Walking Around Glitzy Ginza, Japan
Ginza (銀座) is Tokyo’s famous upmarket shopping, dining and entertainment district on one of Japan’s most expensive real estate. In this district, you will be surrounded with high-end boutiques, department stores, art galleries, restaurants, night clubs and cafes.
Ginza used to be the site for silver coin mint from 1612 to 1800. Hence, the district got its name Ginza, which means “silver mint” in Japanese. However, it was only after the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake that Ginza was reconstructed to become the luxury district as it is today.
Local life and Culture
We made our first Ginza stop at the not-so-glitzy but full-of-character Tsukiji Fish Market. Find out more about this place with this post: Visiting Tsukiji Fish Market. Thereafter, we walked in the direction of Yurakucho Station and headed to the main Ginza area.
Along the way, you can make a stop to Kabuki-za (website), the world’s only theater dedicated for kabuki performances. The original Kabuki-za building was a wooden structure built in 1889. Due to destruction and age, it was subsequently re-built 3 times in the architectural details of pre-Edo period’s castles and temples.
Kabuki is an art of showmanship which involves elaborate costumes, thick make-up, outlandish wigs, and actors’ exaggerated actions. A kabuki program is made up of several acts. Tickets are sold for individual acts and also for the entire play. For non-Japanese speaking visitors, English guides in audio or subtitles are available too.
Spotted this mural in the subway station
Shopping at Ginza, Japan
About 500m away from Kabuki-za, you will find a neo-renaissance style building that has a clock tower at the rooftop. Built in 1932, this is a landmark of Ginza and and one of the few buildings that remained standing in the area after World War II.
This is now the main building of Ginza Wako, a department store that sells luxury goods such as watches, clocks, jewellery, men’s and women’s goods, interior decor and food products.
In addition, Ginza Wako has other outlets peppered across Ginza, of which there’s an annex beside this clock building where you can find tea salon, cake and chocolate shop and gourmet salon. Sounds like a place to enjoy a tai-tai life! ;P
- Main Building: 4-5-11 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo 104-8105
- 10:30 am – 7:00 pm, Daily except year-end and New Year
Other than Ginza Wako, you can also check out other department stores such as Matsuya where you can find international high-end brands and popular high street fashion.
- 10:00 am – 8:00 pm (shops); 11:00 am – 10:00 pm, LO 9:30 pm (Restaurants ,8F)
- 3-6-1 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo
As you walk around Ginza, you will also notice flagship stores of many international luxury brands such as Chanel. However, most of them have begun or will start to refurbish their stores in anticipation of the flood of tourists for the 2020 Olympics.
But even before the Olympics, Tokyo is already way too crowded for me! >.< With that in mind, do visit Ginza on a weekend afternoon when the pedestrian zone is widened. The main street Chuo Dori (Chuo Street) will be closed off to road traffic and opened for pedestrians. The road closure is on every Saturday and Sunday from 12:00 pm to 5:00 pm (until 6:00 pm, from Apr – Sep).
In addition, if you are a short-term tourist planning to spend a lot in Ginza, do remember to bring your passport! Because you can can enjoy TAX-FREE SHOPPING at most major stores. :)
Want to take a break and have a snack? You should head to Kimuraya’s head store in Ginza for anpan or other types of bread. Anpan is a freshly baked bread (“pan”) with a sweet filling of red bean paste (“an”). However, if bread is not filling enough, the Ginza outlet has a café, grill and restaurant above their bakery.
Their No.1 bestseller is Sakura Anpan with sakura topping but it was sold out when we were there. Hence we tried their No. 2 bestseller (¥162 yen, S$2), Ogura Anpan, the “original” anpan of purely bread and red bean. Kimuraya also has seasonal specials for the different seasons such as Ichigo (strawberry) and kurikabocha (chestnut and pumpkins).
Other than this Kimuraya outlet in Ginza, you can also find Kimuraya’s anpan at its outlets in Shinjuku and other parts of Tokyo and also at Tokyo’s major department stores.
For more about anpan’s history, bestsellers and our review on it, refer to What to Eat in Ginza Tokyo?.
- www.kimuraya-sohonten.co.jp (in Japanese only)
- Opened Daily except New Years Holidays
- Hours 1F Bakery, 2F Cafe: 10:00 am – 9:00 pm (LO 8:30 pm) | 3F Grill: 10:30 am – 9:00 am (LO 8:30 pm) | 4F Restaurant: Lunch 11:00 am – 3:00pm (LO 2:30 pm), Dinner 5:00 pm – 9:00 pm (LO 8:00 pm)
- Address 4-5-7 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo (1-minute walk from Ginza Station A9 Exit)
If Kimuraya’s food is not to your liking, you can also easily enjoy delectable food at one of the high-class restaurants around Ginza. Ginza offers the finest cuisine of any category, pick from Japanese, French, Italian and Chinese cuisines.
However, if you want a more affordable option, head towards Yurakucho JR station. Because over there, you will have a Japanese salary-man experience at one of Tokyo’s interesting dining districts, Yurakucho Gado-shita (“below the girder” / “underneath the railroads”).
Under the elevated tracks of Yurakucho JR station (between Yurakucho and Shinbashi; and Yurakucho and Tokyo), you’ll find dozens of hidden restaurants packed in small alleyways. These restaurants ranged from small Yakitori joints and Izakayas to beer halls and French wine bars.
It will be good to research which Izakaya to go to before you go. Different Izakayas have different specialties such as fish, seafood and pork. In the end, we went to Mutsumi because based on photos pasted on its glass door, its specialty is most likely pork. At Mutsumi, it costs about ¥1,645 (S$21) for a two Yakitori sticks and a Donburi set (Japanese rice bowl dish) with salad and miso soup.
For dining rules of Izakaya and our review on its food, refer to What to Eat in Ginza Tokyo?.
p.s. Before we arrived at Gado-Shita, we went to the nearby JCB Plaza to redeem complimentary airport limousine tickets because we hit a certain spending on our JCB cards.
Shopping: LOFT and MUJI
If you are eating along the stretch of Gado-shita that’s between Yurakucho and Tokyo JR stations, you’re only a few minutes walk away to MUJI Flagship Store at Yurakucho.
However, when we entered the store, there’s no sign of MUJI’s familiar minimalist style — the uniform packaging and the neat display. It was only we ventured further that we saw a big red wall with the word MUJI at a staircase leading to the 2nd floor.
So it turns out that Muji is sharing the space at level 1 with a popular lifestyle chain in Japan called LOFT. The store carries many different brands of a wide array of items – from your beauty products to bags to stationery. We snagged a sleek backpack here. Still a proud purchase so far. :P
- 10:30 am – 9:30 pm, daily except for Sunday & PH: 10:30 am – 9:00 pm
- Yurakucho LOFT : 1F Infos Yurakucho, 3-8-3 Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku (next to Yurakucho Station, Exit D9)
After shopping at the first floor, we walked up to the 2nd and 3rd floor for the rest of MUJI Yurakucho. The first thing that welcomed us on the 2nd floor was Café & Meal MUJI which sells healthy food at reasonable prices.
The Cafe has a mixed rice concept (杂菜饭) where dishes were displayed like that of a ‘create your own salad’ counter. From there, choose the 2-3 dishes you want the staff to plate for your meal. Since we were still full from our lunch at Gado-shita, we had MUJI’s afternoon tea set of coffee and cake instead. The cheesecake served was surprisingly nice! :)
I’m sure most of you know the brand MUJI. Born in the early 1980s, it is now one of the most recognised Japanese brand worldwide. Not surprising, because as of 2015, there are 500 MUJI stores and outlets with 50% of them outside of Japan. Of which, this MUJI Flagship Store at Yurakucho is apparently the largest in the world. It carries a wide range of products from apparel, food to furniture.
A notable section to check out is MUJI BOOKS, where 20,000 book titles are displayed on natural solid wood shelves. Sit and browse through the books in this section’s cosy corner of tables and chairs.
Another section that amazed us was MUJI’s living space zone. There are living spaces such as the dining room in a full set up. One that’s similar to those showroom displays you usually see in Ikea.
There’s also a wide variety of household goods for you to purchase — furniture, bedding, kitchen items, bath items, curtains, rugs, storage containers, etc. And surprisingly, customer can also engage MUJI’s renovation services of interior designers and renovation specialists.
- Yurakucho MUJI: www.muji.com/jp/flagship/yurakucho/en
- Cafe: cafemeal.muji.com/jp/?area=footer
- 10:00 am – 9:00 pm (Food starts at 9:00 am)
- Yurakucho MUJI: 1F Infos Yurakucho, 3-8-3 Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku (next to Yurakucho Station, Exit D9)
Once again, remember to bring your passport out with you if you are a short term visitor to Japan. Because when you show your passport, you get to enjoy discount + tax free rebate on your shopping at LOFT and MUJI! :)
So, that’s about all I can say about our short visit to Ginza! Where else would you recommend us to visit or eat in Ginza? Share with us below or on our Facebook Page or Instagram. Also, bookmark this page > Overview Itinerary: Hokkaido and Tokyo (Winter/Spring 2016)