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Wako store in Ginza

Ginza (銀座) is a district of Chūō, Tokyo, located south of Yaesu and Kyōbashi, west of Tsukiji, east of Yūrakuchō and Uchisaiwaichō, and north of Shinbashi. It is a popular upscale shopping area of Tokyo, with numerous internationally renowned department stores, boutiques, restaurants and coffeehouses located in its vicinity. It is considered one of the most expensive, elegant, and luxurious streets in the world.

Ginza was a part of the old Kyobashi ward of Tokyo City, which, together with Nihonbashi and Kanda, formed the core of Shitamachi[1], the original downtown center of Edo-Tokyo.


Ginza as it appeared in the late 1870s-1880s (Miniature model at the Edo-Tokyo Museum)
Ginza in the early 1900s, photographed by William H. Rau

Ginza was built upon a former swamp that was filled in during the 16th century. The name Ginza comes after the establishment of a silver-coin mint established there in 1612, during the Edo period.[2]

After a devastating fire in 1872 burned down most of the area,[2] the Meiji government designated the Ginza area as a "model of modernization." The government planned the construction of fireproof brick buildings and larger, better streets connecting Shimbashi Station all the way to the foreign concession in Tsukiji.

Soon after the fire, redevelopment schemes were prepared by Colin Alexander McVean[3] a chief surveyor of the Public Works under direction of Yamao Yozo, but execution designs were provided by the Irish-born engineer Thomas Waters;[2] the Bureau of Construction of the Ministry of Finance was in charge of construction. In the following year, a Western-style shopping promenade on the street from the Shinbashi bridge to the Kyōbashi bridge in the southwestern part of Chūō with two- and three-story Georgian brick buildings was completed.

These "bricktown" buildings were initially offered for sale and later were leased, but the high rent prevented many of them from being permanently occupied. Moreover, the construction was not adapted to the climate, and the bold design contrasted the traditional Japanese notion of home construction. The new Ginza was not popular with visiting foreigners, who were looking for a more Edo-styled city. Isabella Bird visited in 1878 and in 1880 implied that Ginza was less like an Oriental city than like the outskirts of Chicago or Melbourne. Philip Terry, the English writer of tour guides, likened it to Broadway, not in a positive sense.[4]

Nevertheless, the area flourished as a symbol of "civilization and enlightenment" thanks to the presence of newspapers and magazine companies, which helped spread the latest trends of the day. The area was also known for its window displays, an example of modern marketing techniques. Everyone visited so the custom of "killing time in Ginza" developed strongly between the two world wars.[4]

Most of these European-style buildings disappeared, but some older buildings still remain, most famously the Wakō building with the now-iconic Hattori Clock Tower. The building and the clock tower were originally built by Kintarō Hattori, the founder of Seiko.

Its recent history has seen it as a prominent outpost of Western luxury shops. Ginza is a popular destination on weekends, when the main north-south artery is closed to traffic since the 1960s, under governor Ryokichi Minobe.


Many leading fashion houses' flagship stores are located here, in the area with the highest concentration of Western shops in Tokyo. It is one of two locations in Tokyo considered by Chevalier and Mazzalovo to be the best locations for a luxury goods store.[5] Prominent high-end retailers include the American company Carolina Herrera New York, French companies Chanel, Dior and Louis Vuitton and Italian company Gucci.[6] Flagship electronic retail stores like the Sony showroom and the Apple Store are also here. The electronics company, Ricoh is headquartered in the Ricoh Building in Ginza.[7] The neighborhood is a major shopping district. It is home to Wako department store, which is located in a building dating from 1894. The building has a clock tower. There are many department stores in the area, including Hankyu, Seibu, and Matsuya. There are also art galleries.[2]


Pedestrianized main street

Each Saturday and Sunday, from 12:00 noon until 5:00 pm, the main street through Ginza is closed off to road traffic, allowing people to walk freely. This is called Hokōsha Tengoku (歩行者天国) or Hokoten for short, literally meaning "pedestrian heaven".

Subway stations[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Kokushi Daijiten Iinkai. Kokushi Daijiten (in Japanese). Vol. 4, page 842 (1983 ed.).
  2. ^ a b c d Dk eyewitness travel guide japan. [S.l.]: Dk Publishing. pp. 66–67. ISBN 9780756694739.
  3. ^ Hideo Izumida, Reconsideration of Foundation of Engineering Education by Ministry of Public Works, Journal of Architectural Institute of Japan, February 2016, Vol.81-No.720, pp.478-488.
  4. ^ a b Tokyo from Edo to Showa. Tuttle Publishing. p. 75. ISBN 9784805310243.
  5. ^ Chevalier, Michel; Mazzalovo, Gerald (2012). Luxury Brand Management. Singapore: John Wiley & Sons. p. 2. ISBN 978-1-118-17176-9. The other prime location is Omotesandō.
  6. ^ Abercrombie & Fitch, Ginza: Tokyo, Japan Archived 2010-07-27 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ "Company Data Archived 2009-02-05 at the Wayback Machine." Ricoh. Retrieved on January 13, 2009.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 35°40′16″N 139°45′54″E / 35.671217°N 139.765007°E / 35.671217; 139.765007