The Tokyo Stock Exchange: investment as sightseeing

I find it fun, when visiting a large city, to learn as much as possible about what drives it and what makes it tick.  For a city such as Tokyo, an economic powerhouse (even after 3 decades of a relatively stagnant economy), one place to learn more is the Tokyo Stock Exchange, the heart of share and bond trading.

IMG_8814Now part of the Japan Exchange Group (JPX), a 2013 “business integration” of the Tokyo Stock Exchange and the Osaka Stock Exchange, the Tokyo Stock Exchange is located in Nihonbashi Kabutocho.  Tours of the facility in English are offered daily at 1:00 pm and 2:00 pm (best to make advance reservations by email to kohou-kn@jpx.co.jp to ensure there will be a tour offered at your preferred time).

The lobby of the facility is graced by bronze statues of the four factors of modern economy:  industry, commerce, agricultural, and transport/communications.  The TSE’s mascot, Toushi–the name a pun on the Japanese word for investment–, also welcomes visitors.

Just off the lobby is a small museum, full of displays recounting the history of the exchange.  Arranged in chronological order, with excellent English explanations, the displays provide great background information in preparation for the tour.

Life-sized cut-outs of three men who were early pioneers of the Japanese financial sector are noteworthy.  The man on the left in the photo below is Eiichi Shibusawa (1830-1941), one of the founders of the TSE.  Widely regarded as “the father of Japanese capitalism”, Shibusawa’s image is slated to appear on the new JPY10,000 yen note, expected to be issued in 2024.

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There are also interactive screens and earphone explanations in English for those with an inclination to dig a bit deeper.

The formal tour begins with a short film explaining the history of the Tokyo Stock Exchange and the Osaka Stock Exchange as well as the current operation of the integrated enterprise.  Did you know that futures trading began in Osaka?

After the film, visitors are taken on a walk around the gallery, above the former trading floor, now know as Market Center.  All TSE trading is done by computer; floor trading finished in 1999.  Instead, these days, trading is merely monitored from here.  At the same time, a ticker runs around the circular Market Center, constant real-time information on fluctuations in share prices. 

People gather on the old trading floor for an opening ceremony on New Year’s Day and also for the ringing of the trading bell when a new stock is listed.  A bell is a rather universal symbol of stock exchange trading, usually rung to open and close trading.  The TSE bell ceased to be used for openings and closings in 1935, so these days is only rung for special occasions.  Nonetheless, one wall of the gallery is packed with photos of dignitaries and celebrities ringing the bell.

Also on the tour, visitors learn the meanings of the various screens of information posted in Market Center for monitoring purposes.  The guide even gives a bit of a trading trivia quiz to test visitors’ knowledge.  Don’t worry, she wasn’t too strict!

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The entire tour lasts about an hour.

With prior arrangement, visitors can stay another half hour playing a computerized stock trading game.  The game is a simulation in which participants are traders with 10 million yen to invest over a 7 day period (condensed into just 30 minutes).  Deciding which stocks to buy, and when to buy and sell, based on the simulated news, poses a fun challenge.

To round out your experience of stock trading, as you leave the building, turn right.  At the end of the road is a small Shinto shrine, Kabuto Jinja.  Although the word “kabuto” means “helmet”, based on another pun (since “kabu” means stock or share) these days the god of this shrine is regarded as the guardian of the financial district.  Back in the days when there was floor trading, it is said that traders regularly stopped here in the mornings before trading began to pray for a prosperous day.

An amulet from Kabuto Jinja, a boost to the owner’s prosperity, is available for sale in the small gift corner of the TSE lobby.

TSE hours:  9:00 am to 4:30 pm, daily (closed on public holidays as well as December 31, January 2 and 3)

© 2019 Jigsaw-japan.com and Vicki L. Beyer
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