Ginza (銀座) is to Tokyo what Regent Street is to London or Fifth Avenue is to New York. While Shinjuku is probably the best place in Tokyo to shop for mid-market brands, if you are in search of luxury goods then Ginza is all you need. Today the area attracts hundreds of thousands of tourists, including many from mainland China and Hong Kong who fly to Tokyo on dedicated shopping sprees when the exchange rate is favorable.
The main road that runs through the area is Chuo Dori, the north end of which contains the flagship stores of just about all the luxury brands. Running parallel to this street are several smaller side streets where you can find old-fashioned bars, tea houses, and boutique shops. On Sundays and public holidays Chuo Dori is closed to traffic so you can stroll the length of the road in peace.
Ginza’s development as a shopping district lies primarily in its proximity to Nihombashi, the starting point of the five routes (five highways built to connect Edo with the outer provinces) and the confluence point for merchants and their goods from around the country. Japan’s first railway in 1872 connected the port of Yokohama to Shimbashi just south of Ginza, and the area found itself sandwiched between the two key commercial zones in Tokyo–providing further impetus for its development.
When Tokugawa Ieyasu based his shogunate in Edo in 1603 the silver foundry in Shizuoka was moved to Ginza. At the time the official name of the area was Shin-Ryogaicho but people began calling the area Ginza and the name stuck (the kanji for gin means silver and za is a character that was used for approved trade organizations and theatres).