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Glittering Ginza

Japan’s Shopping and Gourmet Paradise

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The Wako Building at the 4-chome intersection is a symbol of Ginza that houses luxury retail stores.

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Tokyo’s stylish Ginza district is Japan’s number-one destination for luxury shopping and gourmet dining. Centered on the wide expanses of Chuo Dori avenue, the area is lined with exclusive department stores and famous boutiques and restaurants, many of which have been in operation since the early years of the last century or even longer. Ginza has long been a place where customers can expect special levels of service and luxury—and this remains as true today as ever.

Throughout the years, Ginza has been at the cutting-edge of the latest trends in fashion, art, and gourmet dining. The grace and style of its long-established stores blend in perfectly with the youthful energy of the latest newcomers.

Long-Established Shops Providing Service and StyleThe Wako building, standing on the Ginza 4-chome crossroads in the heart of the district, is one of the symbols of Ginza. Since it was founded in 1881, Wako has maintained its reputation as one of the finest luxury goods retailers in Japan, dealing in jewelry, men's and women's apparel, accessories, and interior design.

Opposite Wako is the Ginza branch of the Mitsukoshi department store, one of Japan’s leading retailers, with numerous stores at home and abroad. The flagship Ginza branch was the center of attention when it reopened in September 2010 after a major renovation that boosted its retail space by almost 50 percent. Each floor features a selection of “Ginza Style” highlights chosen by Mitsukoshi employees. Bringing a touch of style and luxury to customers’ daily lives is what Ginza is all about.

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Ginza is a place where people can enjoy delectable desserts from long-established shops.

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On Saturdays and holidays Chuo Dori avenue is shut off to traffic, becoming a pedestrian paradise thronged with shoppers.

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Besides the luxury department stores, Ginza is also famous for its concentrations of long-established specialist retailers. This is where you will find the headquarters of Mikimoto Pearls, for example. The firm was started in 1899 by Mikimoto Kokichi, the first person to cultivate pearls successfully. Since it first opened its doors, Mikimoto has always employed its very own designer to work on its window displays. Today, Mikimoto maintains a proud tradition of grace and refinement in its appearance and atmosphere.

The Ginza Tailor Company, established in 1946, specializes in fine custom-made clothing, and counts many political and business leaders among its customers. Bag specialist Ginza Tanizawa, founded in 1874, offers a “bag concierge” service in which employees with at least two decades of experience provide customers with expert advice on different types of leather and stitching. Ginza Yoshinoya, a shoe store founded in 1907, offers unparalleled quality and comfort thanks to a unique sizing system that measures the circumference around the foot as well as length and width.

There are also many old stores specializing in Japanese culture. One is Kyukyodo, a traditional incense and calligraphy specialist whose first store opened in Kyoto in 1663. The Ginza branch followed in 1880. The first-floor displays are filled with luxurious washi paper, tasteful displays of cards richly evocative of the changing seasons, and a wide array of fine stationery and writing implements. Ginza Kunoya dates back to 1837, specializing in traditional Japanese clothing, such as kimonos, obi sashes, tabi socks, and furoshiki cloths. These items are popular with overseas tourists looking for a distinctly Japanese souvenir to take home from their travels.

Japan’s Gourmet ParadiseGinza has much more to offer than just shopping. It is also Japan's top gourmet destination, with culinary skills and levels of service unmatched worldwide. Ginza is home to some of the best sushi restaurants in the world. One of the best-known is Sukiyabashi Jiro, run by Ono Jiro, widely recognized as the finest sushi chef in Japan. Another is Sushi Mizutani, started by Mizutani Hachiro, who served as sous-chef under Ono for many years. Araki Mitsuhiro, who runs the Araki restaurant, worked in a famous Tokyo restaurant and a Japanese restaurant in Australia before opening his own place. As well as restaurants specializing in tempura, eel, and other types of traditional Japanese food, there are numerous establishments that serve top-quality international cuisine, including French, Italian, and Chinese restaurants.

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Ginza is known as a gourmet spot and its sushi chefs are unsurpassed.

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Sophisticated cafes are another Ginza attraction. Famous for its sweets, the Shiseido Parlour was a groundbreaker in western-style dining. When it opened in 1902, the sodas and ice creams on its menu were still a rarity in Japan. At the fruit parlor of long-time favorite Ginza Senbikiya, customers can luxuriate in colorful parfaits and sweets as well as the very finest fresh fruits. Many of the Japanese-style cafes in the district have traditional snacks and teas on the menu, including Ginza Matsuzaki Senbei, founded in 1804, and the Ginza Fugetsudo, a specialist in Japanese sweets and cakes that dates back to 1872. These oases offer shoppers a place to sit back and relax.

Ginza shows a different face on weekends, when the central Chuo Dori avenue is closed to traffic and becomes a pedestrian paradise. A stroll along the sophisticated boulevards of Ginza is a popular weekend recreation with local residents and foreign visitors alike. (February 2011)

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