Kimono Flea Market ICHIROYA's News Letter No562


       photo from Edo Tokyo museum


There have been business reorganization in many fields- including department stores. Many  major department stores established in Edo period- they were all `gofukuya'(kimono sellers). Daimaru(where Ichiro worked for 19 years) was established in 1688, and another big department store, Mitsukoshi also started as gofukuya in Tokyo around the same time.

Echigoya was the name of the kimono shop which later became Mitsukoshi department store. 

When you watch `jidaigeki'(historical drama) from Edo period, there often appears a villan merchant who offers bribe to Shogun. The Shogun accepts bribe saying, `Echigoya, you are really  a villan...' with smiles on his face and accepts the bribe. This is just a typical image of greedy merchant, but the name Echigoa is often used in those drama. 

Echigoya was actually an epoc-making shop of kimono. We are not sure they used name of Echigoya based on real history. The truth is Echigoya was a really special business leander.


In Edo period, kimono were sold by Kakeuri (selling on credit). The sellers brought hinagatabon, kimono design book or tanmono bolts to Shogun families and rich houses - they negotiated price and get paid either twice a year (bon and kure, which is  mid summer and the end of the year) or once a year(at the end of the year). So the sellers sold to the people who they could trust. They also set the price including the risk and and their work to visit them often. 

There fore they did business with only  a limited people. To that traditional business style, Hachiroemon Echigoya brought a revolution.  They started the store in 1673 with the motto,

`Tanasaki genkin kakenenashi'. It means they sell at their store only, cash only with no credit. It was an innovative method. Anyone who could pay by cash could buy kimono-it used to be only the people who got the visit by gofukuya could buy kimono from them.

Sellers did not have to carry tanmono bolts and visit their clients anymore. They set the price and sold to anyone. It used to be the price was not known until  the end and was set by very ambiguous way. Echigoya also sold textile by weight and this method also was liked by people.

At that time, ordinary people in town were becoming richer and had more power. Echigoya became so popular among those people. They had lost ther stores by fire, but they have reconstructed the stores. Another thing they did was Hikifuda, advertising leaflet. They have stated, the price  had no lies and no discount accepted, because the price has been set by their effort. This style was completely different from the traditional kimono selling business. People marched in crowd to Echigoya. 

As far as hikifuda, advertising leaflet is concerned, it used to be they were black and white but they started using colors and made more `catchy' leaflets using Ukiyoe.

The diolama shows Echigoya kimono store from Edo period. You may be surpried to hear some department stores in Japan have history almost four hundred years but they have started as gofukuya, kimono store and grew to become department stores as time goes by. If you go to Japan and go to department stores, please enjoy visiting their kimono corner. You may think they are like museum, the price might be unbelievable but you can see the best of best by famous artists.

Takashimaya department store, which also started as gofukuya have beautiful collection of kimono. If you like to visit kimono corner of department stores to see new kimono, we recommend Takashimaya.