Shop Till You Drop, Things to Do in Ginza

by Christian Monson
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My first time in Ginza, I was only planning to go to the Kit-Kat store for some souvenirs. However, after seeing the streams of shoppers going in and out of the shimmering upscale shops, I ended up spending the day just exploring.

Without some prior planning, Tokyo’s Ginza district is an overwhelming spectacle of lights, window displays, and towering department stores. With restaurants and shops on either side, it can be hard to decide where to start. By looking over the district’s most famous and luxurious sights, you can more easily pick what to buy, eat and see.

This guide covers those can’t-miss parts of the Ginza district, covering upscale shopping, dining and sightseeing. Whether you’re spending a day in Ginza or a week, try to work some of these attractions into your schedule. First, let’s cover some general Ginza info, then we’ll dive into the list.  

Ginza Overview

Ginza is a district within Tokyo’s Chūō special ward. Located in the historical heart of the city not too far from the Sumida River and Tokyo Bay, the neighborhood has been an important part of the city historically, especially since it was one of the first areas to feature Western-style stores and shopping promenades.

Modern Ginza follows in this tradition by being a renowned upscale shopping district with a number of popular department stores, restaurants and showrooms. Along with famous streets like 5th Avenue in New York and Avenue Champs-Élysées in Paris, it’s known as one of the most luxurious and high-class shopping districts in the world.

How to Spend a Day in Ginza

Ginza is such a wondrous and impressive area that it can be hard to do it in just a day or two. You could really spend a whole trip there. That said, it’s compact and easily accessible by the main JR Yamanote line as well as several private metro lines, so you can use your time efficiently.

Most of Ginza’s draw is shopping, so plan to spend a lot of time in department stores or boutiques. Plan ahead of time so you know which to hit and which shops you’ll want to see when you’re there. Luckily, restaurants abound, both inside the stores and without, so filling up won’t be a hassle. 

Keep in mind that department stores generally have long hours but that the shops inside may close at different times. Shows or museums tend to have more limited times, so plan your shopping around those specific events you want to experience. And as always, don’t be afraid to improvise. 

8 Great Sights in Ginza

Ginza Wako

Ginza Wako is perhaps Ginza’s most famous sight. It stands at the northwest corner of the Ginza4-chome intersection of Chūō and Harumi Dori and is easily recognizable for its impressive clock tower that, built in 1932, is the symbol of the district. It was designed by Jin Watanabe in an art deco, neoclassical style. It was one of few buildings in the district to survive the bombings of World War II.

Inside the architecturally-renowned building, you’ll find the flagship location of the Wako department store chain, founded in 1881. Wako is famous for upscale items, especially jewellery, porcelain and handbags, as well as imported perishable goods like chocolate. In addition to shopping, you can visit the art gallery on the sixth floor called Wako Hall. 

Ginza Wako is centrally located and hard to miss. You can visit the department store from 10:30 AM to 7:00 PM.

Sony Park

For years, the Sony Building, opened in 1966, was one of Ginza’s most popular tourist attractions. A famous example of postmodern architecture, it housed a showroom that continued for six stories by shifting each quarter of each floor up by a few feet. 

The original building closed and was subsequently demolished in 2017, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t anything to see. Sony plans to put a new building in the same location, set to open in 2022. This building will feature a three-dimensional park aimed to bring greenery and nature to the bustling shopping district of Tokyo. For now, the main level of this park is still open, and you can go enjoy the scenery including the beginnings of the new Sony building.

Of course, there is plenty more to do at the park than smell the breeze. Entertain yourself at trendy eateries and shops keeping with Ginza’s luxurious theme, or catch some of the scheduled programs like live music and robotics exhibitions. 

Sony Park is easy to get to. It’s just a five-minute walk from the JR Yurakucho Station, or you can take a private line and get off right beside it at the Tokyo Metro Ginza Station. It’s open from 10:00 AM to 10:00 PM, but shops and businesses within the park may set their own, different hours.

Hakuhinkan Toy Park

Ginza may be full of upscale clothing and jewelry retailers, fine dining, and luxurious nightlife, but that doesn’t mean you can’t also express your inner child. Hakuhinkan Toy Park takes the excess of the district and applies it to toys and games, featuring five different floors of over 200,000 different products.

On top of many traditional toys and party goods, you can visit the basement to see the store’s vast selection of dolls and even make a doll of yourself. Or, you can go up to the fourth floor to explore gaming at its fullest. Board games, card games, video games, and even puzzles will keep you entertained for hours, but if you really need something else to do, there’s even a slot-car circuit that both adults and children will enjoy playing with.

To get to the enormous toy store, just head a few minutes northeast from Shimbashi Station. It’s open from 11:00 AM to 8:00 PM.

Ginza Place

Ginza Place is your one-stop shop to get the full Ginza experience. There’s pretty much nothing you can’t do.

First, do some shopping. You can visit top-shelf jewelry stores and book shops, buy imported food and sweets, or check out cutting edge electronics. Nissan and Sony also have breathtaking showrooms featuring their newest and finest products.

Second, get a bite. From beer to kobe steaks, there’s fine dining to satiate whatever craving you have. You can get traditional Japanese food or Western fare all expertly made.

Finally, you can relax. Ginza Place has a full salon on the seventh floor.

You can access Ginza Place directly from the Tokyo Metro Ginza Station, which you can connect to via various private metro lines. Each store has different hours, so consider checking their website beforehand. Most of the establishments are open between 11:00 AM and 7:00 PM with restaurants continuing service into the evening.

Ginza Six

Ginza Six is the district’s largest department store. Considering this part of Tokyo is world-famous for its shopping, this is quite a feat. The building itself is a monument to the modern culture and class of the Ginza neighborhood and was designed by Yoshio Taniguchi and completed in 2017.

Inside there are 241 shops and restaurants to keep you occupied and mesmerized for hours as well as the Noh theater in the basement. Common areas designed by Gwenael Nicolas make shopping a comfortable and social experience, and the rooftop garden helps you relax and experience the full scope of Ginza. Contemporary art installations decorate the place.

Ginza Six is just a few blocks south of Yurakucho Station, about halfway between the famous Wako clock tower and Hakuhinkan Toy Park. Shops all have their own hours, but you can begin to explore the department store at 9:30 AM and stay to enjoy the bars till around 11:00 PM.

Kabuki-za Theatre

If you don’t know about Kabuki, it’s a classical Japanese dance-drama theater-style especially known for the elaborate makeup and costumes of the players. It dates back to the beginning of the Edo period in the early 17th Century.

The Kabuki-za Theatre is the main theater in Tokyo for experiencing this unique and historied art form. Originally built in 1889 and restored after fires in 1921 and 1923 and Allied bombings during World War II, the theater hosts performances every day. You can buy tickets for full plays or just individual acts, and there are shops in the basement, a museum, and a rooftop garden to also enjoy.

The private Hibiya and Asakusa lines have direct access to the theater via Higashi Ginza Station, or you take a taxi from the JR Tokyo Station. To see showtimes, visit their website.

Yurakucho Gado-shita Dining

This elaborate dining district can be a nice escape from the excess and luxury of Ginza. Technically in the Yurakucho district, it lies on the very edge of Ginza, easily accessible from the main JR Yamanote metro line.   

In fact, the big draw of this district is its location. It’s built directly underneath the brick arches that support the Yamanote train line. Gado-shita literally means “below the girder” in Japanese. The wide variety of restaurants and shops offer traditional Japanese casual food like izakaya and yakitori along with good beer and a relaxed atmosphere.

Being right underneath the train tracks, the Gado-shita dining district is easy to find. You can get off at Yurakucho Station, just one stop south of Tokyo Station.

Ginza Police Museum

Go for the shopping but learn a little about the city while you’re at it. Just on the north side of Ginza in Chūō City, the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department operates a four-floor museum dedicated to the history of the Tokyo police force, including exhibits of uniforms and vehicles.

Entrance is free, and it’s a great way to keep kids entertained when they’ve gotten bored of visiting department stores and showrooms. There isn’t much material in English, but the exciting exhibits speak for themselves.

You can most easily access the museum via private lines, getting off at Kyobashi Station. If you prefer JR, take the Yamanote line to Yurakucho Station and walk about nine minutes. Open hours are from 9:30 AM to 5:00 PM.

A last bit of advice—Change it up!

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When you step into your first Ginza department store, it will be tempting to spend your whole day, even your whole trip there. The floors upon floors of shops upon shops provide endless exploration. Still, you should try to visit several stores and even try some other sights like parks and museums. This way, you’ll get the full Ginza experience and have a long list of memories to look back on. Don’t worry. No matter where you go in Ginza, there’s plenty of shopping to do.

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