Kuramae may not attract as much tourists as its neighbouring area, but it is imbued with a history almost as rich as that of Asakusa.
During the most prosperous years of the Tokugawa Shogunate, trade revolved around rice, which was not merely the Japanese’s staple food, but also their form of currency then. Merchants would keep them on earthen kura (倉) or earthen storehouses for a fee, almost in the same fashion that banks now operate. These storehouses were built along the right bank of the Sumida River. The area surrounding the resource-rich storehouses consequently attracted artisans peddling their opulent craft, hoping to attract the local aristocracy’s patronage.
With the closing of the Edo period and the onset of the Meiji Restoration, old ways were difficult to maintain. Rapid modernization called for corresponding development in all industries. As businessmen rose to the call of industrialization, factories manufacturing boxes and other paper products mushroomed here and there, taking the place of the rice storehouses of old.
After Japan opened up and welcomed imports cheaper than locally produced goods, local industry suffered.
In modern Tokyo, the area on the left bank of the Sumida River is known as Kuramae. Located between wholesale wonderland, Asakusabashi, and tourist favorite, Asakusa, the shops lining Kuramae still hark back to the area’s artisan and industrial past. Recently, it is regaining traction as craftsmen calling this area home try to reinvigorate trade.