A bright, sunny Sunday is a rarity in Tokyo during March, and I knew I had to take advantage of the day while it lasted. After a long week of classes, I elected to explore the Ginza district, one of Tokyo’s swankiest and most posh districts. I was well aware of Ginza’s luxury, where every square meter of land in the area’s center is said to be worth ten million yen, or 100,000 USD. However, I was determined to brave the temptations of all the expensive, shiny goods Ginza has to offer.
Sunday was the perfect day to visit Ginza, not only for the weather, but Ginza closes its main thoroughfare, Chuo Dori, to vehicles. Pedestrians can leisurely walk along the clean, wide street while gazing up at the towering skyline. Ginza can get very crowded, especially on weekends. With the main road closed to vehicles, the district no longer feels congested, but comfortable and relaxing.
However, even on an easy Sunday, Ginza can be intimidating at first glance, with its looming skyscrapers and numerous high-end brand name stores. But in Ginza there are a number of unique stores worth visiting during your travels in Tokyo.
Begin by heading out of Ginza Station’s A13 exit. Continue walking straight and turn right at the large Louis Vuitton on the corner. Then you will see a sign for a store called Ito-ya. This is a good place to start a Ginza daytrip, or even half-day trip.
Ito-ya is a large store that sells writing goods, including writing utensils in a wide range of colors and patterns, postcards, greeting cards and envelopes, notebooks, and charming stationary. Ito-ya is a full five floors, with each floor selling goods in a variety of designs, from more basic and conventional, to more personal and decorative. Some themed writing accessories can also be found. Disney-themed notebooks sporting Mickey Mouse and the ever-popular Frozen lined the shelves, as well as a small section of merchandise with designs and characters from the Swedish book series Moomin, which is popular in Japan. Ito-ya also sells wa bungu, or traditional Japanese stationary. This is a definitely a great place to stop on a Ginza excursion.
Ginza is host to a number of high rise department stores, each more extravagant than the next. These department stores sell a great deal of clothing and accessories, while various cafes and restaurants can be found inside them, as well. Ginza department stores are so large, that they often take up an entire block and a full day’s worth of exploration is more or less required for them. Matsuya and Mitsukoshi are just two of the many department stores Ginza has to offer. Both department stores are almost like miniature city districts in one large building. The Matsuya building has its own restaurant city for those who want to dine in style. Mitsukoshi has an array of cafes and coffee shops right on the ground floor. Exploring the department stores is a good way to experience the lavish Ginza reputation.
Alongside Ginza’s colossal department stores and clothing shops are numerous cafes and bakeries. Ginza Cozy Corner is a small bakery selling decorative and delicious confections, sweets, and pastries. The cakes and baked goods are all visually appealing. The abundance of sweets, including chocolates, truffles, and whole cakes, behind a large glass case tempts you to indulge. In addition to pastries and baked goods, a wide variety of ice creams can be purchased, both by the pint and as quick treats. And Ginza Cozy Corner also has a café up the stairs. The menu includes parfaits, pasta dishes, and cakes by the slice. Stop by this store before leaving Ginza to bring back some sweets, and perhaps have some dessert.
By now, I bet you’re getting hungry. And do you know what’s great in Ginza? Sushi! Let Voyagin help you secure a reservation at Sushi Ginza Kyubey and enjoy your lunch in style!
What? You’ve already been to Sushi Ginza Kyubey? Well you haven’t had the full sushi experience in Ginza until you go to Sushi-ya Ginza. And Voyagin can help you get a reservation there, too!
Ginza isn’t limited to only upscale and expensive shopping. There are options for shopping on an affordable budget. Amongst the brand name fashion at sky high prices are cheaper but no less trendy and high quality clothing stores. GU is a store selling all sorts of fashionable pieces that can be worn throughout the seasons, and in a variety of combinations and for various occasions, whether it’s fashion for the office or for a casual, comfortable look. The store carries five floors women’s, men’s, and even children’s clothing. GU also sells shoes, and also provides shoe repair on the bottom level.
Another affordable store to visit is Ginza’s Uniqlo, a great place to find fashionable basics. Similarly, Uniqlo offers men’s, women’s, and children’s clothing and accessories at great prices. If you aren’t looking for distinct statement pieces from high-end brands, check out Uniqlo for simple, everyday wear in excellent quality. Mixing and matching pieces can create up-to-date looks without the menacing price tag.
Clothing and fashion accessories aren’t the only things to shop for in Ginza. A wonderful toy store called Hakuhinkan Toy Park sits near the end of Chuo Dori, near Shinbashi Station. This is an excellent place to see unique Japanese toys, souvenirs, and knickknacks, and especially if you’re traveling with kids and family.
Heard throughout the store are all the strange yet endearing noises made by the vast collection of toys and games. It’s a colorful, cute, and mesmerizing toy wonderland. The entire Hakuhinkan Toy Park is eight floors and a basement. The 8th floor is a theatre, while the basement is a fashion doll park. Different toys, games, figurines, and other related items are sold on each floor. Toys include plush toys, figurines, trading cars, video games, puzzles, and battery powered robots. A small section on the first floor sells quirky home goods, such as cookbooks and night lights.
Right across from Hakuhinkan Toy Park is Carne Station, an excellent way to end the day in Ginza. Carne Station is an all-you-can-eat yakiniku (grilled meat) buffet. Here, you pay one price, and are allowed to eat from the large, varied helpings of meats, seafood, vegetables, and side dishes. At your table, there is a small grill, and you can cook as much as you’d like from the assorted buffet. If you’re squeamish around raw meat, and possibly fire, then this place might not suit you. But it’s quite a worthwhile experience to cook your own meat over a hot grill, and it’s especially fun with a large group of friends and family. Many tourists were seated at large tables, sharing different meats, seafood, and sides. Couples came on dates, and some were even grilling hefty plates of meat alone.
For the rest of the day, I tried very hard to ignore all the receipts from items I had purchased. It was like those price tags would disappear if I pretended they didn’t exist. But there was clearly more to Ginza than just an expensive shopping spree. Amid the luxury brands are some must-visit spots that can make a Ginza trip more rewarding. Definitely check out other smaller stores along Chuo Dori and Ginza’s various quaint side streets.
If you’d like experience more of Japan’s wonderful department stores, visit our article Shopping Tour of Shinjuku’s East End Department Stores.
Zoe Mackey is a native New Yorker and college student currently studying in Tokyo. Her greatest inspirations are street fashion, lazy Sundays, and science fiction. You’ll more than likely find her taking amateur photos and looking for the best food in Tokyo. You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.