Chūō-ku, as a combination of Kyobashi and Nihonbashi, is the core of Shitamachi, the original downtown center of Edo-Tokyo. Literally meaning "Central Ward", it is historically the main commercial center of Tokyo, although Shinjuku has risen to challenge it since the end of World War II.
The most famous district in Chūō is Ginza, built on the site of a former silver mint from which it takes its name. The gold mint, or Kinza (金座), formerly occupied the site of the present-day Bank of Japan headquarters building, also in Chūō.
As of May 1, 2015, the ward has an estimated resident population of 141,454, and a population density of 13,850 persons per km2. The total area is 10.21 km2. However, because of the concentration of businesses, offices and retail space, the daytime population swells to an estimated 650,000.
Administratively, Chūō is divided into the three zones of Nihonbashi, Kyobashi and Tsukishima. Nihonbashi and Kyobashi are predominantly commercial areas on the east side of Tokyo Station, and incorporate the famous districts of Ginza and Tsukiji. Tsukishima is a separate island in Tokyo Bay dominated by condominium towers.
Until World War II, the area was crisscrossed by small rivers and canals, used by small boats which were the primary vehicles of commerce at the time. After the war, many of these waterways were filled in to make way for new roads, buildings and expressways. However, the former waterways are the basis for many of the neighborhood divisions in the ward. The Sumida River forms the eastern boundary of the ward.
Chūō is physically the second-smallest ward in Tokyo, with a total area of just 10.15 km2; only Taitō is smaller.
1612: Shōgun Tokugawa Ieyasu, planning to establish Edo as the de facto capital of Japan, begins work on a new commercial district surrounding the eastern end of the Tōkaidō, the main road connecting Tokyo and the Kansai region. During the Edo period this area is known as Edomachi—the town center of Edo. Much of the area (particularly Ginza and Tsukiji) was loose sand piled at the delta of the Sumida River before being filled in by the shogunate.
1657: After a fire consumes much of the city, the area is re-planned with more canals to accommodate more maritime commerce.
1869: A foreigners' settlement is established in Tsukiji. It continues until about 1899.
1872: A fire consumes much of the Ginza area. In its aftermath, the governor of Tokyo re-plans Ginza to be a modern European-style commercial district between Shinbashi (the city's main railway terminal at the time) to the south and Nihonbashi (the main business and financial district) to the north.
1878: Under a new local organization statute, the wards of Nihonbashi and Kyobashi are established under the government of Tokyo City, covering the area now occupied by Chūō.
1945: Following Japan's defeat in World War II, several buildings are taken over by SCAP to serve as supply centers for the occupation forces. These include the Hattori Watch Company, the Matsuya department store and the Toshiba Building. The buildings are returned to Japanese civilian control by 1951.
1947: Chūō Ward is founded on March 15 under the new Local Autonomy Law, merging the former Nihonbashi and Kyōbashi wards.
Nihonbashi (日本橋): Traditional commercial center. Also home to the Takashimaya (高島屋) department stores, and the "zero milestone" from which highway distances to Tokyo are measured.
Kyōbashi Area (京橋地区)
Akashicho (明石町): Home to St. Luke's Hospital and Nursing School and the adjacent Garden Tower skyscraper.
Ginza (銀座): Tokyo's most expensive shopping district, housing large stores such as Matsuya (松屋), Matsuzakaya (松坂屋), Mitsukoshi (三越), Wako (和光), and Printemps (プランタン), as well as the famous Kabuki-za (歌舞伎座) theater. At night, Ginza is ablaze with neon lights. Exclusive bars abound.
Hamarikyu-teien (浜離宮庭園): Location of Hamarikyu Onshi Teien (浜離宮恩賜庭園). A spacious public park, formerly the property of daimyō' of Kōshū, and later under the administration of the Imperial Household Agency
Hatchobori (八丁堀): During the Edo period, the location of the police barracks
Tsukiji (築地): Location of Chūō City Office. Widely viewed as one of the best sushi (寿司) destinations in the world because of its huge wholesale fish market, which supplies restaurants and stores across eastern Japan. Also home to the Jōdo Shinshū temple of Tsukiji Hongan-ji (築地本願寺).
Yaesu (八重洲): District on the east side of Tokyo Station(東京駅). The Yaesu side of Tokyo Station is the terminal for the Shinkansen (新幹線) "bullet train" lines.
Tsukishima Area (月島地区)
Harumi (晴海): the Harumi passenger terminal is here
Kachidoki (勝どき): The location of a bridge of the same name over the Sumida River
Dai-ichi Kikaku Senden Co., Ltd. opened in Chūō in Ginza, Chūō in December 1951. In January 1958 the company relocated to a new headquarters in Ginza. The company moved to another headquarters in Ginza in September 1961 and its name changed to Dai-ichi Kikaku Co. Ltd. In November 1974, after growth, the company moved to another headquarters in Ginza. In November 1981 Dai-ichi Kikaku moved its head office to a facility in Ginza and a facility in Uchisaiwaichō, Chiyoda. The headquarters of Asatsu moved to Ginza in July 1995. Asatsu and Dai-ichi Kikaku merged into Asatsu-DK on January 1, 1999.