Tokyo has inspirations from many cities around the world. Eiffel Tower is supposed to be the inspiration for The Tokyo Tower, while Brussels Manneken Pis inspires a similar statue at Hamamatsucho Station. I learned about a new inspiration, the two bronze lion statues at the Mitsubishi Department Store at the Nihonbashi (Tozai Line) Station. Below is some interesting info associated with these statues.
TRIVIA 1 : Mitsukoshi Lions, inspired by famous lion statues at London’s Trafalgar Square
The Trafalgar Lions with the National Museum on one side and the Big Ben in the backdrop on the other end is a major tourist attraction. If you want to see the influence of Britain in Tokyo, visit the Mitsukoshi Department Store in Nihonbashi. The two bronze lion statues at the entrance are influences which the department stores owner Oosuke Hibi placed an order for two statues to be shipped to his store in Tokyo. The original lions are located in front of the National Museum, Nelson’s Column, a monument in Trafalgar Square in central London built to commemorate Admiral Horatio Nelson, who died at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805
The statues still stands today at the entrance of the Mitsubishi Store. The statues were erected in Japan originally in 1914 at the entrance of the Mitsukoshi Store. Access it from Nihonbashi Station on Tozai Line. See the building as below
The statues are at the entrance of the store and you will certainly not miss them.
A recent business trip in London, I was walking past the Trafalgar Square early morning 06:00 a.m. and noticed the quiet surroundings of the National Museum and the magnificent lion statues in front of it. The place is heavily crowded with traffic and tourists through the day and the morning silence was almost unbelievable.
TRIVIA 2 : The Japanese military planned to melt the Mitsubishi Lion statues for metals
As luck would have it, the World Wars had a story which I heard from the Mitsukoshi store staff at an event organized by the Nihonbashi local tourism promotion office or foreigners which included a walk around the Nihonbashi neighborhood. The staff informed us that the lions were acquired in the national interest by the military on the eve of the Second World War. Japan as is has few natural resources to depend on and has always been importing raw materials and metals. The Second World War created an acute shortage of metals for weapon manufacturing and the military acquired the two lions to melt them down and use the metal for military purpose!!Conversely, at the Trafalgar Square, Nelson’s Column, French guns were melted to create part of the plaques on the side of the Nelson’s Column surrounded by the lions. The aerial bombing by Germany did not have any noticeable damage to the Trafalgar Square lions. LUCKY…You can get this snap only if you go to the Trafalgar Square early in the morning. Attempt 05:00 to 06:00 a.m. in the morning.
TRIVIA 3 : LUCKY, Both the statues have been lucky
Trafalgar Lions have been LUCKY in second world war escaping the carpet bombing from the German forces. There is also information that Hitler intended to move the Nelson’s Column to Germany!
Similarly, the Mitsubishi Lion escaped the carpet bombing of Tokyo. Mitsukoshi had apparently given up on the lions but in the post war days after being acquired by military for the metal, but, FORTUNATELY, the lions were discovered in an abandoned state in the compound of Yasukuni Shrine INTACT!! and had not been melted for military use (reasons unknown).
They were quickly reinstated in 1946 at the Mitsukoshi Store and have earned a reputation for being LUCKY themselves and that they will also bestow good LUCK on visitors who touch the lions feet. They are called as Hisshou-Kigan-Raion-Zou, guaranteed good LUCK lion statues. Don’t miss the lion statues at the entrance….
TRIVIA 4 : Both the locations are the Kilometre Zero for their respective cities!!!
In the middle of the Nihonbashi Bridge you can see a metal plate fixed on the road which is the point from where all measurements are made for whole of Japan.
The same applies for London where you will see the below plate which says that all measurements start from here for the city.
TRIVIA 5 : Climb the lion for good luck!!!
Many visitors climb up on the lions and take selfies / snaps in London, but that is not a frequent practice I know of in Tokyo. On asking the store staff I was told that Japanese believe that you should climb the lion when no one is looking to bring good luck! So that literally makes it impossible to do so in regular times… Need to go at night… I love both the locations, the original, Trafalgar Lions and the inspired Tokyo Mitsukoshi Department Store Lions…