Asakusa Hisago Shopping Street located in the northwestern area of Asakusa has approximately 50 shops along both sides of the street extending approximately 180m north and south from the Rokku area to Kototoi St.
In old times, this street flourished as a route from Sensoji Temple to the Yoshiwara red-light district and also as Yonekyu Street at the foot of Ryounkaku (tower commonly referred to as Asakusa Twelve Stories) before the Great Kanto earthquake. After the land readjustment in 1924, this street was named Hisago Street after the now-defunct Hyotan Pond in the Asakusa Park in the spring of 1925 in the wake of road improvement funded by shops along the street, which was the beginning of the shop association. After that, the association formed a joint association with Senzoku Street to continue activity until 1941, but this area was destroyed in WWII. After the war, merchants immediately started post-war reconstruction such as telephone pole restoration (funded by merchants), installation of street lights, and creation of a daily savings system in 1946 and formed a cooperative association toward future development in 1953.
Under the direction of the first to fourth chief directors Mr. Risaburo Takeda, Mr. Kiyoshi Saito, Mr. Syotaro Tanaka, and Mr. Ryusuke Suzuki, the association concentrated the wisdom and energy of successive directors and received tremendous collaboration from association members to advance various projects. In 1955, the association invested JPY12mn to construct a full-covering openable steel arcade that was officially approved first by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, which was a pioneer project in the nationwide spread. After that, the association also made contributions to the development of the shopping street by carrying out: an environmental improvement project including construction of a steel framed three-story association office, installation of unified signboards, and construction of an entirely colored pavement; sales promotion including decoration for sales events and each season and on-the-street broadcasting; facility maintenance including improvement and remodeling of the arcade, lighting facilities, etc.; and welfare programs for association members.
The Edo Initiative based on the common concept “stylishness,” which had been formulated toward the 21st century during the era of the fourth chief director Mr. Suzuki (1983) and powerfully advanced under the direction of the fifth chief director Mr. Kaichi Yamamoto in over 40 years from the formation of the cooperative association, was beautifully realized and is continued today. This is intended to morph the shopping street into an individualistic wide-area shopping street capitalizing on Asakusa’s local characteristics from the viewpoint of invigoration of the shopping street. As the first project of the initiative, the association completed wholesale improvement of the arcade and colored pavement in 1992 (The association received a letter of gratitude as Taito Ward’s first one from the Tokyo governor for its contribution to creation of a prosperous pleasant town). In October of the same year, the association held a memorial event called Asakusa Hyotan Festival with great éclat. After that, this festival is regularly held in the shopping street as Asakusa Hisago Street Summer Festa and later as Asakusa Hisago Street Appreciation Festa.
About Hyotan Pond
There was a large pond called Hyotan (gourd) Pond right on the east side of the Asakusa Rokku area. The pond was located in the area surrounding WINS Asakusa (JRA’s off-course betting facility) in front of Hanayashiki (amusement park). The formal name of the pond was Oike, but it was commonly called Hyotan Ike (gourd pond) because of its gourd-like shape.
In 1873, the grounds of Sensoji Temple were designated as the Asakusa Park by an administrative order from the Grand Council of State and divided into six districts. Showmen in Okuyama (area on the northwest of Sensoji Temple) moved to the sixth district. At that time, the sixth district was a wetland like an extension of Asakusa’s rice fields. So, a pond was planned to be made nearby so that the soil dug out could be used in development of an entertainment town. In 1885, an island with a wisteria trellis was made in the middle of the pond and a bridge was built between the island and shore. In the time of bloom, many people visited the pond to watch wisteria blossoms. In 1890, Ryounkaku (tower commonly referred to as Asakusa Twelve Stories) was built nearby, which was beautifully reflected on the surface of the pond water. As such, the tower became one of the sights in Asakusa.
After the Great Kanto earthquake, however, rubble was left around the pond and illegal occupants started living there, which worsened the surrounding environment. In 1950, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government returned the original grounds to Sensoji Temple. Since Sensoji Temple was struggling to find money to rebuild its main building that had been destroyed by fire in the war, the temple decided to fill up the pond to sell the land to cover the rebuilding cost. Despite a movement against the reclamation, the Hyotan Pond finally disappeared in 1951. It was 66 years after the pond was made.