…and so the question is: if you take Japan’s largest bank note, fold it up as small as it will go, then drop it on the ground in Ginza, will it buy the one square centimeter of land it falls on?
The answer? No – Ginza is the home of that notoriously expensive cup of coffee and that even more extortionate apple! But price needn’t be everything. For very little you can see a traditional kabuki play, go to Asia’s largest fish market, see an Indian style temple, look at a capsule apartment building, and try out the latest Sony gadgets.
The 1920’s were the heyday years for Ginza. Men striving to be at the very height of fashion and sophistication flooded in. The “cafes” were the big attraction – where the “pretty” women “served” the drinks!
One step on – “cafes” are now hostess bars – the haunt of the middle-aged businessman; the shopping streets are very much the territory of the middle aged housewife. But fashion is still very much the word. Brand name bags costing tens of thousands of yen are the essential shopping accessory and if you’re not dressed up as if going to a wedding, well, please, do kindly remove yourself.
Exit C2 of Ginza Subway Station, which incidentally was built for the 1964 Olympics, brings you out next to the Sukiyabashi zebra crossing. Having emerged look out for the department stores Hankyu, Seibu and Printemps (to the left in the distance). For advertising purposes there’s definite merit in a Ginza location, but the extortionate price of land means that in terms of making a profit, stores must rely on their branches in cheaper areas.
The Seibu Railway Company owns Seibu, the Hankyu Railway Company of Osaka owns Hankyu Department store, but Printemps, with its fashionable French name to lure in the style conscious shopper, was opened in 1984 by a supermarket chain.
In the Sony Building, (next to the Sukiyabashi crossing) all the very latest Sony gadgets are on display. Amongst camcorders and various other personal devices, there’s a high vision theatre, http://tokyoessentials.com/wp-admin/edit.php?post_type=feedbacka broadcasting studio and several room layouts suggesting how all the technology can be best incorporated into the home. Demonstrations are held everyday throughout the day (10:00 am to 8:00pm) and entrance is free.
Mistsukoshi Department Store
From the Sukiyabashi crossing, next walk down Harumi Dori Avenue in the direction of Tsukiji and Harumi. As you go, Mitsukoshi Department Store is on the left. This particular branch dates back to the Meiji Era (1868 – 1912) and was one of Japan’s first western style department stores.
Apple Store Ginza
The Apple Store in Ginza is a cool, sleek designed store offering all of the latest products. The store is seven-levels, complete with a theatre which shows tutorials of apple products.
Just past Mitsukoshi you’ll find the Kabuki-za Theatre. It’s a beautiful structure, and in Tokyo it’s one of only three or four good examples of a traditional style building built from modern materials, not wood. Performances take place everyday (you can buy a ticket on the door for under 1000 yen!) For more information go to the Kabuki-za Theatre web site.
By carrying on down Harumi Dori Avenue and then turning left into Shin Ohashi Dori Avenue, you’ll reach the rather impressive and refreshingly incongruous Tsukiji Honganji (Hongwanji) Buddhist Temple. The original temple dated back to 1617 but in 1657 the Great Fire of Tokyo destroyed it. It was then destroyed again in the earthquake of 1923. Now on a new site, this present building was completed in 1935. As the head temple of the Jodo Shinshu denomination, the Indian style is said to be symbolic of the roots of Buddhism.
Tsukiji Fish Market
By heading back to Harumi Dori and then crossing over, you’ll be in the vicinity of Tsukiji Fish Market, the largest fish wholesale market in Asia. By mid afternoon trading is well and truly over but with stray felines still licking their lips and the odd crab or two on the pavement, the deserted streets at this time can make for an atmospheric wander. The market is open everyday except Sundays and public holidays. To catch it at it’s best you need to be there around seven or eight in the morning.
Nakajin Capsule Apartment Building
Built in 1971 and designed by the architect Kisho Kurokawa, the Nakajin Capsule Apartment Building is the world’s first attempt at a capsule or cube in which you can live. Each capsule is approximately three meters by five meters square. The bed takes up most of the space and all the appliances needed for every day living surround it. Quite conveniently too, on the first floor there’s a convenience store.
To find the building first retrace your steps back up Harumi Dori Avenue until you get to Chuo Dori Avenue (Mitsukoshi is on the corner). Then turn left and walk in the direction of Shimbashi. Continue and then once at the junction with Showa Dori Avenue look to the left and you should be able to see it. The walk takes about ten minutes.
On the way, by taking a de-tour down some of the side streets you’ll encounter some bank breaking restaurants. One small fish from the fish tank outside could set you back more than 10, 000 yen! Also notice the expensive teashops. These are usually full of housewives tucking into bowls of Anmitsu. Anmitsu is an expensive desert but it essentially consists of a dollop of sweet red beans, several transparent cubes of gelatin, a couple of rice balls and some fruit cocktail (which, don’t you dare say looks like it’s come out of a tin!).
How to Get to Ginza
Take the Ginza Subway line, the Maruonuchi Subway Line of the Hibiya Subway Line to Ginza Subway Station.
The closest station the Tsukiji Fish Market is Tsukiji Subway Station on the Hibiya Subway Line.
The closest station to the Kabuki-za Theatre is Higashi Ginza Station on the Hibiya Subway Line.
Featured image in this article by Tim Franklin Photography CC 2.0.