The Ginza (銀座) district of Tokyo, literally "Silver Mint", is in the Chuo ward. It is considered the high fashion center of the city and contains many upscale shops and restaurants.
Getting to Ginza is easy - in the heart of the area is Ginza station, connected to the Marunouchi (M16), Ginza (G09), and Hibiya (H08) subway lines. Alternatively you may walk to the area from the JR Shimbashi or Yurakucho stations, Higashi-Ginza station on the Toei Asakusa (A11) or the Ginza Itchome station on the Yurakucho (Y19) subway line.
Connections from Narita Airport can be made either by taking the Keisei line to Ueno, then changing to the Ginza line (¥2,080 and 80 minutes via Keisei's reserved Skyliner service, or ¥1,160 and about 100 minutes via their limited express commuter service), or by JR's Narita Express to Tokyo Station and then the Marunouchi subway (¥2,900, 80 minutes). Both airport services offer numerous additional connections if your destination is closer to another station. Domestic passengers flying into Haneda Airport have it easier - Keikyu trains travel directly from the airport to the Asakusa line's Higashi-Ginza station (¥650, 30 minutes).
Airport Limousine Buses run from the airport to major hotels in Ginza, taking 80-90 minutes under normal highway traffic and costing ¥3000.
- The heart of Ginza is the intersection of Chuo-dori and Harumi-dori, dominated by the glass cylinder of the San-ai Building. With its huge neon sign, it's been the image of Ginza on postcards and travel books for decades now. The other corners are occupied by Wako and Mitsukoshi, two of the most prestigious department stores (the former being a cut above), and the Nissan Gallery , which shows off new and classic automobiles.
- Sony Building, 5-3-1 Ginza (on Sukiyabashi Crossing), . The Sony Showroom has four floors of the latest Sony products, with a small shop on the 3rd floor. The building also houses a BMW showroom.
- The side streets of Ginza are full of art galleries featuring paintings, photography, and graphic design. The Nichido Garo (日動画廊）near the B9 exit of the Metro Ginza line is one of the most famous, often frequented by collectors from Europe and the United States.
- During Christmas, Ginza's streets are illuminated. 126 trees in Ginzanamiki street are decorated with 75 thousand light bulbs, and 76 trees in Hanatsubaki street are decorated 35 thousand light bulbs which are made in the shape of stars. The illuminations are turned on on November 15.
- Weekends on Chuo-dori are Pedestrians' Paradise (歩行者天国), with the street closed to motor traffic during the day. You can catch street music (nothing too loud) and performance, hawkers selling magical puppets which dance without strings, and thousands of other people to bump into.
- Kabukiza Theater (歌舞伎座 Kabukiza), 4-12-15 Ginza, near the corner of Showa-dori and Harumi-dori (exit the Higashi-Ginza station of the Asakusa and Hibiya subway lines), ☎ +81 03-3541-3131, . The best way to see traditional Japanese theater is to go to Kabuki-za for a single act, or hitomaku-mi, which lasts between one and two hours. This costs around ¥800, depending on the length, and seating is on the fourth floor. An English audio guide describes the play while you watch, it is worthwhile at ¥400. You can also see the complete kabuki play, but this is a lengthy affair, and ticket prices can range from ¥3500 to ¥20,000. If it's around mealtime, pick up a bento at one of the local shops and take it in. The Kabukiza will be demolished in April 2010, with a new, rebuilt version to be ready by 2013.
- Movie theaters are plentiful in the Ginza-Yurakucho area, and as many of them are quite old, they're spacious as well. One curiosity is Ginza Cine Pathos, a cluster of small theaters built in a tunnel under Harumi-dori. The movies are run-of-the-mill Hollywood and Japanese, but it's worth a look just to see the tiny bars and eateries crammed in to the space.
Ginza is the home of Tokyo's oldest and most prestigious department stores; the most exclusive is probably Wako. And of course Louis Vuitton, Dior, Chanel and Prada have stores as well, as do most other fashion brands you can think of.
- Tokyo Kyukyodo (東京鳩居堂), ☎ +81 03-3571-4429, . Located right across the street from Wako and its landmark clock tower on Ginza's main intersection, this two-floor shop specializes in the traditional Japanese paraphernalia (papers, fans, calligraphy brushes, votive scents etc.). A popular stop for foreigners in search for something exotic and genuine.
- Itoya, ☎ +81 03-3216-0041, . Beside the huge Matsuya department store, which is beside the huge Mitsukoshi department store (both being prestigious and expensive), which in turn is across the street from Wako. A 9-floor building packed with all things stationary, from pencils to paintbrushes, you name it. Not exactly discount price considering its location and prestige, but a stationery shop with a collection of this size is hard to come by in Japan.
- For state of art leather bags fit for the imperial family, try Tanizawa down the same avenue.
- There are many famous brand shops in Namiki street, such as Gucci or Coach. If you are low on cash, you can enjoy just looking around the street.
- Yurakucho has branches of two large discount electronics stores, Bic Camera and Sofmap. The former, right next to the Yamanote tracks, is housed in what was until 2001 the famous Sogo department store, which in 1958 spawned a popular hit song, "Yurakucho de Aimasho" ("Let's Meet at Yurakucho"). The big red building housing the latter used to be a theater for the renowned all-female Takarazuka Revue.
- Hakuhinkan Toy Park (博品館), Ginza 8-8-11 (south end of Ginza-dori by the elevated highway), ☎ +81 03-3571-8008, . One of the oldest and largest toy stores in Japan (it first opened in 1899), this is the place to go for all the latest cute and strange toys.
- Apple Store Ginza, corner of Chuo-dori and Matsuya-dori, ☎ +81 03-5159-8200, . The ultimate in high-tech hipness, where de rigueur neckwear means an iPod, not a black tie. Housed in a giant pearly-white cube, of course.
- Tenshodo (天賞堂), Ginza 4-3-9 (on Harumi-dori), ☎ +81 03-3562-0025, . Jeweler and maker of luxury watches. The upper floors, however, are devoted to model trains, many of which match the watches in intricacy and price.
- Mikimoto, ☎ +81 03-3535-4611, . The inventors of cultured pearls, has their inaugural shop located right next to Wako.
Melon-pan, a unique circular bun flavored with honey melon, has been popular throughout Japan for several years. Most of melon-pan’s surface is of a cookie consitency, and looks like an inverted cut up melon in its skin. Ginza is known as the cradle of Melon pan, though the veracity of the story is uncertain. Hotel Okura and Hotel Seiyou’s bread has become very famous recently. Some shops such as Ginza Kimuraya sell melon-pan in special flavors such as coffee or orange.
- Yoshinoya. One of a nationwide chain of rice bowl restaurants, the Ginza location is just north of the Apple Store on Chuo-dori.
- Several cheap restaurants can be found in the alleys northwest of the main intersection (Ginza Yon-chome). They may be difficult to find as they usually have a plain entrance or they are located in an alley between buildings.
Walk along the sides of the Ginza station and around, there are many cheap places to eat and small places have vending machines and are happy to give you English menus and help out with the vending machine- you just have to ask. They are good places to eat and offer good variety around 350-900yen for a good curry or bowel of ramen. Look for the little curtains and the sound of cooking!
- Mitsukoshi and Matsuya Ginza's. Basement floors offer a variety of foods at a reasonable price. Food ranges from pre-made bentos to bakeries to sandwich shops. You can also get a quick snack at no cost by trying the various samples that are offered. There are no areas to sit and eat and unless you can get a table on Chuo-dori on the weekend, you may have trouble eating your recently purchased meals.
- Nataraj, 7F,8F,9F (1 min from Ginza st. A2 exit), ☎ +81 03-5537-1515, . 11:30AM-11PM, lunch to 2:30PM. A terrific Indian vegetarian restaurant in the midst of Ginza, offering an excellent lunch buffet for ¥1050, and beautiful decor as well.
- Toshiba Building, located next to the Sony Building. In the basement are reasonable restaurants. You can start your day shopping in Yurakucho and stop at this building for lunch before heading to Ginza, or do the opposite.
- Ginza is also within walking distance of Yurakucho (for izakaya and cheap Western restaurants) and Tsukiji (for top-grade sushi).
Ginza hosts many of Japan's most exclusive (and expensive) ryotei, many of which require not just reservations but introductions before they'll grant you the privilege of paying up to ¥50,000 per person (excluding drinks) for your meal. The following options are somewhat more down to earth and take walk-in diners, at least at lunchtime.
- Chikuyōtei (竹葉亭), Ginza 8-14-7 (Higashi-Ginza stn), ☎ +81 03-3542-0789. M-Sa 11:30AM-2:30PM, 4:30PM-8PM. The original store of Japan's best known unagi (eel) restaurant chain, serving up luscious kabayaki (grilled eel with sauce) since 1876. Full courses start from ¥7350 and climb up to twice that (reservations required), but a basic unadon with soup is an almost reasonable ¥2,625.
- Ginza Shiseido Parlour, Shiseido Bldg 4-5F, Ginza 8-8-3, and several other nearby locations, ☎ +81 03-5537-6241, . Operated by the cosmetics giant Shiseido, the Parlour (founded 1902) is one of the swankiest places to dine. Lunch specials go for ¥4,000, but the most famous item on the menu is the lobster and abalone curry for ¥10,000.
- Cafe Doutor, San-ai Bldg 1F, Ginza 5-7, ☎ +81 03-5537-8959, . Located in the famous San-ai building, this expensive coffee shop is very popular for "people watching". Unfortunately, the view from the patio is blocked by the police box, but it is still great. Doutor also has various shops along Chuo-dori and it's one of the biggest chains in Tokyo. Mind you, the price of coffee at this particular one is somewhat inflated compared to the more common normal doutors at other places.
- Ginza Cafe Paulista, Nagasaki Center Bldg 1F, Ginza 8-9, ☎ +81 03-3572-6160, . One of the oldest cafes in Japan and a favorite of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, the Paulista opened in 1909 with beans imported directly from Santos, Brazil.
- Happy Plaza, San-ai Building, Ginza 5-7. Located on the 9th floor in the cylinder of San-ai building. The location complete with floor to ceiling windows provides a stunning view of Chuo-dori and the Wako and Mitsukoshi stores opposite. In addition to the usual cakes and drinks a light meal is available during lunch hours.
Bars and pubs
- Three Hundred Bar, two locations: Fazenda Bldg B1F, 5-9-11; and Ginza Dai-Ni Column Bldg B1F, 8-3-12, ☎ +81 03-3572-6300, . M-Sa 5PM-2AM, Su/Holiday 5PM-11PM. Both bars have a mixed foreign and Japanese clientele. All drinks are 300 yen.
- Duffy's, Andoshippo Bldg B1F, 5-6-2 (just west of the main Ginza crossing). An Irish pub with an authentic look and feel, as well as ¥500 Guinness during happy hour.
- Icebar Tokyo, 8-5-15 Ginza, ☎ +81 03-6228-5022, . Step into an environment where the walls, bar, tables, and even your own personal glass with a vodka cocktail is made out of ice. The bar is kept at -5°C year around and everything inside is made out of crystal clear ice transported down from the Torne River in Jukkasjarvi, Sweden. The bar is operated in 45 minute time slots and you will be given a cape to keep you warm during your visit. But bring a friend, since this bar is tiny and not for meeting locals. Cover ¥3500 with 1 drink, additional drinks ¥1200.
- Sabaku no Bara (Desert Rose), Ginza Namiki-dori Bldg 6F, 2-3-6, ☎ +81 03-5159-7200 ([email protected]), . Su-Tu 6PM-midnight, W-Th 6PM-3AM, Fr-Sa 6PM-5AM. Upscale club with an expensive cover charge and strict dress code, but after all it is Ginza. The clientele is older and more affluent, and not as rowdy as the crowd you will find in Roppongi.
Accommodation in Ginza itself is limited and expensive. You can shave a fair bit off the price by heading around the corner to Shimbashi, which is a major train hub and has lots of serviceable mid-range and capsule hotels.
- Hotel Monterey Ginza, 2-10-2 Ginza, ☎ +81 03-3544-7111. This hotel, owned by a Japanese businesswoman, caters to women. Located in the heart of the Ginza district, the Monterey offers comfortable rooms and has a friendly front desk staff. Across the street is one of the many AM/PM convenience stores where a traveler may purchase needed items 24 hrs a day.
- Mercure Hotel Ginza, 2 9 4 Ginza Chuo ku 1040061, ☎ +81 03-43351111, . checkin: 2pm; checkout: 11 am. Modern 4-star hotel by the Mercure chain. Though the rooms are quite small, the price in this area can't be beaten. 3min walk to the famous Luis Vuitton boutique on Ginza street. around ¥12 000 per night.
- Mandarin Oriental. This exclusive hotel has fabulous rooms, a world class spa and a Michelin 1 Star Signature Restaurant. The hotel also has fitness facilities that rival anything in Tokyo with views to match.
- Royal Park Hotel in Tokyo, 2-1-1 Nihonbashi Kakigara-cho, ☎ +81 03-3667-1111, . Five star accommodation conveniently located in central Tokyo, ideal for business travelers and holiday makers. Easy accessible from Tokyo's Airport, Royal Park Hotel in Tokyo stands next door to the TCAT (Tokyo City Air Terminal) from where buses leave and arrive several times every hour to Narita International Airport.
- Tokyo Station - the Maranouchi and Yaesu districts around Tokyo Station are a short 20 minute walk north of Ginza's center
- Yurakucho - west of Ginza, this area houses a mix of commercial and reasonable shopping compared to Ginza's high end areas
- Hama-Rikyu Detached Palace Garden - south of the Ginza, these former Imperial pleasure gardens are an oasis of tranquility in a hectic city. Here you can catch a tour boat which will take you up the Samida River to Asakusa. From the river, much of the Tokyo skyline is visible.
- Tsukiji - south-east of Ginza, this area is famous for its fish and vegetable market - be aware that restaurants inside the market are generally busy and expensive while small eateries outside the market are more affordable and nearly as fresh.
- Hibiya Park - just west of Ginza past the Sony Building and elevated highway, this park contains many different European styles. In May/June, the azaleas are in bloom.
- Imperial Palace - just north of Hibiya Park, making it an easy walk from Ginza. Enjoy the open parks and venture a little into the public park area.
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