Mitsukoshi is a Japanese department store chain that was originally established in 1673 as a kimono shop. In its main branch, located in the Nihonbashi area of Tokyo, a magnificent, towering sculpture dominates the interior of the store. The piece was created by the artist Gengen Sato in 1960, and is intended to represent the magokoro (sincerity) of Mitsukoshi. Over time, the sculpture itself has become better known as Magokoro.
It depicts a tennyo, or female spiritual being in Japanese Buddhist mythology. She is descending from the clouds, accompanied by a phoenix. Its details include elaborate floral designs and birds, spirals, flamelike waves and curves, in a complex, almost psychedelic splendor.
Crafting the massive piece took Sato and his apprentices 10 years to complete. The sculpture is carved out of 500-year-old hinoki cypress wood from Kyoto, painted with clay pigment, and decorated with gold, platinum, and jewels. Over 12,000 individual jewels cover the sculpture, including diamond, jade, and agate. The sculpture stands about 11 meters (36 feet), and weighs a whopping 6.8 tons.
At the time of its installation, the statue wasn’t well-received by the public, who found it distasteful. But despite the initial displeasure, today the Magokoro has become an iconic symbol of Mitsukoshi.
Know Before You Go
The main branch of Mitsukoshi is about a 10 minute walk from either Nihonbashi Station or Tokyo Station, on the opposite side of the Nihonbashi River.
The Magokoro sculpture stands in the ground floor reception area and can be viewed from upper floors as well because of its unmissable size. However, the main store is large and split into two connected buildings so be sure to enter the older one, whose entrance is decorated by replicas of the Trafalgar Square lions, and head for the reception following the signs.