Roof Garden, Mitsukoshi Department Store, Tokyo, c. 1930.

1930sArchitectureCommerceNotable Landmark
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Roof garden, Mitsukoshi department store, c. 1930.

Roof garden, Mitsukoshi department store, overlooking Nihonbashi, c. 1930.

See also:
Mitsukoshi Department Store, c. 1903-1923
Mitsukoshi Department Store, c. 1926-1960

“Another interesting feature [at the Mituskoshi department store] is the roof garden. On the roof you will find a conservatory where you will be delighted to behold American beauty roses and American carnations displayed with Japanese blossoms. And then, lo and behold, there is a real American soda fountain where you may obtain quite a satisfactory ice cream soda for the same price that you pay for it at home. The Japanese are very fond of ice cream. Their kind is not made in quite the same way as we Americans like it but it seems to satisfy the Japanese taste.

“In one corner of the spacious roof garden is a Shinto shrine. You seldom see anyone worshipping there but, aside from the matter of mixing religion with business, the artistic value of a wayside shrine is appreciated by every Japanese and the foreigner too even when it happens to be on Mitsukoshi’s roof garden.”

“The Greatest Store in Japan”, Asia and the Americas, Vol. 18, February, 1918

Aerial view, Mitsukoshi department store, Nihonbashi, c. 1920.

Aerial view, Mitsukoshi department store, Nihonbashi, c. 1920. The building would be damaged in 1923 by the Great Kanto Earthquake, rebuilt and enlarged.

Aerial view of Mitsukoshi department store (left) and its rooftop garden, Nihonbashi, c. 1940.

“Architecturally and artistically the home of Mitsukoshi has won the admiration not only of the Japanese public but of visitors from all the world.

Mitsukoshi department store roof garden, c. 1930.

Mitsukoshi department store roof garden and Inari shrine, c. 1930.

“The White Building of Art and Commerce, one of the finest corner sites near the world-famous Nihonbashi, with a frontage of 120-feet and a depth of 180-feet on Surugacho, five floors of merchandise, a most spacious basement, and a very interesting roof garden.

“The other attractions in the roof garden are a pond of gold fish, a sparkling fountain, flower beds everywhere, a quaint old Inari shrine, an elevated wistearia arbor at one corner from which one can obtain an extensive view of Tokio, the surrounding hills and mountains beyond with Mount Fuji in the distance.

“The Mitsukoshi orchestra plays daily on the main floor for the pleasure of the hundreds of shoppers and visitors. Those desiring to avoid the fatigue of promenading may find comfortable tea and coffee and ice cream rooms.”

“Japan’s Greatest Store”, Toys and Novelties, Vol. 17, March, 1920

Mitsukoshi department store and roof garden (right), c. 1960.

Mitsukoshi department store and roof garden (right) above the store’s main entrance, c. 1960. Post-war expansion of the building reduced the overall size of the roof garden.

“‘The canary in the cage at the rooftop garden, its wings limp, closes its eyes like a nihilist,’ says Kim Ki-rim in Rooftop Garden. The aquarium where the protagonist watched the goldfish was, like the birdcage, part of the department store’s facilities.

“This is also related to the scene in which the protagonist looks down on to the street below or says, ‘Let’s fly. Let’s fly. Let’s fly. Let’s fly once more yet.’ This is reminiscent of an ad for the department store that claimed that looking down over the city from the rooftop garden was as fun as ‘a bird looking down from above’ (Hatsuda Touru, The Birth of a Department Store).

“The rooftop garden, in other words, gave people artificial ‘wings’. The things they bought at the department store also ‘gave them ‘wings’.'”

“‘Wings’ and the Department Store”, LIST Magazine, Vol. 9, Spring 2010

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