He traveled to Southeast and South Asia, hence his "Tenjiku" (Japanese: 天竺, East Asian name of "India") nickname. At the age of fifteen, in 1626, Tokubei was hired by a trading company in Kyoto. He pursued commercial activities aboard Japanese Red Seal Ships.
In 1627, Tokubei visited China, Vietnam and Siam (modern Thailand) on board a Japanese Red Seal ship.
He would stay for some time in Siam and again visit the country on board one of the ships of the Dutch adventurer January Joosten van Lodensteijn. He also sailed to India, to the source of the Ganges, and the country of Magadha, and returned with great wealth and numerous stories to tell.
Upon his return to Japan, and after the introduction of the Seclusion policy (Sakoku), Tokubei wrote an essay titled "Tenjiku Tokai Monogatari" (天竺渡海物語, "Relations of sea travels to India") on his adventures in foreign countries, which became very popular in Japan. He died around the age of 80 in his home town of Takasago.
Tenjiku Tokubei became a popular character of Kabuki and Joruri puppet dramas, where he was given the role of a magician.
He was a popular subject of woodcut prints in the 18th and 19th century. In September 1795, Kunitaro played the role of Tokubei"s wife in the drama "Tenjiku Tokubei Kikigaki Ôrai", while the role of Tenjiku Tokubei was played by Arashi Koroku III.
Today, Tokubei is also the name of a chain of, comprising 49 restaurants as of June 2005.