Translated by Shinji Takaramura
Ginza Travel Guide: Feel Classic Luxury In Tokyo's Most Elegant Area
This article is a comprehensive guide of Ginza, an elegant and history-rich area, where visitors can enjoy shopping and fine cuisine at a wide variety of shops and restaurants.
Written by ニコ
Ginza - Get to Know One of Tokyo's Most Elegant Districts
Ginza, a district in Tokyo’s central Chuo ward, is best known for the many sophisticated shops which line its streets. This area used to be reclaimed land, being built on the land used to fill a swamp in the Edo period (1603 - 1868), and was named after Ginza Yakusho, a foundry for silver coins, which was once located here. Ginza was destroyed by fire in the following Meiji era, then rebuilt to resemble a modern, international city - a point that can still be seen in the historical Western buildings that remain here today. During both the first and second World Wars, Ginza became known as a fashionable area to visit, and has maintained this reputation to this day.
There are eight numbered subdivisions in Ginza addresses, and all the streets, including Chuo-dori (Central Avenue), have street names. This is a rare feature in Japan, where numbered administrative divisions are used rather than street names and numbers.
Kabukiza Theater in Ginza
Ginza was the place where Western culture such as fine cuisine and fashion was first introduced to Japan. At the same time, it is rich in Japanese tradition as the iconic Kabukiza Theater is located here, and Tsukiji Fish Market, which is the main supplier of seafood for the Tokyo area, is also in the neighborhood. Various department stores and high-brand shops, both domestic and international, are located in Ginza as well. The Sony Building is a famous showroom for the latest developments in electronics and electric appliances. All in all, the area is famous as a shopping spot.
This article will introduce the main attractions of Ginza, along with information on access, dining, and accommodation which will be useful to the travelers who wish to make the most of their time in Tokyo's most sophisticated district.
1. How to Get to Ginza
2. How to Enjoy the Ginza Area
3. Shopping in Ginza
4. Kabukiza Theater
5. Tsukiji Fish Market
6. Hibiya Park: Japanese Gardens and Autumn Leaves
7. The Sony Building: Experience Japanese Technology
8. Enjoying Japanese Dishes Under the Tracks at Yurakucho
9. Enjoying the Ginza Cuisine (Sushi, Unagi and Shabu-Shabu)
10. Hotels in Ginza
How to Get to Ginza
From Narita Airport
The "Access Narita" is a joint-operation express bus service, run by JR Bus Kanto, Askakotsu Company and Heiwakotsu Company, from Narita Airport to Tokyo Metro Ginza Station. The ride usually takes about 90 minutes (although it differs depending on the traffic), and the fare is 1000 yen. Both the "Tokyo Shuttle" (Keisei Bus, fare: 1000 yen) and the "Airport Limousine" (Airport Transport Service Company, fare: 3100 yen) head to Tokyo Station. From there, Ginza Station is the next stop on the Tokyo Metro Marunouchi Line, and the fare is 170 yen.
For those who want to use trains, the JR Narita Express takes about an hour to reach Tokyo Station. The basic fare is 1320 yen, with an additional express fare of 1700 yen.
From Haneda Airport
It takes about 30 minutes on the Keikyu Line to both Shinbashi Station (fare: 570 yen) and Higashi-Ginza Station (fare: 610 yen). On the Tokyo Monorail, it takes about 20 minutes to Hamamatsucho Station. Shinbashi Station is the next stop on the JR Yamanote Line, and the total fare is 630 yen. JR Shinbashi Station is located on the southwest edge of the Ginza area, and the Tokyo Metro Ginza Station is within a ten minute walk. If you don't feel like walking, or have a lot of luggage, take the Tokyo Metro Ginza Line to Ginza Station.
How to Get to Tsukiji
Head in the southeast direction on Harumi Avenue, where the Sony Building and Ginza Mitsukoshi are located. You will arrive in the Tsukiji area after passing Tokyo Metro Higashi-Ginza Station. The Tsukiji Fish Market is located near Tsukiji Hongwanji Temple, and the walk takes about ten minutes. If you take the Tokyo Metro Hibiya Line from Ginza Station, Tsukiji Station is the second stop, and the fare is 170 yen.
Moving Around in the Ginza Area
The trains on the Ginza Line, Marunouchi Line and Hibiya Line all stop at Tokyo Metro Ginza Station, so using the subway or walking should be sufficient in this area.
The Ginza Line platform is under Chuo Avenue, the Marunouchi Line platform under Sotobori Avenue, and the Hibiya Line platform is under Harumi Avenue. The Ginza Station exits near the shopping and sightseeing spots are as follows (there is no A6 exit, and the A4 exit is currently closed):
A7, A8 and A11: Ginza Mitsukoshi
A9 and A10: Ginza Wako
A12 and A13: Matsuya Ginza
B9: Sony Avenue
C2 and C4: Sukiyabashi Intersection
C4: JR Yurakucho Station
C6: Printemps Ginza
Elevators are located at the A8、B2、B7 and B8 exits. The Tsukiji area is about one kilometer from the exits near Ginza Mitsukoshi.
Ginza-itchome Station of the Tokyo Metro Yurakucho Line is located under Yanagi Avenue, and its exit no. 2 leads to JR Yurakucho Station. Higashi-Ginza Station of both the Tokyo Metro Hibiya Line and the Toei Asakusa Line is located under Kabukiza.
Ginza Station is within walking distance from both the JR Yurakucho and Shinbashi Stations. A Toei Bus named "Nari-ju"runs from JR Shinbashi Station to Tokyo Skytree Station, and another Toei Bus named "To-go" runs from Tokyo Station to the Harumi Pier and Tokyo Big Sight, so they can also be used for sightseeing.
How to Enjoy Ginza
While Ginza is a well-known shopping area, one side of the city that is sometimes overlooked it is art galleries. Here you will find everything from traditional Japanese paintings and ukiyo-e, like at Gallery Shukado, to contemporary works and installation art at Gallery Echo-Ann. To learn more about the many art galleries hidden throughout Ginza, please take a look at A Gallery Tour In Ginza - See Contemporary Art And Ukiyo-e For Free!
When visiting Ginza, it is worth checking out the sophisticated shopping facilities. Some of them, such as Ginza Wako and Matsuya Ginza, boast a rich history as iconic spots that represent the leading trends in Japanese fashion. Let us introduce some of of the department stores where you can pick up the latest in fashion, as well as ideal souvenirs from your trip.
If you wish to buy Japanese souvenirs, go to Tokyu Plaza, located a one minute walk from C2 and C3 exits of the Tokyo Metro Ginza Station. The shopping mall opened in April 2016 and is perhaps best known for its numerous, traditional style shops selling a host of different Japanese products, such as Sake Labo, which handles sake-related items, along with famous brand shops.
Lotte Duty Free Ginza is located on the eighth and ninth floors. This shop employs the same system as the duty-free shops at the airport. Consumption taxes, as well as the taxes on alcohol and tobacco, will be exempted, and travelers can receive their purchased items at the duty-free pickup counter in the airport, after passing through the immigration check. Go to the Kiriko Lounge to view the Ginza scenery, or the Kiriko Terrace on the top floor to take a break. If you get hungry, choose from the wide variety of restaurants and cafes. Visitors can spend a whole day at this fashionable shopping spot!
Address: Tokyo, Chuo, Ginza 5-2-1
Just opened in April 2017, Ginza Six is a massive, 13 story commercial center located on the site of the former Matsuzakaya department store which features high end luxury boutiques and a Noh theater on the basement level. There are duty free and currency exchange services, and even a convenient bus terminal on site here, which make this a great place to shop for both domestic and international visitors.
Address: Tokyo, Chuo, Ginza 6-10-1
Although Uniqlo has stores all over the world, Uniqlo Ginza boasts the largest shop space, with twelve floors. There are English-, French-, Spanish-, Chinese- and Korean-speaking staff, so visitors from abroad need not worry. The shop is located within a four-minute walk from the A2 exit of the Tokyo Metro Ginza Station.
Address: Tokyo, Chuo, Ginza 6-9-5
Matsuya Ginza is directly connected to the A12 exit of the Tokyo Metro Ginza Station. It was founded in Yokohama in 1869, as the Tsuruya Gofukuten (kimono shop). In 1890, the shop expanded to Tokyo and became its first department store.
The exterior of the building was renovated in 2001, and its white glass walls are embedded with LED lights. The atrium in the center hall is seven storeys high and decorated with many umbrellas, looking like a work of contemporary art. The seventh floor hosts a wide variety of exhibitions with themes ranging from traditional craft to modern art.
Address: Tokyo, Chuo, Ginza 3-6-1
MARRONNIER GATE GINZA 2&3
Formally Printemps Ginza,
Address: Tokyo, Chuo, Ginza 3-2-1
Ginza Wako started as a watch store for Hattori Tokeiten (watchmakers) in 1881, and the clock tower built in 1932 has become a Ginza landmark. The store's show window has been decorated by prominent designers in the postwar period, and achieved worldwide fame as the symbol of Ginza. Wako is a department store with a rich history, handling high quality items including watches. Wako Hall, located on the sixth floor, hosts free exhibitions of artistic craftwork and photography.
Address: Tokyo, Chuo, Ginza 4-5-11
Ginza Mitsukoshi is located at the Ginza Yon-chome Intersection, across the Chuo-dori (Central Avenue) from Ginza Wako. Founded in 1673, it started as a kimono shop "Echigoya" (越後屋), which changed its name to "Mitsui (三井) Gofukuten." In 1904, two kanji characters, "mitsu" (三) and "koshi" (越) were taken from the former titles, and the shop was renamed "Mitsukoshi."
The store consists of four floors underground and twelve floors above ground, handling famous brand items from all over the world. The Ginza Terrace, located on the ninth floor, is a lawn-covered outdoor space where visitors can enjoy the seasonal changes. A duty-free counter and a money exchange counter is on the first basement floor, and Wi-Fi is available on all the floors. Purchased items can be delivered to hotels and airports.
Address: Tokyo, Chuo, Ginza 4-6-16
Fancl Ginza Square
Japanese cosmetics are highly praised overseas. Fancl, which produces additive-free cosmetics, is especially popular in the Asian region, where people look for natural and safe products.
Besides cosmetics, there are various services available at Fancl Ginza Square. Customers can have their skin condition checked at the beauty shop, or have a check-up at the health house. There is also a restaurant specializing in organic dishes here. There are English- and Chinese-speaking staff, and duty-free shopping is available for customers with a purchase of more than 5400 yen.
Address: Tokyo, Chuo, Ginza 5-8-16
The sign of a red paperclip marks the renovated Ginza headquarters of Itoya, a stationery store founded in 1904. Japanese stationery is known for its high quality, and Itoya handles items with a distinctive, elegant style, making them the perfect souvenir shopping spot. Visitors can create their own original stationery items, enjoy unique types of stationery products, view and purchase several different types of papers, and even take a break at their cafe on the 12th floor. You can also borrow writing tools, and experience the world of Japanese stationery to your heart's content here.
Address: Tokyo, Chuo, Ginza 2-7-15
Website: http://www.ito-ya.co.jp/ginza/ (Japanese)
2. Kabukiza Theater
Kabuki is a traditional Japanese performing art, with more than 400 years of history. One of its theaters, Kabukiza, is located at Ginza. Kabuki is a classical drama, so even the Japanese have difficulties understanding it. Visitors from abroad can buy "sujigaki", a pamphlet with a summary of the play in English for 1300 yen. They can also borrow a English viewing guide for 1000 yen.
Although the performance takes about four to five hours, one of the appeals of Kabuki is being able to enjoy the lunchbox meals (bento) during the intermission. If you don't have the time or are worried about the long stretch, there is a special ticket called "Hitomakumi-seki", which allows the visitor to see only one act of the whole play.
For further details on how to enjoy your time at Kabukiza, please refer to the following articles: How To Watch a Kabuki Play at Kabukiza Theater, and Kabukiza Theater - How to Enjoy It Without Buying a Ticket.
Address: Tokyo, Chuo, Ginza 4-12-15
3. Tsukiji Fish Market
Tsukiji Fish Market is one of the largest markets in the world, with several tons of seafood being sold here on a daily basis. What makes Tsukiji an impressive place is not only its sheer size, but also the significant role it plays in delivering fresh ingredients for the Japanese cuisine cooked in Tokyo's dining places.
Let's see some of the things that can be enjoyed at Tsukiji Fish Market, which is located within walking distance from Ginza's center.
Turning the Tuna into Sushi
After watching the fast-paced tuna auctions, some people might wonder how the fish will be treated. The sushi restaurant "Tsukiji Sushi Ichiban" shows how a tuna is turned into sushi, on an irregular schedule.
The sight of a big tuna being dissected using only kitchen knives is indeed a spectacle. After the performance, take a photograph of the fish, and enjoy the sushi!
Tsukiji offers various tours, and sushi workshops are part of them. The participants first tour the market, and then go to a sushi restaurant, change into sushi chef uniforms and learn how to make various types of sushi. After taking photographs, they can actually taste the sushi they made.
4. Hibiya Park: Japanese Gardens and Autumnal Leaves
If you become weary of the urban scenery, take a ten minute walk from Ginza to Hibiya Park. The park, built more than a hundred years ago, has two open-air theaters and an auditorium. Visitors can also enjoy the flowers every season.
There was a mansion of a daimyo (feudal lord) on this site, and the remnants of the moat surrounding the mansion became the Shinji-ike (a pond shaped like the kanji character for "kokoro", which means "heart"). There is another pond named Kumogata-ike, with a fountain shaped as a crane, in the park. Various trees, such as cherry and wisteria in spring, gingko and maple in autumn light up the scenery around this pond, so it is also famous as a spot to enjoy the autumnal leaves.
Address: Tokyo, Chiyoda ward, Hibiya Park
5. The Sony Building: Experience Japanese Technology
Located at the intersection of Sotobori Avenue and Harumi Avenue, the Sony Building opened as a showroom of its products. It is a place to experience modern Japanese technology, and visitors can buy Sony products there as well. There is a sightseeing information center inside, but the building will close on March 31st, 2017, and the site will be razed. From 2018 to 2020, when the number of tourists to Japan should be on the rise towards the Tokyo Olympics, the "Ginza Sony Park", a temporary event space, will be open. After 2020, a new building will be built, scheduled to open in the autumn of 2022.
Address: Tokyo, Chuo, Ginza 5-3-1
6. Enjoying Japanese Dishes Under the Tracks at Yurakucho
Take a walk from Yurakucho Station to Shinbashi Station, and you will find various restaurants in the arch-shaped spaces under the tracks. There are taverns, yakitori diners, and sushi restaurants, and even Italian, German and Korean restaurants, as well. Male office workers used to frequent this spot, but now, women and travelers also come here to eat. The restaurants are all moderately priced, so give it a try.
Address: Tokyo, Chiyoda, Marunouchi 3-4
7. Enjoying Ginza Cuisine (Sushi, Unagi and Shabu-Shabu)
Sushi Restaurants in Ginza
Sushi is the epitome of Japanese dishes, and there are many sushi restaurants in Ginza. But it is also expensive, and the most famous restaurants in Ginza are known for their high prices. So look for the restaurants with moderately-priced lunch dishes, or offer an all-you-can-eat style dining. Take a look at our recommendations.
Ginza Sushi Ojima
Ginza Sushi Ojima is a kaiseki cuisine restaurant, which means that customers can enjoy here very elaborate and carefully prepared Japanese dishes. They offer a wide range of dishes - from sushi to course meals. All these specialties have a common feature in the fact that their refined aspect and arrangements reflect the motifs of the seasons, offering visual delight along with the great taste.
Address: Tokyo, Chuo, Ginza 4-3-7
Telephone: 03-6228-5957 (Prior Reservation Recommended)
Website: Ginza Sushi Ojima
Have you ever tried unagi (Japanese eel)? It is rather expensive, although at Unagi Noboritei, customers can enjoy them at a moderate price. The Ginza branch of this restaurant is located right in front of the B2 exit of Tokyo Metro Ginza Station, and the Higashi-Ginza restaurant, named Tomimatsu, is located near Kabukiza.
Address: Tokyo, Chuo, Ginza 6-6-19, Shintaro Building B2F
Rengatei: Western Dishes
At Rengatei, founded in 1895, customers can enjoy Western dishes which have evolved over the years in Japan, such as omurice (omelette filled with fried rice), hayashi rice (rice with hashed meat), potage (cream of vegetable) soup, deep-fried prawns and pork cutlets. To go to Rengatei, take the B1 exit of Tokyo Metro Ginza Station, and walk about two minutes on the Suzuran Avenue to the north.
Address: Tokyo, Chuo, Ginza 4-2-15
Bird Land Ginza: The Yakitori Listed in the Michelin Guidebook
Yakitori (skewered chicken roasted over coal) is a popular Japanese dish. Bird Land Ginza, a yakitori restaurant in Ginza, earned a star in the 2015 edition of the French guidebook, Michelin. It is located on the basement floor of a building connected to the C6 exit of Tokyo Metro Ginza Station. Try this popular Japanese dish that has been praised even by the French.
Address: Tokyo, Chuo, Ginza 1-2-3
Gonpachi: Japanese Cuisine
G-Zone Ginza, which consists of various restaurants, is located within a five minute walk from the Tokyo Metro Ginza Station. Customers can enjoy themselves while dining in this building, especially at the Japanese restaurant Gonpachi, where the interior looks like it came from an ancient period of Japanese history. At Gonpachi, customers can watch the staff make soba noodles in the shop. They can also enjoy sushi and yakitori at the counter seats, where the staff prepare the dishes right before their eyes. There are table seats, private rooms and tatami rooms, as well.
Shabu-shabu is a Japanese-style meat fondue. Thin strips of beef are first dipped in boiling broth, and then, along with vegetables and tofu, dipped in sesame sauce or ponzu-soy sauce. The Shabusen in Ginza has menus in English, Chinese and Thai, and offer moderately priced lunch dishes.
Address: Tokyo, Chuo, Ginza 5-8-20
Website: http://www.zakuro.co.jp/syabusen/index.html (Japanese)
Grill Swiss: Curry with Pork Cutlet
Grill Swiss, founded in 1947, created the katsu-curry (curry with a pork cutlet on top). It was an innovative dish, and has become very popular over the years. If you have the chance, try the voluminous, deep-flavored katsu-curry at the Grill Swiss.
Address: Tokyo, Chuo, Ginza 3-5-16
Tofuro at Ginza-itchome
There are many taverns in Japan, but Tofuro stands out in regards to interior design. It is based on "Wabi-Sabi", a theme reminiscent of a tea ceremony, and aimed to express traditional Japanese culture. Customers stepping into the tavern may feel like they have wandered into the Edo Period (1603 - 1868). Tofuro has menus in English and Chinese.
Address: Tokyo, Chuo, Ginza 1-10-6
Enjoying Sake Cocktails at SAKE HALL HIBIYA BAR
Japanese sake is popular overseas, and SAKE HALL HIBIYA BAR uses it as a cocktail base. The cocktails, easy to drink with their original sake flavor, are perfect for those who are not familiar with sake.
Address: Tokyo, Chuo, Ginza 5-6-12
Website: http://www.hibiya-bar.com/sakehall (Japanese)
Hotels in Ginza
There are six four-star hotels, twelve three-star hotels (including the Sotetsu Fresa Inn Ginza Sanchome, which will open in the winter of 2017), one two-star hotel and one capsule (budget) hotel in Ginza. The rates for the four-star hotels range from 30,000 yen to 40,000 yen, and the average three-star hotels' rate is about 20,000 yen. Hotel Ginza Daiei, a two-star hotel, has a special discount rate of 5000 yen per person/night, so travelers should check the hotel's site.
Also, two five-star hotels, The Peninsula Tokyo and Imperial Hotel Tokyo, are in the Yurakucho area, which is within walking distance from Ginza. There are many budget hotels in the Shinbashi area, also within walking distance.
All the hotels offer special rates such as early booking, reduced rates for more than one stay and packages exclusively planned for women, so travelers should check the hotels' sites in advance.
There are many other wonderful hotels located in the Ginza area, where visitors can enjoy fine cuisine and great services.
Ginza Bellevue Hotel
Ginza Bellevue Hotel, a moderately-priced three-star hotel, offers rates from 6000 yen (including breakfast) per person. It is within a two-minute walk from the C2 exit of the Tokyo Metro Ginza Station, and Wi-Fi is available in all the rooms.
Mitsui Garden Hotel Ginza Premier
This four-star hotel is listed on the Tokyo version of Michelin Guidebook every year, and guests can enjoy the night view of Tokyo from their rooms and from the lobby on the 16th floor. Although the rate is fairly expensive, discount rates are also available.
Hotel Monterey Ginza
This four-star hotel not only has an excellent location but also offers rates from 4700 yen with early reservations or for stays of more than one night. The rooms of the main building are decorated with natural materials, and the new building offers rooms designed in a French contemporary theme. Hotel Monterey La Soeur Ginza, located nearby, offers rooms that are reminiscent of Parisian apartments.
Hotel Gracery Ginza
This hotel is popular with businesspersons, as it is easy to access. Wi-Fi is available in all the rooms, and free coffee and mineral water are served in the third-floor guest lounge. The rooms for ladies are furnished with feminine items and various amenities, another reason for its popularity.
Ginza Capital Hotel
This hotel is ideal for guests planning a visit to the Tsukiji Fish Market. Owned by "Hato Bus," which runs various sightseeing bus tours, guests can use the free shuttle bus service to the Tokyo Station, and tour reservations can be made at the hotel. The hotel offers free coffee every morning.
Tokyu Stay Tsukiji
This hotel, with a sea bream drawn on the wall and formerly known as the Tokyu Stay Higashi-Ginza, re-opened in March 2016. Automatic washer/dryers are available, and some rooms are equipped with kitchenettes, so it is ideal for travelers planning a long stay.
We hope you have a great time in Ginza, an elegant district that has something to offer to any visitor, from upscale stores and restaurants with a rich history to traditional shops and dining places where one can feel the warmth of the locals.