One of the Many Places in Ginza to See Department Stores Clustered Together
Wondering where is the best place to shop in Tokyo, Japan? Look no further than the Ginza district! The name “Ginza” comes from the Japanese word for "silver coin," and here you can spend those coins on goods from Japan and around the world. Not interested in shopping? No worries! There’s something to do for everyone in Ginza, so don’t miss out on browsing through these streets at your leisure.
The skyline of Ginza is more open than many places in Tokyo giving the air a sense of freedom. Ginza follows a strict zoning policy, so all buildings are no more than 56 meters (185 feet) tall. On weekends and public holidays, the main Chuo-Dori street is closed to cars, and shoppers can enjoy relaxing strolls without worrying over traffic lights. This pedestrian paradise isn’t often afforded in Tokyo, so don’t miss out! Here are 10 recommended things to do in Ginza.
Wako Department Store from Across the Street
We can’t talk about Ginza without mentioning some of Tokyo’s most famous shopping malls and department stores. It seems like every corner is lined with a store, another store, and yet another store. From high-end names like Valentino to the everyday attire of UNIQLO and Gap, it can be overwhelming to choose just one store. One that can’t be missed is the exclusive Wako Department Store.
The Wako building’s pre-WII, curved façade stands out against the backdrop of modern Ginza. The interior design is small, soft, and reeks of sophistication. Here you can browse through men’s and women’s wear on the upper floors, and for home goods on the lower floors. The sixth floor also hosts an art gallery on weekends. If Wako’s selection doesn’t quite sit with your fashion sense, read on to find out more!
Matsuya Ginza Main Entrance
If you want more brand variety, check out the shopping mall Matsuya Ginza. From kimonos to Kate Spade, cosmetics to confectionaries, all eight floors, plus the two basements, have something for everyone. Cream and tan marble sparkles between the shops and calms your senses from the rushing of cars and pedestrians outside. The clerks stand straight and tall outside of the shop ready to welcome you into their stores, but they will never accost you into making a purchase.
Here, you can slowly browse between the racks without feeling pushed to make a purchase. If you do buy something over 5,000 JPY (50 USD) don’t forget to stop by the tax refund counter to get 8% back on your purchases. Matsuya Ginza is a conventional take on a modern shopping mall, but if you’re looking for something a little more contemporary, head over to Ginza Six.
This brand-new shopping mall in the Ginza district features both Japanese and Western high-end brands. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, don’t fret. Ginza Six is a wonderful place to get out of the elements and take a climate-controlled stroll. A soft gold and glass tableau encases the iconic colonnade. The skylight above spiderwebs into a pattern of class.
Art installations by famous Japanese and international artists adorn the corridors, and a quick trip to the roof leads out to the 4,000 square meter rooftop garden. Here, nature, art, and consumerism are balanced to create quite the unique shopping experience. For those that have little to no interest in fashion, read on to find out what else Ginza has to offer!
Japan may seem like a small country, but the 3,000 km (about 2,000 miles) length of the land has afforded more than enough space for cultures within the culture to develop and grow. Food, artistry, and local dialect differs so much that a person from Hokkaido might have trouble communicating with a person from Shikoku! But vacations are limiting and checking out every corner of Japan could take years.
At Ginza’s antenna shops, you can find gifts, lacquerware, and delicacies from even the furthest reaches of Japan.
Go to Washita for your Okinawa goods, the Oishii Yamagata Plaza for the alluring wagyu beef, and the clusters of other prefectural shops from places like Ibaraki, Gunma, Iwate and more! It’s possible to get all your souvenir shopping over and done within just one trip. That is unless you’re looking for something to bring back for the children. For the kids, grandkids, and other little ones in your life (or perhaps even for yourself) read on!
Ginza’s Hakuhinkan Toy Park offers four floors of wacky and fun toys from around the world. The floors are divided into "Variety Goods," "Stuffed Toys and Characters," "Kids and Baby Toys," and "Games and Hobbies."
"Variety Goods" offers fun desk toppers, piggy banks, party supplies, and snacks. Here you can pick up those fun flavored Kit Kats everyone raves about. The second floor is filled with toys from famous brands like Disney, Ghibli, and Sanrio. You can find everything from expensive collectibles, to something your toddler can safely be left alone with.
The third floor is dedicated to action figures, Legos, and wooden cars and trains for babies. There are lots of moving displays of these toys in action, and video games to try out.
The fourth floor, "Games and Hobbies," is a particular favorite among tourists and locals. There are puzzles and models on this floor, but the real entertainment here is the 36-meter (118 feet) slot car track. It costs 200 JPY (2 USD) to race your car for five minutes. After all that shopping and fun, you’ll probably be pretty hungry. Let’s go over some of Ginza’s famous restaurants.
Ginza Lion Sapporo Beer Hall Main Entrance Decorated with Cherry Blossoms
The antenna shops aren’t the only places to get a sense of other parts of Japan. At the Lion Sapporo Beer Hall, you can get a literal taste of Hokkaido culture. Sapporo City loves drinking in German style. They’ve adopted beer gardens, Oktoberfest, and beer halls into their own everyday culture. Inside, the one-room hall is set up with German tables and chairs lit by pre-war Japanese lamps. The walls are tiled in motifs from Japanese history, but the most striking thing about this place isn’t the setup... it’s the chaos.
Upon entering, you’re hit with a wall of shouts coming from patrons and workers alike. Diners scream at their friends in glee and workers call out commands from across the room. Grease hangs heavy in the air from sizzling brats, and good times are had all around. It’s a party every day here, but if you’re looking for a more calming experience with a Japanese menu, check out the next restaurant below.
Sukiyabashi Jiro, once featured in the documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi, is a father and son operation. This sushi restaurant is lauded as one of the best in Tokyo, but it only seats about 10 people at a time. Reservations are absolutely required, but Sukiyabashi Jiro books up months in advance and doesn't take reservations by phone or e-mail. You can contact third parties like us to see when you can get in! Show up to your reservation promptly as dining here usually lasts only 25-30 minutes, and any time less takes away from the experience.
You might be used to the conveyor-belt style of sushi shops where you can grab any plate that looks enticing. Or perhaps you’re more familiar with writing your order on paper. Here, though, is the traditional counter style sushi.In this type of restaurant, you don’t order any particular dishes. Every morning the chefs decide on the set every customer will eat based on which fish they’ve bought that morning at the Tsukiji and Toyosu fish markets.
After getting a glass of green tea, the chef will start preparing your meal one piece at a time. Don’t wait for him to finish every piece! Sushi is meant to be eaten as soon as it is in front of you. The chefs also make sure there is a balance of the type of fish they serve starting with lighter tastes before moving into the fattier, heavy fish. Once you’ve built your stamina back up, head back out on the town for some of Ginza’s famous sightseeing spots.
For a real peek into traditional Japanese culture, check out a play at the Kabukiza Theatre. Originally built in 1889, the Kabukiza Theatre has had a long history of catastrophes, remodels, closings, and openings. Through fires, earthquakes, and war the theater keeps coming back to bring us the genre of its namesake: Kabuki!
While there are many theaters across the country, Kabukiza Theatre is the largest and only theater to put on a performance every month. One performance can take up to four hours, but if you don’t have time, don’t worry! You can still get a taste of Kabuki with a Single Act Ticket. Single Act Tickets are available for almost every performance and usually cost as little as 1,000-2,000 JPY (US $10-20). You can check the ticket prices of performances through their website, but be warned! Single Act Tickets can NOT be purchased in advance.
To acquire these tickets, customers must stand in line at the ticket counter. Make sure your entire party is together to purchase tickets as tickets are only sold one per person. You can’t request tickets for someone else! Not fluent in Japanese? Worried about having to make room for those Sunday duds? No problem! There’s no dress code for Kabukiza Theatre, and you can rent audio and/or visual translation guides! After enjoying this traditional Japanese art, head just a few streets over to check out Ginza as it used to be.
You might not believe it looking at the steel and chrome buildings and wide streets, but Ginza is one of Tokyo’s oldest neighborhoods. Unlike other historical districts, however, most of Ginza developed with the times. Outside of the Kabukiza Theatre, it might seem impossible to get a sense of “old Japan,” but fear not retrophiles! This is Japan, and there’s a place to find a bit of history anywhere you go. You can dive into the 1930s at the Okuno apartments.
The building inside and out is the same as when it was built, including the manually operated elevator. Legend has it, this is the first elevator ever built in Japan! Once the most luxurious apartments in all of Ginza, they now house between 20 and 50 art galleries in each apartment. To see how the apartments looked originally, check out the famed Room 306 which stands as it did in honor of the last occupant. Finally, if you love shrines be sure to check out this next fun and unusual one!
Toyoiwa Inari Shrine
Shintoism has a hold on everyday life in Japan, and in this case, it has a hold on a skinny alleyway. It’s hard to believe that a religious site could exist hidden between two walls of a corridor as wide as a person, but that’s where the Toyoiwa Inari Shrine is! As you walk through the alley path, take care where you step because you could knock over one of the bikes parked here!
The exact history of the shrine is largely unknown, but it’s believed it was first built in the 16th century. Originally, the shrine probably wasn’t hidden away as it is now, but as Ginza grew around the shrine the narrow road happened to develop. People come here to pray for love and good relationships, particularly pertaining to marriage. This little shrine makes a great photo-op, but given its tiny size, only one or two people can stand in front of it at a time. So, if you can find this place, be sure to give room for others to enjoy as well!
We hope you’ve enjoyed this quick guide to Ginza! There’s so much to do and see in this part of town prepare to lose a whole day, and still not see enough! If you’ve read this article and have been moved to see Ginza, and I hope you have, you can book with us to get a private tour of this Tokyo gem!