
Sanjo Street in the Meiji - Taisho period.

History of Sanjo Dori since Meiji era (Formerly, Kyoto Branch of Dai-ichi Bank)

The Dai-Ichi Bank, Kyoto Branch, Building after expansion, shot in 1957, Source: Kyoto Memory Archive

During the Edo period, the Sanjo Ohashi Bridge was an important terminus of the Tokaido Highway, but the de facto terminus was near Sanjo Higashinotoin, which was the place most alive with people in Kyoto. In the Meiji era, Sanjo Dori developed further, and financial, information, and distribution centers such as banks, telephone stations, newspaper offices, and stores were built along the street. Many of these were Western-style buildings and became symbols of the civilization of Sanjo Dori.

Major Western-style buildings include the Saikyo Telegraph Office built in 1872, the Shusho Company, which can be said to be Kyoto's first library, the Takehara Bank, which opened in 1879, and the Kyoto branch of the Osaka Asahi Shimbun. In 1906, the Kyoto Branch of the Bank of Japan (now The Museum of Kyoto Annex) and the Kyoto Branch of the Dai-Ichi Bank (formerly the Kyoto Central Branch of Mizuho Bank) were constructed.

The designers were Kingo Tatsuno and Manji Kasai, and their work is known for a style known as the "Tatsuno style.” This style featured brick exterior walls with granite stripes and a Renaissance-style design.

In 1919, the building was extended on the west side, and in 2003, the building was reconstructed with reinforced concrete, recreating the former design on the exterior.

Western-style buildings constructed during this period developed Sanjo Dori as the center of information, finance, and commerce in Kyoto. The historical streetscape of Sanjo Dori was formed by construction up to around the early Showa period, and its influence remains strong even today.

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Sanjo Street in the Meiji - Taisho period.

Modern Architecture and Landscape Town Planning of Sanjo Dori (Nippon Life Insurance Kyoto Branch)

Traditionally, preservation of cultural properties in Japan has tended to be "cryopreservation" oriented, with emphasis on keeping it as it is rather than utilizing it. Many people may well think that it is difficult to modify buildings designated as important cultural properties. However, in recent years, modern buildings constructed of brick, steel frame, and reinforced concrete are being utilized through restoration and renovation, and in 1996, the Registered Tangible Cultural Properties system was introduced to promote the utilization of cultural properties.

In this context, the modern architecture of Sanjo Dori has already been preserved in various ways and actively utilized in anticipation of the latest trends.

With many pedestrians and tourists flowing through the area, Kyoto has made an effort to preserve the area's unique character by establishing a “Landscape Maintenance Plan for Sanjo Dori District and Landscape Maintenance District” that establishes specific design regulations for newly constructed buildings.

One of the best examples is the Kyoto Branch of Nippon Life Insurance Company, designed in 1914 by the architectural firm of Tatsuno and Kataoka, and designated as a Tangible Cultural Property of Japan. In 1983, the building was rebuilt in reinforced concrete, but part of the east side has been preserved in its original condition. The building differs from the "Tatsuno-style" in that it has a design with a lot of stones and the influence of the Secession style.

Sanjo Dori, with its liveliness and bustling atmosphere, as well as a certain degree of regulation, is in an ideal state for the preservation and utilization of modern architecture. It is important to maintain the current state and continue to utilize it in order to enhance the attractiveness of Sanjo Dori and maintain its cultural value.

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Yabetoku Clock Shop, Shot in 1958, Source: Kyoto Memory Archive
Yabetoku Clock Shop, Shot in 1958, Source: Kyoto Memory Archive
Sanjo Street in the Meiji - Taisho period.

Modern Architecture and Landscape Town Planning on Sanjo Dori (Yabetoku Clock Shop)

Kyoto's Sanjo Dori is home to a unique group of modern buildings and the surrounding landscape town planning. In particular, the area centered around the Yabetoku Clock Shop is an interesting example of the harmony between modern architecture and renovated buildings.

The interesting aspect of Sanjo Dori is the mix of brick Western-style buildings and the renovated townhouses and reinforced concrete buildings. With such a variety of buildings lining the street, it is not easy to achieve harmony in the landscape.

Built in 1890, the Yabetoku Clock Shop is the oldest Western-style building on Sanjo Dori. It was designed in the Renaissance style, using building materials imported from Germany. The cornerstones on both sides of the building and the triangular pediments above the windows are all Renaissance in design.

Around this historic building, several buildings have been renovated in recent years to showcase their new designs. One of them is the building that houses the MSPC PRODUCT sort KYOTO STORE, which was originally a wooden shop with a living place (such a building was called machiya) and features a modern design with white as its base color.

The adjacent NOMBREIMPAIR Kyoto Store and I'atelier dusavon Kyoto Street Store were also renovated in the same manner, using a white design with wooden sashes. These renovations complement the surrounding buildings, including the Yabetoku Clock Shop, with a unified, modern design.

These new designs are not derived from traditional wooden, reinforced concrete or brick modern architecture, but function as a method of highlighting the value of modern architecture by renovating surrounding buildings. This phenomenon on Sanjo Dori is noteworthy as a new way of achieving harmony.

The architects and designers of these stores are different, and the use of wood sashes in the white modern design is coincidental, but this can be a new design direction worth consciously adopting.

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Sanjo Street in the Meiji - Taisho period.


SACRA (former Fudo Savings Bank Kyoto Branch) was built in 1916. It is a rare example of one of the many bank buildings on Sanjo Dori that has been preserved and utilized by the private sector in almost its original form, and is designated as a Tangible Cultural Property of Japan.

While it is hard to imagine from the exterior, the structure consists of a wooden frame and brick wall base, to which tiles and stones are affixed. Although the overall structure of the building can be said to inherit the historical style, the design of each part is unified by a geometric design using straight lines and circles.

This was due to the influence of the Secession style, an art innovation movement in Germany and Austria at the end of the 19th century, which became popular in Japan during the Taisho period.

The Fudo Savings Bank was established in 1897 by an entrepreneur named Motojiro Makino. This bank later became the Japan Savings Bank, and is now known as Resona Bank. It was Makino who proposed the idea of regular savings, and in 1901 he popularized the regular savings product “Three-year saving” (later called "Nico Nico Savings"), which made the saving bank the largest in Japan.

The bank developed through advertisements in newspapers with catchphrases such as "The house may burn down, but the savings account does not” and "The warehouse may burn down, but the savings account does not,” and by 1935 it was one of the five largest banks.

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Sanjo Street in the Meiji - Taisho period.

Nakagyo Post Office

The Nakakyo Post Office (Nakagyo Old Post Government Office) was built in 1902 and is a registered cultural property of Kyoto. Established in 1871 as the Saikyo Post Office, one of the three post offices established in Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka as a base when the postal system was established.

The name was changed three times: "Kyoto Post Office" in 1875, "Kyoto Post and Telegraph Office" in 1887 when it merged with Kyoto Telegraph Office, and again "Kyoto Post Office" in 1903 when it merged with Kyoto Telephone Exchange Office. Then, in August 1902, the current post office building was newly constructed.

It is an almost orthodox Western-style building with a beautifully proportioned three-story structure (base, body, and apex), which has been a European tradition since the Greek period. The omission of columns and the use of bricks to fill the walls give it an "English Renaissance" style, but it also has some originality, such as the dynamic Baroque spiral pattern and the semi-circular pediment above the windows.

In 1978, the interior was rebuilt in a completely new reinforced concrete structure, the first "exterior wall preservation" in Japan, leaving only the exterior walls and roof. Although there are pros and cons, the original design is so well respected that you would not notice it from the exterior.

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Sanjo Street in the Meiji - Taisho period.

Fumitsubaki Bldg.

The Fumitsubaki Building was constructed in 1920 and is a registered tangible cultural property of Japan. It was initially used as the company building of a trading company (Nishimura Trading Company), then passed into the hands of a textile wholesaler, and shortly after the war was used as an American cultural facility. Later, the property was used as an interior decorating company and kimono trading company, and in 2004, the architect office of Kowa Koji revitalized it into a commercial facility.

It adopts a barn roof called “Mansard roof," which was invented in 17th century France, and the "Secession style," which originated in Germany and Austria at the end of the 19th century and was popular in Japan during the Taisho period. Although it has the traditional Western three-story structure, the "session style," a departure from the classic, can be seen in the smooth tiled exterior walls, the vertical stripe pattern between the upper and lower windows, and the geometric pattern of the half-split octagonal cross section of the single-lidded column attached to the entrance.

As of 2024, eight stores, including a traditional crafts and kimono shop, a café, and a retro pub, are operating as tenants. It is one of the model cases where a historic building is not passively protected by "preservation," but is actively "utilized" as a business.

(top) Mansard roof and dormer window / (bottom left) Artisan’s custom-made emblem / (bottom right) Octagonal section single-canopy column

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Sanjo Street in the Meiji - Taisho period.

Fundo-ya Tabi

Fundo-ya Tabi is one of the landscape buildings to be preserved, a shop with its shopping space on the front and its living space back. This kind of architecture is called “Omoya-zukuri”. The shop was founded in 1864 and is a long-established Tabi (split-toed socks) shop, but it used to be a kampo medicine store, and the shop's name is derived from the fact that they used weight (fundo) to scale the amount of medicine. The store was rebuilt after a large fire in the Edo period, and the entire building was plastered with black plaster to protect it from fire. The classical facade is conspicuous on Sanjo Dori.

There is a small wall with the roof between the building and its next building, which is called “Sode Udatsu”; this shows the fire prevention awareness of the town at that time, and also forms a continuous and distinctive landscape. The bold design of the roof over the signboard to protect it from the wind and rain is rare in Kyoto, and is indicative of the merchant architectural style.

Fundo-ya makes tabi in the traditional way by hand, and they also manufacture and sell Kyoto Yuzen tabi socks. Actors, Kyogen performers, and Japanese dancers, who are particular about quality, love using Fundo-ya's tabi socks because they "fit down to the fingertips.”

The black plastered storefront stands out on Sanjo Dori, retaining vestiges of the traditional architecture of modern Kyoto and offering a glimpse into the history of modern architecture.

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Sanjo Street in the Meiji - Taisho period.

Nissho Besso

The Nissho Besso is a mansion of a merchant in the Edo period that was converted into a Japanese inn after the war, evoking the era when there were many inns as the starting point of the Tokaido Highway. The long wall, Ichimonji Kawahara, latticework bay windows of the same height, and eaves, all of which emphasize the horizontal line of the building, quietly ensure the continuity of the townscape.

It is a valuable building that escaped damage from the great fires of Kyoto at the end of the Edo period, including the Hamaguri Gate Incident and the Battle of Toba-Fushimi, and is a culturally important building and garden, having been designated as a "traditional-style wooden merchant house" in the Sanjo Dori Landscape Improvement District.

The location of Nissho Besso was the residence of Shinbei Urai, a famous potter and merchant in the Momoyama period. There is also an storehouse in the Edo period and a tea house in the Taisho period on the premises, giving visitors a sense of the long history of this land.

Around in 1955, the yamaboko floats of the Gion Matsuri used to pass by the Nissho Besso on Sanjo Dori. At that time, the second floor of the Nissho Besso was the same height as the Yamaboko floats, so the lattice was removed for visitors to view the floats and throw chimaki (Japanese glutinous rice dumpling wrapped in bamboo leaves, traditionally eaten during festivals) into the floats.

Now and in the past, it has always been important to decorate the rooms to welcome guests in a way that is appropriate for the season, as is typical of Kyoto. Paintings and flowers in the waiting room and guest rooms, as well as the food and clothing, are all designed to reflect the season.

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Sanjo Street in the Meiji - Taisho period.

Ido Kotobukiya

Ido Kotobukiya is one of the landscape buildings to be preserved in Kyoto. The signboard, noren (Japanese blind curtain), castings on the side windows, and other carefully considered store design elements match the traditional townhouse architecture. As seen in the adjacent storefront, it is clear that the excellent core building influences its surroundings and has a synergistic effect on the townscape and landscape. If you look closely, you can see that only here the site is lower than the street level, but the reason for this is not known.

In addition, the store design, including the signboard, the noren and the cast design of the side windows, has been designated as a "Kyoto Scenery Excellent Design Outdoor Advertisement Object". Furthermore, the "Sanjo Michishirube” on the northeast corner of the store was awarded the "Kyoto Landscape Award for Public Advertisement Design".

Ido Kotobukiya was established in 1906 and moved to Sanjo Dori in 1945. Kyoto's city design has long been called "bilateral city”, where the two sides of the street across from each other get along well with each other.

The Sanjo Dori area is one such place, with Sanjo Dori serving as a commercial area and the adjacent Anekoji Dori as a residential area.

At the store, everything from the production to sales of kimono accessories is available, and so are original pouches and bags with cute “Takara-zukushi” patterns, pop designs, and more. The shop is still in business today, making products that take advantage of the craftsmen's special skills and valuing the connections with the many artisans in Kyoto.

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Sanjo Street in the Meiji - Taisho period.

Nishimura Kissho-do

Nishimura Kissho-do has been a lacquerware and crafts store since 1924, and when the store was newly built in 1991, it was joined by Gallery Kissho-do, which sells a wide range of products.

Built in the Keio period at the end of the Edo period, this building continues to be used as both an office and residence; when it was renovated in 1991, the walls and eaves were plastered with fireproofing to give it its current form. It is believed that the underground warehouse remaining in the center of the store was also used to evacuate important items in the event of a fire.

In 1975, Sanjo Dori was a quiet street, but in the Heisei era (1989-2019), it was designated as a "Sanjo Dori Landscape Improvement District”, and with the completion of the Sanjo Dori pedestrian-vehicle coexistence road, new stores were opened and Sanjo Dori, with its long history, became a lively place. However, as a town where "work and residence coexist," it is not enough to simply make the area bustling, but rather to create a town that values "livability" and "ease of doing business”. To this end, the goal is to "preserve the scenery and dignity of Sanjo Dori" and "create liveliness and community”. Nishimura Kichizoudo is also playing a role in this regard on Sanjo Dori.

The gallery attached to the building hosts various types of exhibitions, such as ink painting exhibitions, painting exhibitions, copperplate engraving exhibitions, etc., and also has a strong presence as a center of cultural exchange in Kyoto.

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Kansai Mutual Bank, Kyoto Branch, shot in 1960, Source: Kyoto Memory Archive
Kansai Mutual Bank, Kyoto Branch, shot in 1960, Source: Kyoto Memory Archive
Sanjo Street in the Meiji - Taisho period.

Historical and cultural value of modern architecture (Sanjo Dori)

Nishimura Sozaemon Trading Store, Source: Kyoto Memory Archive

Built between the 1860s and 1970s, modern architecture in Japan features brick, steel-frame, and reinforced concrete construction techniques introduced from Europe. One hundred and fifty years after Japan's modernization and seventy years after the end of World War II, the historical value of modern architecture is being reevaluated. Among modern architectural structures, brick buildings have been designated as Important Cultural Properties since the 1960s, and in the 2000s, the State Guest House (former Akasaka Palace) was designated a National Treasure.

In addition, an increasing number of reinforced concrete modernist buildings are also being designated as Important Cultural Properties. The number of modern buildings registered as national registered tangible cultural properties exceeded 10,000 in 2015. An organization called the Akarenga Network was established in 1991 to carry out activities related to the preservation and utilization of brick buildings.

The restoration and reconstruction of Tokyo Station in 2012 also raised many people's interest in modern architecture. Tours of modern architecture held in various parts of Japan and the publication of related books have also increased public interest.

However, modern buildings tend to be subject to demolition and rebuilding for several reasons: for example, they often fail to meet earthquake resistance standards and deteriorate quickly in terms of materials, and the historical and cultural value is hard to find.

In particular, modernist steel-frame and reinforced concrete buildings constructed from the 1920s to the 1970s are less ornate and look more like ordinary buildings, making it difficult for society to accept their value.

Modern architecture on Kyoto's Sanjo Dori is predominantly brick, and with its historical characteristics, modern architecture symbolizes the history of Kyoto's modernization and demonstrates the region's identity while having a historical background that is unique to Kyoto.

Since it is difficult to construct new brick buildings under the current building code, existing brick buildings are precious in that sense. It is uncommon in Japan to find and preserve such a concentration of modern brick buildings, and their historical and cultural value is extremely high.

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Watchtower (of Nissho Elementary School), built in 1872, Source: Kyoto Municipal Museum of School History
Watchtower (of Nissho Elementary School), built in 1872, Source: Kyoto Municipal Museum of School History
Sanjo Street in the Meiji - Taisho period.

Nissho Elementary School

One of the predecessors of the present Takakura Elementary School, Nissho Elementary School, was founded on the site of a teacher's office on Sanjo Higashinotoin. Nissho Elementary School opened on June 20, 1869 on Higashinotoin Sanjo as the fourth elementary school by the municipality in the lower area of Kyoto, and moved in March 1872 to the location of the former Matsuyama clan residence, where the current Takakura Elementary School is located.

The name of Nissho Elementary School was given by the then Governor of Kyoto Prefecture, Mr. Masanao Makimura, deriving from a proverb in a book titled “The Doctrine of the Mean”, with a wish that a mensch may walk in the dark, and his virtue will be evident inchmeal. Thus this school district is called “Nissho District”.

Time Drum in Nissho Elementary School, Source: Kyoto Municipal Museum of School History

This is said to have been provided in the watchtower to inform local residents of the time. As this document indicates, the elementary schools by the municipality, of which the Hissho Elementary School was one, also functioned as a community hub for the area.

Copy of the guideline about structuring the city (of the Nissho Elementary School), Source: Kyoto Municipal Museum of School History

A notice about how to structure the town was circulated. Based on this, the local municipalities divided the area into several districts organized by each municipality, and this division led to the current school districts.

Educational handbook of Nissho Elementary School (e.g., annals distributed to the community) in 1916, source: Kyoto Municipal Museum of School History

This document records the educational practices of Nissho Elementary School and the conditions of the school district at the time of 1916.

Stone Tablets and Stone Boxes of Nissho Elementary School in 1880 (estimated), source: Kyoto Municipal Museum of School History

In the Meiji Era, before notebooks were widely used, this tablet was the main writing instrument used by students. A very valuable box for storing the tablet was also left behind at Nissho Elementary School.

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Rissei Elementary School, in the middle of the Meiji era, Source: Kyoto Municipal Museum of School History
Rissei Elementary School, in the middle of the Meiji era, Source: Kyoto Municipal Museum of School History
Sanjo Street in the Meiji - Taisho period.

Rissei Elementary School

Rissei School was one of the predecessors of Takakura Elementary School, which has now been transformed into Rissei Garden Hulic Kyoto, and was reportedly originally founded in Sanjo Kawaramachi Dori Kudaru.

The current Rissei School District, where Rissei School existed, is located in the most southeastern part of Nakagyo-ku, and is surrounded by the Kamo River to the east, Teramachi Dori to the west, Sanjo Dori to the north, and Shijo Dori to the south, making it the busiest downtown area in the city.

The name of the school district, Rissei School District, was given in 1929, after being renamed three times. The elementary school was named "Mikawa Elementary School" in 1874 because of its location facing Sanjo and Kawaramachi Dori, but was renamed "Rissei Elementary school School" in 1877.

The name "Rissei" was given by the then Governor of Kyoto Prefecture, Mr. Masanao Makimura; it is said to have originated from a phrase in the Analects of Confucius, meaning “Be kind to people, don’t deceive them.”

The current school district is made up of 24 areas, but due to the significant population decline and declining birth rate, Rissei Elementary School has been closed and integrated into Takakura Elementary School.

Historically, during the urban renovation conducted by Hideyoshi Toyotomi, large temples such as Senganji and Kankikoji were gathered and a temple town was established, and with the development of water transportation due to the opening of the Takase River by Ryoi Suminokura, merchant houses such as lumber, wood shop and rice shop developed.

The area was the scene of the Meiji Restoration at the end of the Edo period, and many historical sites remain, including the ruins of Ikedaya, the Kaientai Camp, the Tosa Clan's residence, and Omiya, the site of Ryoma Sakamoto's assassination attempt.

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Photo of the Seisho Elementary School around 1918, owned by Kyoto Municipal Museum of School History
Photo of the Seisho Elementary School around 1918, owned by Kyoto Municipal Museum of School History
Sanjo Street in the Meiji - Taisho period.

Seisho Elementary School

The current Seisho School District, where Seisho Elementary School existed, is a former school district that spans Sanjo Dori to the north, Shijo Dori to the south, Teramachi Dori to the east, and Tominokoji Dori and Yanagiba Dori to the west.

In the Edo period, it was Atarashi-cho of the Nara-gumi and a Atarashi-cho of Sancho-gumi.

The name was changed from Shimogyo Goku in 1872 to Shimogyo Gokumi in 1879, then to Shimogyo Gogaku in 1892, and finally to Seisho Gakku (Seisho School District) in 1929. In 1942, the school district system was practically abolished in Kyoto, and although there have been some changes, it is still called so.

The elementary school was built in Honeyano-cho, Rokkaku-sagaru, Tominokoji, and was named "Seiun Elementary School" in 1876 after its location, Seiun-gumi, Atarachi-cho, Nara-gumi. Then it was renamed "Seisho Elementary School" in 1876.

This historic school district also includes a town with an unusual name, Benkeiishi-cho. According to one theory, the name "Benkeiishi (Benkei Stone)” comes from a legend that a large stone on which Benkei Musashibo always sat and rested was washed away by a flood and drifted to Sanjo Higashi-kyogoku. Benkei Stone, which has various other legends, still quietly exists in Benkeiishi-cho.

Financial Report on Simogyo-ku Gobangumi Elementary School Company, etc., in August 1887, owned by Kyoto Municipal Museum of School History

The elementary school company was an organization formed to help run the elementary schools in the area with the money earned by the company. In this sense, it was a gathering that symbolized the deep relationship between local residents and the elementary schools.

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(Left) The gate of Meirin Elementary School in the early Showa era, Source: Kyoto Municipal Museum of School History  (Right) The newly reconstructed, reinforced concrete school building in 1931 (the former building is now used as the Kyoto Art Center), Source: Kyoto Municipal Museum of School History
(Left) The gate of Meirin Elementary School in the early Showa era, Source: Kyoto Municipal Museum of School History (Right) The newly reconstructed, reinforced concrete school building in 1931 (the former building is now used as the Kyoto Art Center), Source: Kyoto Municipal Museum of School History
Sanjo Street in the Meiji - Taisho period.

Meirin Elementary School

The name of Meirin Elementary School, which opened in 1869 as the third elementary school in the area, derives from the fact that the school building was named after Meirinsha, a dojo for the study of the mind of Sekimon Shingaku. The main gate faced Uradeyama-cho and Nishikikoji Dori, but in 1875, the school purchased land in Yamabushiyama-cho and set up the main gate facing Muromachi Dori. After that, land in Tearaimizu-cho was purchased, and in 1927, the present site was constructed. In 1931, the school underwent a major renovation and became the current school building.

The state-of-the-art steel-frame architecture of the time was designed by the Kyoto Municipal Office's Repair Division, and the reddish cream exterior walls, orange of the Spain-style roof tiles, and greenish blue of the gutters create a warm and welcoming atmosphere.

The front of the building is said to be modeled after the Yamaboko floats of Gion Matsuri, as in the Meirin School District, many yamaboko floats are stored.

In addition to the quaint auditorium, the grand hall with its magnificent coffered ceiling, and the Japanese-style room on the rooftop, there are many other distinctive rooms to be seen here and there, including the staircase railings, exterior wall decorations, and round windows. The north wing also features a practical ramp for carrying cargo and as an evacuation route.

The school was closed in 1993 after 124 years of history, but the renovations that accompanied the opening of the Kyoto Art Center were carried out with much of its original appearance intact. The auditorium, hall, Japanese-style "Meirin" room, and classrooms used as production rooms can only be viewed when events are open, but visitors can fully enjoy the atmosphere of Meirin Elementary School just by touring the library, coffee shop space, and hallways.

Certificate of Volunteer Money for Elementary School Construction, August 30, 1875, Source: Kyoto Municipal Museum of School History

This document indicates the fact that at Meilin Elementary School, as at other elementary schools in Kyoto, the community provided a great deal of support for the school's operation.

Educational Handbook in 1932, Source: Kyoto Municipal Museum of School History

At Meilin Elementary School, the most advanced "new education" of the time, which emphasized the freedom of children, was pursued. This document records their footsteps.

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Sanjo Street in the Meiji - Taisho period.

Road Marker

The "Road Marker" is one of the reference points that indicate road distances throughout Japan, and this marks the base of the "XX km to Kyoto" guide sign that you often see while driving around.

Based on the old Road Law enacted in 1920, road markers were established as a standard for distance measurement in each municipality. In Kyoto, the road marker was designated as "Karasuma Dori Intersection on Sanjo Dori, Shimogyo-ku" by Kyoto Prefectural Notification No. 150 of the same year.

In other words, this point on Sanjo Dori was considered the starting point for measuring distances in Kyoto.

Until the Meiji era, the reference point in Kyoto was the Sanjo Ohashi Bridge; it is unclear why this was changed.

However, according to the Ministry of Home Affairs Notification No. 28 of 1920, National Route 2 runs from Otsu City to Osaka City via Kyoto City (Karasuma Dori - Shichijo Dori - Omiya Dori), and it is possible that Sanjo Karasuma was chosen as the reference site because it was this important intersection.

Another reason for the selection may be its proximity to the “Hesoishi (Navel Stone)” of Rokkaku-do, which is considered the center of Kyoto.

The lower half of this monument is whiter than the upper half, suggesting that it was at one time buried underground.

Since its installation around 1920, this road marker has watched over various historical events and is an important witness to the history of Kyoto's Sanjo Dori.

Currently, the reference point in Kyoto is "Kyoto City Hall", and the sign "XX km to Kyoto" refers to the distance to it.

However, considering its historical significance, this road marker at the intersection is very important for understanding Kyoto's history and culture.

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Vestiary specification book, about in 1835, owned by Chiso Co., Ltd.
Vestiary specification book, about in 1835, owned by Chiso Co., Ltd.
Sanjo Street in the Meiji - Taisho period.

Chiso Co., Ltd.

Chiso is a traditional Kyoto clothing merchant family with a long history, and is now known as an established Kyoto Yuzen shop.

The head of the family has been based in the Sanjo Muromachi area under the name CHIGIRIYA Sozaemon for generations.

This family is said to be descended from the shrine carpenters (miya-daiku) who dedicated a dignified object called "Chigiridai" to Kasuga Wakamiya Onmatsuri, and the shop name "Chigiriya" was named after the fact.

Chikiriya's origins date back to 1555, when Sadaharu started a vestments business.

At its peak, it flourished to the extent that there were more than 100 stores around Sanjo Koromonotana-cho.

CHIGIRIYA Sozaemon traded in gold brocade and vestments and served the Higashi Honganji, providing vestments and uchishiki.

The "Vestments Specification Book" created during the Tempo period is a booklet of specifications for items ordered by the Otani family (present-day Higashi Honganji of the Otani sect of Shinshu) and is an important document that provides details of the work of an imperial costume maker.

The head of Chikiriya was also well versed in literary arts such as kemari and waka poetry, and delivered appropriate costumes and furnishings in accordance with the history and tradition.

In the last days of the Edo period, it was an official purveyor to the Mori family of the Ako clan and supplied them with samurai costumes, and its activities can be seen in documents such as the "Tsurunomaru Monhon”.

Kemari Certification in 1720, owned by Chiso Co., Ltd.

Tsurunomaru Monhon in 1859, owned by Chiso co., Ltd.

In the Meiji period, influenced by the transfer of the capital to Tokyo, CHIGIRIYA Sozaemon shifted the main focus of his business from the vestments business to the embroidery and yuzen business, and began calling himself NISHIMURA Sozaemon.

A wide variety of products were presented, including interior furnishings such as folding screens and curtains, as well as yuzen-dyed kimonos.


On the other hand, the company worked to improve dyeing and weaving techniques by innovating dyeing and weaving designs and using chemical dyes, and by 1893 it was known as "Chiso Yuzen”.

These products were appreciated both in Japan and abroad. For example, the "Embroidered frame 'Underwater Birds of Prey" designed by the painter Keinen Imao won the grand prize at the 1900 Paris Exposition, the “Scent of Waseda" was sold extensively at the Mitsui Drapery Store (now Mitsukoshi), while the "Window Hanging" was ordered by a trading company in Paris.

In 1919, the company was divided into Chiso Shoten, which handled products for the domestic market, and Nishimura Trading Company, which handled products for the overseas market. By the early Showa period, Chiso Shoten had expanded its business to Tokyo, Osaka, Shanghai, and other locations in Japan and abroad.

With this long history, Chiso remains one of the leading representatives of Kyoto's culture and traditions.

Photo "Embroidered frame 'Underwater Birds of Prey'", in 1900, owned by Chiso Co., Ltd.

Scent of Waseda, in 1905, owned by Chiso Co., Ltd.

Photo “Window Hanging”, in 1907, owned by Chiso Co., Ltd.

Photo “NISHIMURA Sozaemon Store" Meiji era, owned by Chiso Co., Ltd.

Photo "Employees of Nishimura Trading Company (in front of Tokyo branch of Nishimura Trading Company )”, in Taisho era, owned by Chiso Co., Ltd.

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