The Amazing Ginza in Tokyo
An area of several shopping streets within a 1 kilometer radius in the heart of the capital is the Ginza district. Here are concentrated fashion stores with Japanese and imported goods of world brands. The upscale neighborhood has become a landmark in the capital, a tourist mecca for the wealthy, thanks to its reputation for elegance and high fashion. Japanese entrepreneurs and city officials have carefully maintained a status that took centuries to acquire.
Ginza is located in the center of Tokyo.
Japanese identity has melded with Western luxury glitz, turning the old neighborhood into a prestigious global shopping paradise.
Exorbitant real estate prices don’t discourage, but attract businesses. To open a boutique, shopping mall in Ginza means to become a member of a privileged club offering goods and services to millionaires.
Origin of the name and other historical facts
The name of the area in Japanese means “money”, “coin”. At the end of the 16th century, the Tokugawa shogun decided to establish a new city on the shore of the bay at the southeastern end of Honshu Island. The future was predestined for the area from the beginning: merchants and jewelers settled in the fishing village.
Soon a key enterprise for the economy of the time opened here: the Mint. There was an acute shortage of money for the development of trade in the country. Among the monotonous, adjoining buildings, the workshop where silver money was printed was the most impressive landmark. The few streets adjacent to the Mint became known as the Ginza.
In 1868, the reign of the shogun feudal lords came to an end. Emperor Meiji decided to end the self-isolation of Japan and expand ties with European states. A “Brick Town” appeared on the site of the burned quarter: 2-3-story buildings designed by an English architect. It was a window to Europe. Here the Japanese could see what Western civilization looks like.
In 1897, a horse-drawn streetcar ran along the main street, and a quarter of a century later – the streetcar. In the commercial district opened stores with goods from Europe, restaurants, cafes, bars. The streets, for the first time in Tokyo, were lit by lanterns, lights advertisements. An earthquake in 1923 dealt a tangible blow to the buildings, but by the beginning of World War II, trade was flourishing again.
During the war, activity in the neighborhood came to a standstill. Since the mid-1950s, Japan began rapid economic growth and the metropolitan area became fashionable.
Ginza (Tokyo) is a concentration of shopping venues, exhibition galleries, museums, and theater in a small area. What to choose to explore the features of the area?
Kabuki is the symbol and pride of Japan. It appeared in the commercial center of Edo in the second half of the 16th century. Wealthy merchants had low social status in the land of the samurai. Kabuki-je opened as a way for this stratum of the population to assert itself and express their inner protest.
The peculiarity of the theatrical spectacle lies in the perfected combination of music, dance, melodeclamation on the background of bright scenery. Another peculiarity of the ancient theater is that all roles, including women’s, are performed by men in makeup. Despite Europeanization, Kabuki continues to be very popular with the Japanese and is of interest to tourists.
In 250 years, the building has been rebuilt five times due to fires, earthquakes, and bombing damage. At present, Kabuki occupies a four-story building with an auditorium seating 1964. Nearby is the Kabuki Jae Office Center.
On the lower level of the 29-story skyscraper are souvenir stores and tea houses. On the 5th floor, the Kabuki Museum with an exhibition of costumes and decorations is open to the public.
There are several performances in the theater every day. Tourists wishing to experience the art of Kabuki can buy a ticket for part of the performance: Hitomaku-Mi.
It is only valid for 1 person and can be purchased immediately before the performance at the theater’s box office. There are 60 seated and 90 standing seats in the auditorium. The entrance for the audience for one act is special, by elevator, directly to the 4th floor.
In the lobby, audio guides in the form of headphones are available for rent to explain what is happening on stage in the performance. With a performance ticket you can visit the restaurants on the lower levels with national cuisine during the intermission.
The Waco-Ginza department store building is the symbol and main landmark of the shopping district. The granite facade with chimes on the roof has been on the main street since 1894. Until the beginning of the 20th century, a striking clock played a melody every 15 minutes. The dilapidated structure was torn down to build a new one. The reconstruction lasted 10 years because of the crushing earthquake that destroyed Tokyo.
In 1932 the building was completed, which has remained in its original form to the present day. Once again, Westminster chimes ring out on the main street in memory of the company’s founder, K. Hattori.
Attori opened his trade in 1881. Watches and jewelry became the main goods of the enterprising merchant. In 1892, watches of his own production of the brand “Seikosha”, which meant “House of exquisite craftsmanship”, were put on sale. The brand “Seiko” (“refinement”, “minute”) appeared 30 years later. In 1947, the store was renamed from “K. Hattori” to “Wako.”
In the XXI century Wako is still famous for Seiko watches, products made of precious metals and stones. The offered mechanical and quartz wristwatches range in price from a few thousand to a million yen (from 3,000 to 600,000 rubles).
The department store’s specialization is expanded with goods from Japanese manufacturers:
High-quality imported products are also offered here. The department store is located at the intersection of Chow-dori Street, in the heart of the district.
The Sony Shopping Center is one of the attractions not only of the shopping district, but also of Tokyo. The building, with its unusual facade, has an original floor-by-floor arrangement of halls.
Each floor is a demonstration of the same type of products, e.g:
- game consoles;
A special feature of the center is the accessibility of the exhibits presented. For example, in the camera hall, there is a stand where you can take pictures with each model and assess the quality of the pictures visualized on the computer.
Here you can clearly see the variety of Sony products for the Japanese. If you buy more than 10001 yen worth of products, the buyer is exempt from paying the 8% tax (with a passport). There are 5 restaurants in the building, including French cuisine.
The exhibition belongs to the Tokyo Department. The small 4-story building is located in the northern part at the border of the district. Admission is free, free of charge.
All types of police weapons and uniforms are on display at the museum. Visitors can try on their uniforms and ride their motorcycles to experience the role of police officers. Displays show the names of top officers, including those who died in the line of duty, as well as high-profile investigations. The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. any day except Mondays.
The advantages and subtleties of shopping
Lovers of shopping should understand that the shopping establishments of the fashionable district are focused on people with a high level of income.
Stores and boutiques with global brands are waiting for buyers of high-quality and expensive goods.
The most convenient time to stroll through the malls is on weekends.
The main street becomes pedestrian from 12 noon to 6 p.m. (until 5 p.m. in October and March).
The most attractive ones are the large department stores located on Chuo-dori:
- Mitsukoshi. In the shopping halls on 12 floors you can buy goods and services of all kinds. Restaurants are open.
- Matsuya. Stores in the mall offer clothing, home furnishings, and pet products. Restaurants are also open.
- Printemps. Branch of the French chain in Tokyo exports clothing, wines, accessories.
Mitsukoshi Matsuya PrintempsPrintemps
The shopping malls are open seven days a week, from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. to 10 p.m.
On the border with the shopping area is the largest market in the world Tsukiji. Shoppers will find all kinds of seafood found in the seas and oceans here.
As evening falls, the crowds do not cease to flow. In addition to the restaurants there are bars and clubs. There are music and dance programs, the best wines, and European and Japanese cuisine.
Famous and popular:
- Bouquet Wine Bar. French wines and dishes are offered for tasting.
- Whiskey Bar. A cozy place for connoisseurs of this drink, with a large selection.
- Shoza Komparu nightclub, with a European-inspired dance program.
- Vestern Bango, where you can treat yourself to creamy green curries and enjoy country music.
Entertainment and cuisine to suit all tastes are offered in the fashionable heart of the capital.
How to get there
The most convenient way to get to the shopping avenue is to use the subway. Tokyo has a well-developed subway infrastructure. Stops on five lines will lead to the cherished goal: Ginza, Ginza-itchome, Higashi Ginza.
Tokyo guide, part 2: Ginza
We continue to talk about Tokyo’s neighborhoods in a joint piece with KiMONO magazine.
From the Editor: Tokyo is a state within a state. And if you don’t delve into the history, culture and traditions of the country and city, you won’t understand anything about Tokyo. We were lucky to find an awesome guide to Tokyo – Ekaterina Stepanova, publisher and editor-in-chief of KiMONO magazine. Each week we’ll publish an itinerary through one of Tokyo’s neighborhoods. This week it’s Ginza.
Gin-bura is the name given to a leisurely stroll along Ginza’s main street. This word was invented in the early XX century, when for the first time in Japan a stretch of Chuo-dori, where the first European clothing stores and cafes with French cakes appeared, was equipped with gas lanterns. It was here that the Japanese discovered the Western world, tried on hats for the first time, tasted coffee and Coca-Cola. Time has passed, but the atmosphere of luxurious new life has remained. The best time for a gin bore is on weekends and holidays, when the Chuo-dori roadway is closed to cars.
If you take the A1 exit of the Marunouchi, Hibiya, and Ginza subway stations, you’ll find yourself in the heart of the district at the intersection of its two arteries, Harumi-dori and Chuo-dori. Above the intersection is the unofficial symbol of Ginza, the old Wako department store building with a big clock on its tower. A little further away is the Mitsukoshi department store, which was one of the first in the area. The land in Ginza is the most expensive ($1 million per square meter on average), and yet global and Japanese fashion brands consider it a matter of prestige to have a boutique here. Many of Ginza’s buildings are architectural masterpieces, including Hermès, Louis Vuitton, De Beers, and others.
The company’s store, designed by architect Ito Toyo, features unusually shaped windows. Inside, as in a cozy pearl shell, the brand’s main product, pearl jewelry, is presented. Japan is famous for the quality of its pearls, and Mikimoto is considered to be the best pearl producer. A classical strand of snow-white pearls or a bride’s necklace of unusual pink color, jewelry made of black or golden beads – the quality and beauty will not leave anyone indifferent.
The Okuno Building, a former seven-story apartment building, was built back in 1932. Today it feels like a crossroads of time: exhibitions of contemporary art are held on each floor, but inside as outside everything is in its original state: the floors creak, the windows are cracked, and the elevator doors are slid open by hand. Okuno Building Room 306 is a nonprofit project in which anyone can participate by organizing a week-long exhibition within the walls of Ginza’s once-best apartments. But there are also permanent tenants: Room 101 houses a nineteenth-century European antiques store, and Room 508 houses a gallery of contemporary artists.
The architecture of the Kabuki-za Theater attracts hundreds of tourists every day: the building stands out strongly against the background of modern shopping malls. Often near the entrance you can see a queue for the upcoming performance, where all the roles are traditionally played by men. Theater performances are distinguished by a special kind of traditional kabuki dance, during which, for example, a shy girl can turn into a majestic lion with impressive hair. Tickets for a single performance start at ¥15,000. If you go around the building on the right, go down to ground level, and then take the elevator up to the fifth floor, you can enter the Kabuki-za Gallery and for only ¥800 see the history and props of the theater. On your way out of the gallery, be sure to try the traditional Japanese martia tea and take a stroll in the garden set up on the same floor.
In the evening, at the central Ginza Crossing, the openwork Ginza Place building glows and mesmerizes with its dynamic LED façade, which was created by designer Yugo Nakamura. The first two floors of the building house a Nissan showroom. In addition to viewing the company’s electric cars and rare vehicles, here you can experience inexpressible emotions and drive a virtual race track in the Nissan GT-R seat with a 360 degree view.
For an afternoon snack in the Ginza area and a taste of old Japan, head to the Ginza Corridor. This long row of restaurants, located under the highway, houses establishments that serve yaki-tori chicken kebabs, unagi river eel, tonkatsu pork cutlets, gyoza dumplings and ramen noodles. There are also many restaurants with oysters and other seafood on the street.
Graphic Design Gallery
Walking around Ginza, you can come across various galleries at every turn. Among these, the Ginza Graphic Gallery is especially popular. It was founded in 1986 by Dai Nippon Printing as a contribution to modern society and printing. Floors B1 and 1F host exhibitions of Japanese graphic designers. There is a library on the third floor. Opening hours are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays, 6 p.m. Saturday, Sunday off. Admission is free.
Dover Street Market Ginza.
There are seven floors of boutiques of famous and beginning Japanese and world fashion designers, chosen by the founder of Comme des Garçons fashion brand Rei Kawakubo so that they create a special atmosphere of harmonious chaos. Louis Vuitton, Alexander Wang, Sacai and Valentino are just a small part of the 150 brands represented here. The building was opened in 2012 and is an extension of the concept of the Kawakubo store in London. A small Shinto garden on the roof of the mall is a surprise.
Shiseido branded dining
There are two buildings of Japanese cosmetics giant Shiseido on Ginza at once. One houses the company’s cosmetics boutique and spas. The other, Shiseido Parlour, houses an art gallery and restaurants. On the fourth and fifth floors of the building is the Shiseido Parlour Restaurant, Japan’s first western-style Japanese restaurant, which opened in 1902. Its bright hall with comfortable armchairs, snow-white tablecloths and fine porcelain will help you understand the real taste of Ginza.
Website : parlour.shiseido.co.jp Average bill: 15,000 yen
Between the two Shiseido buildings just around the corner on the fourth floor is a small bar for music lovers. Opened by two music producers, Takashi Kobayashi and Shinichi Osawa, Ginza Music Bar boasts a collection of three thousand vinyl records by artists ranging from jazz and rock to hip-hop and techno. Many modern hits are recorded on vinyl especially for this place. High-quality sound, exquisite interior and vast cocktail list supplement the already legendary image of the best music bar in Tokyo. Seating is limited to 30, reservations through the hotel.