“The original Shimbashi Station, northern terminus of the railway from Yokohama and later from Kobe, is said by experts of Meiji architecture to be something of a mystery, though it was endlessly photographed and made into woodblock prints. The original plans, by an American, have been lost and no detailed description survives. So it was observed by millions of eyes (some three million passengers got on or off in 1907 alone), and drawn and photographed countless times – and yet we cannot know exactly what was seen with those eyes.”
– Low City, High City: Tokyo from Edo to the Earthquake, Edward Seidensticker, 1982
Japan’s first railway opened in June, 1872, connecting the new Tokyo capital with the port city of Yokohama. Initially, the line terminated to the north in Tokyo at Shinagawa. The General Staff would not allow track along the planned right-of-way facing Tokyo Bay (where several island forts were located), so a new embankment for the track was built. Tokyo’s new main terminal, Shimbashi Shiodome [tidal stop], opened on 14 October 1872 with a grand ceremony attended by Emperor Meiji who himself rode aboard the inaugural trip.
Train service between the Shimbashi and Yokohama took 35 minutes, with stops at Shinagawa, Kawasaki, Tsurumi and Kanagawa before reaching the similarly-designed terminus at Yokohama Sakuragicho.
Until the opening of Tokyo Central Station in 1914, Shimbashi Shiodome (and, from 1910-1923, Shimbashi Kasumori) also marked the northern terminus of the Tokaido Main Line that began express rail service between Tokyo and Kobe in 1889.
“‘To Shimbashi, Shimbashi Station,’ cried Kohamma San.
“There is but one way to leave Tokio, and that is from Shimbashi station. If Horton was going away, he must go from Shimbashi.”
– The Century Illustrated Magazine, October, 1904