Ginza 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 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, letting you stroll the length of the road in peace.
History of Ginza
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 historical confluence point for merchants and their goods from around the country. In 1872 Japan’s first railway connected the port of Yokohama to Shimbashi just south of Ginza, and the area found itself sandwiched between the two key commercial zones, 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).
Running under the rail tracks between Shimbashi and Yurakucho, Corridor Gai is one of the most popular streets for dining and drinking in the Ginza area. It is also a section of one of the best gado-shita night walks in Tokyo. See here for more details.
This huge department store on Chuo Dori offers fashion, jewelry, household goods, and currency exchange services. The 8th floor contains restaurants and the basement floors a food hall. There is also a tax-free counter. Free WiFi is available in store.
Fancy department stores which opened in April 2017. It’s a 13-floor building with a large restaurant floor and a roof garden from which you can peer down on Chuo Dori below.
One of Ginza’s most famous department stores known for its clock tower. It is one of the oldest buildings in Ginza, having stood since 1932 when it was redesigned and reconstruction in the distinctive Neo-Renaissance style. During the occupation it was requisitioned as a retail store for the U.S. military (called a Post Exchange), but since 1952 has been in business as the “face of Ginza”.
Another well-known resident of Chuo Dori, Hakuhinkan Toy Park has been selling toys since opening in 1982. It also sells souvenirs like the plastic food seen outside restaurants.
Sure, there’s a UNIQLO around just about every station in Tokyo, but the Ginza branch is the flagship store and one of the biggest with a dedicated tax-free shopping counter.