Name in Japanese: 伊藤忠兵衛記念館
Pronunciation: itō chūbē kinenkan
The Itō Chūbē Museum stands beside the Nakasendō in Toyosato. Built in 1882 in the Meiji period, it’s the former home of the first Itō Chūbē, one of the Ōmi merchants. Chūbē founded the Itochu and Marubeni trading companies. The museum opened in 2002 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the first Itō Chūbē.
There are many exhibits including the favourite items of the first and second Chūbē, with presentations tracing the route from a textile wholesaler to a general trading company. The home and its contents reveal the dynamic life of the Ōmi merchants. While Chūbē was away in Ōsaka managing the shop, his wife Yae supported him by procuring goods and necessities for the store and training the employees at this house.
The second Chūbē who was born here, developed an international business based on the education his mother provided and by his studies in the UK, laying the foundation for today’s global trading companies.
Exhibits include the straw sandals worn by the early peddlers as they trudged the roads of Kansai and the leather shoes and briefcases of the salesmen who succeeded them. There are genealogies of the Itō and of the companies they called into being. The buildings themselves are fascinating – the kitchen with its original appliances, the well in the garden, the fireproof and burglar proof storehouse, the Western-style bathroom. The storehouse has many evocative exhibits revealing the little luxuries the Itō family enjoyed, including foreign cosmetics and silk fans.
Along with the nearby Yutaka Merchant History and Folk Museum, the Itō Chūbē Museum offers an attractive and enjoyable place to discover the origins of Japan’s commercial empire.
Itō Yae, the wife of the first Itō Chūbē and the mother of the Itochu Marubeni trading company. She was born in 1848 in Toyosato, Shiga Prefecture. She was the eldest daughter of Fujino Sōzaemon, and