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Ginza’s Show Windows are Works of Art!

    Ginza is one of Japan's most famous shopping districts. It is a commercial and cultural center that is rich in history. In 1872, Western-style brick buildings were built in the district; these have since been damaged by fire, earthquake and war, but each time they have been rebuilt to boast a sophisticated city-scape - no matter what the era. Luxury stores (including long-established shops and brand flagship stores) line wide, spacious avenues, with beautiful show windows that are designed to compete with each other and attract passers-by.

“Wako” a luxury specialty store’s display uses traditional Japanese materials and techniques with a new sensitivity

“Wako” a luxury specialty store’s display uses traditional Japanese materials and techniques with a new sensitivity

Have fun just wandering around the streets

    In the early 1900s when Japan started to modernize, one of the fashions of the day was to go to Ginza and walk around the streets. Just walking up and down the streets in Ginza was entertaining, and part of the fun were the show windows in each of the stores.
    The show windows are an important aspect of the shops and department stores in Ginza. They are said to represent the "face" of the store. Show windows can attract the eye of pedestrians; speak to them; and give them a sense of the world view of the store and its merchandise. While there are many historic buildings in Ginza, the classic stores are ultra-modern and roll-out cutting-edge window displays. The show windows reflect the times and impart a message; with displays that infuse the district with color, just like works of art.

“Wako” - one of Ginza's landmark stores.  The imposing building, combined with its sophisticatedly designed, bold show windows, is always the focus of attention

"Wako" - one of Ginza's landmark stores. The imposing building, combined with its sophisticatedly designed, bold show windows, is always the focus of attention

The summer display at “Ginza Ito-ya” shows an array of colorful paper samples - fitting for a long-established stationery store.  The display is dotted here and there with origami in the shape of the “morning glory” flower

The summer display at "Ginza Ito-ya" shows an array of colorful paper samples - fitting for a long-established stationery store. The display is dotted here and there with origami in the shape of the “morning glory” flower


So how do you create a unique show window?

    How are the displays created?
    According to the staff in charge, it can take from 1 month at the shortest, up to around 6 months at the longest for one display to go from the planning stage to taking material shape. Of course the merchandise is a key component and then there are the themes and concepts the store wants to convey, as well as a sense of the season. Staff in charge of planning, promotion and merchandise development, etc. compose a team which shares ideas, holds repeated discussions and shapes the display.
    Many of the displays are changed in line with seasonal events such as New Year, Hanami (cherry blossom viewing) and Christmas. Each year these are expressed in a different way, with displays that are full of surprises for passers-by. Great attention is paid to detail and the story is created so that people get a different impression and discover something new if they look at the show window up close rather than from across the street, etc.
    When the displays are changed it is done all at once, overnight while the store is closed. One night later and the next morning a completely different show window is there to greet everyone. And it is not just a case of simply installing the displays and leaving them as they are; in fact, the displays change little by little, day by day as merchandise is swapped over and the mannequins' outfits are changed.

“Mitsukoshi Ginza” Department Store uses real cherry blossoms in its spring display.  A spectacle where you can see various types of cherry blossom opening up day by day

“Mitsukoshi Ginza” Department Store uses real cherry blossoms in its spring display. A spectacle where you can see various types of cherry blossom opening up day by day

“Mitsukoshi Ginza” windows are finely detailed, like this clip from a movie scene

“Mitsukoshi Ginza” windows are finely detailed, like this clip from a movie scene


“Ginza Itoya's” fall window display shows scattered dates from the page-a-day calendar, like falling foliage

"Ginza Itoya's" fall window display shows scattered dates from the page-a-day calendar, like falling foliage

Spotlight on the "Ginza Display Contest"

    The "Ginza Display Contest" has been going on in Ginza for over 30 years. Each year at Christmas time when displays are the most spectacular, stores throughout the whole Ginza area are judged for their displays, and an awards ceremony is held in the New Year. There are awards for various departments; this allows fair assessment of stores that continuously refine their displays and strike the offensive with new expressions, regardless of the size of their facilities.
    The contest also leads to an overall improvement in the quality of Ginza's show windows, as various companies and stores compete with each other. In recent trends there has not only been an increase in movement in the displays, with digital signage, video and light shows etc., but there has also been the launch of mechanisms that allow viewers to participate.

Glittering, white crystal Christmas trees in the show window of the jewelry store "Mikimoto - Head Office Ginza 4-Chome” (left) Coordinating with this, there is a huge tree which is projected onto the building's facade. This won a "Ginza Federation Award for Excellence" and a "Japan Design Space Association Award" in the Ginza Display Contest in 2017

A dynamic illustration of Santa on a sleigh pulled by two reindeer, arriving in the Ginza district.  This won a Japan Design Space Association Award in the same contest (Mitsukoshi - Ginza Store)

A dynamic illustration of Santa on a sleigh pulled by two reindeer, arriving in the Ginza district. This won a Japan Design Space Association Award in the same contest (Mitsukoshi - Ginza Store)

This won a Ginza Federation Award for Excellence and a Japan Design Space Association Award in the same contest. Its characteristic feature is that it is a show with movement (Wako)

Get the feeling that you are on a treasure hunt

    The staff in charge, who have worked on several displays, take great pride in the fact that their show windows create the atmosphere in Ginza, and they will tell you "we hope, through our store windows, to entertain everyone visiting Ginza and make sure they have fun. The displays are like stage devices that produce an up-beat feeling of exhilaration. We want every single passer-by who peers in the show window to become the character on the stage."
    And it's not just all wide avenues in Ginza; there are outstanding, eye-catching show windows down narrow lanes and small alley-ways, too. If you walk around as though you are on a treasure hunt, you will find your own favorites, with lots to discover. You get a different impression if you change your perspective, or when viewing the displays in the daytime and the nighttime. And of course, it is perfect for commemorative photo shoots.
    You can see the show windows up close and sometimes you can even touch them; but you won't even know what is there, unless you go. After a certain period of time the displays are removed and they are rarely produced again. Still, they will remain fresh in the memory of anyone who was there. You may often recall the displays, together with the atmosphere and the emotions of that time. Surely it is precisely this experience that will serve as an irreplaceable souvenir of Ginza.

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