Ginza Guide - Tokyo's premier shopping and entertainment district
Complete travel guide to Ginza, Tokyo - Brief history of Ginza, how to get to Ginza, when to visit and what are the most important points of interest
Welcome to Ginza (銀座), Tokyo's beating heart of luxury. Ginza is located in the Chuo City ward, and it is considered the epitome of elegance, sophistication, and world-class retail experiences. Ginza is renowned for its upscale shopping, fine culinary scene, and affluent entertainment, making it a must-visit destination for anyone exploring Tokyo.
Once a marshland during the Edo period, Ginza has transformed into an opulent hub of contemporary life, fusing cutting-edge architecture with traditional Japanese aesthetics. According to Japan property central, land in Ginza goes for as much as 64 million yen per square metre. A trip around Ginza will reveal all the high-end fashion boutiques, flagship stores, and most known brands.
Shopping is not the only thing to do in Ginza, there is more to it than meets the eye. You'll find the historic Kabuki-za Theatre, as well as the avant-garde architectural masterpiece Shizuoka Press and Broadcasting Tower. There are hidden rooftops with incredible views of Ginza, fantastic restaurants for Japanese food and Japanese desserts, and plenty of lesser known stores ideal for Japanese souvenirs.
Ginza can balance its luxurious appeal with a genuine appreciation for art, design, and craftsmanship. Join me as I delve into Ginza and highlight all the reasons why it needs to be added to your Tokyo itinerary.
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Brief history of Ginza
Ginza is a district in Tokyo built on a former swamp during the 16th century. Its name comes from the establishment of a silver-coin mint in 1612, as Ginza means "silver mint" in Japanese. The area underwent a major transformation after a devastating fire in 1872. The Meiji government planned the construction of fireproof brick buildings and larger, better streets connecting Shimbashi Station all the way to the foreign concession in Tsukiji.
The new Western-style shopping promenade, completed in the following year, was not initially popular with visiting foreigners who were looking for a more traditional Japanese city. The district of Ginza became a symbol of Bunmei-kaika, which refers to the phenomenon of Westernization in Japan during the Meiji era, due to the influence of newspapers and magazine companies that helped disseminate the latest trends of the time.
Today, Ginza is a popular destination for luxury shopping, with many high-end international brands. It is also known for its dazzling window displays and is a popular destination on weekends when the main north-south artery is closed to traffic. Despite the changes, and the World War II damages, some older buildings, such as the Wakō building with the iconic Hattori Clock Tower, remain.
Ginza is the area with the highest concentration of Western shops in Tokyo, with many leading fashion houses' flagship stores located here. There are also many department stores which house many retailers but also grocery stores and restaurants as well as cocktail bars.
Ginza is also renowned for the traditional Kabuki-za theatre, which has been reconstructed several times because of war and fire. Ginza got a lot of international attention thanks to Sukiyabashi Jiro sushi restaurant, which was the first sushi restaurant in the world to receive three Michelin stars, further made famous by Jiro Dreams of Sushi, a documentary about the owner.
How to get to Ginza
There are various ways to get to Ginza like subway, bus, or taxi. If you are taking the subway, have a look at our article on how to use the Tokyo subway map.
🚃 By train:
- Take the Tokyo Metro Ginza Line, Marunouchi Line or Hibiya Line to Ginza Station.
- Take the JR Yamanote Line to Yurakucho Station, which is just 2 minutes from Ginza Station.
- Take the Toei Asakusa Line to Higashi-Ginza Station.
🚌 By bus:
- Take the Tokyo Metro or Toei bus to Ginza Station.
🚕 By taxi:
- Take a taxi from anywhere in Tokyo to Ginza.
Best time to visit Ginza
The best time to visit Ginza is on the weekend when, between 12pm and 5pm, the main street called Chuo Dori is closed to road traffic. This main artery has been closed to traffic since the 1960s, and it continues to be considered a pedestrian paradise (Hokōsha Tengoku (歩行者天国)).
On sunny days, it's not unusual to find locals relaxing with picnic chairs and tables, people watching. Some even come to do street performances or play music. It's a really fun and exciting time to visit Ginza and see a different, more relaxed atmosphere than the usual affluent feel district.
Shopping in Ginza
Ginza is an upmarket shopping district with countless shopping opportunities. And while you will find a vast number of expensive boutiques, there are some stores with affordable items.
- Wako department store - Wako Department Store is a historic and luxurious retail establishment. Founded in 1881, the store is known for its signature neo-Renaissance clock tower, which has become a symbol of the Ginza area. Wako has a tailored high-end shopping experience, and it specializes in luxury watches, jewellery, clothing, and accessories.
- Mitsukoshi Isetan Ginza - Established in 1673, Mitsukoshi is one of the oldest and most prestigious department stores in Japan. The Ginza location, which opened in 1930 has luxury goods, designer fashion, cosmetics, and fine dining restaurants. Foreign passport holders who come to Japan as non-residents/international tourists and who stay for less than 6 months can apply for a "Guest Card". Guest cardholders can receive a 5%discount and enjoy tax-free shopping at any Isetan Mitsukoshi Group department stores in Japan.
- Ginza Six - Ginza Six is a contemporary shopping complex and my favourite shopping centre in Ginza. Ginza Six was opened in 2017 and has one of the best rooftop terraces in the district. It also houses a Starbucks Reserve bar, an art gallery, plenty of restaurants and a Noh theatre. I recommend their special tea cocktail bar called Mixology Salon also housed in Ginza Six. From the rooftop garden you can see the Tokyo Tower shine bright at night.
- Tokyu Plaza Ginza - Tokyu Plaza Ginza is a shopping complex opened in 2016. This 11-story building features over 120 stores, including international and Japanese brands. The main appeal is its mirrored facade, which makes a reference to its sister retail centre, Tokyu Plaza Omotesando. Don't miss the KIRIKO Terrace, which is a free observation terrace with stunning views over Ginza Crossing.
- Itoya Ginza - Itoya is a prestigious speciality stationery store established in 1904. This iconic shopping center has 12 floors, each level dedicated to a different theme or product category. At the top floor, Itoya Ginza is very proud to showcase its very own hydroponic garden.
- Ginza Washita - Ginza Washita is a speciality store dedicated to the culture and products of Okinawa. It's ideal for Japanese souvenirs and delicious food. You will find traditional crafts, textiles, pottery, food, and beverages. From the on-site restaurant, I recommend the seaweed tempura.
- Ginza Natsuno - Ginza Natsuno is a renowned chopstick store established in 1976. There are over 2500 chopsticks designs in this store, some crafted by skilled artisans from all over Japan. You can pick your perfect chopsticks and have them engraved. The shop is not cheap, but it has a wide range of affordable chopsticks too. I especially recommend this shop for unique gifts.
- Matsuya Ginza - Matsuya Ginza is a prominent department store founded in 1869. The store is well-known for its food floor, which features a diverse selection of both local and international gourmet food options. Matsuya Ginza is recognized for its excellent customer service and commitment to showcasing traditional Japanese craftsmanship alongside contemporary brands.
Points of Interests in Ginza
There are many Ginza attractions, beyond department stores, like markets, theatres, gardens, and more.
- Kabuki-za Theatre: Enjoy a traditional Japanese kabuki performance at the famous Kabuki-za Theatre, which dates back to 1889. English audio guides are available for tourists to understand the stories.
- Hama Rikyu Gardens: Stroll through this beautiful Edo-era garden, which features a traditional teahouse, seasonal flowers, and a seawater pond. Make sure to try matcha and traditional sweets from the teahouse and don't miss the peony garden. During New Year celebrations, you can see Japanese falconry and aikido demonstrated here.
- Sony Park: Located on the site of the former Sony Building, this public park offers a unique blend of greenery, art installations, and temporary pop-up shops. The park is now under construction to open a new Ginza Sony Park, scheduled to be completed in 2024.
- Ginza Graphic Gallery (GGG): See a contemporary art gallery that focuses on graphic design, typography, and advertising.
- Tsukiji Outer Market: While the famous Tsukiji Fish Market has relocated, the outer market still thrives with numerous food stalls, restaurants, and shops selling seafood and other Japanese delicacies.
- Shiseido Gallery: Visit one of the oldest art galleries in Japan, which focuses on contemporary art and design. The gallery is operated by the Shiseido cosmetics company and often hosts cutting-edge exhibitions.
- SL Square: Discover this small plaza right outside the Yurakucho Station, where you can see a preserved steam locomotive (SL) from the early 20th century, a popular photo spot for visitors.
- Yurakucho Yakitori Alley: Experience the authentic atmosphere of this Tokyo yokocho, filled with small eateries and yakitori (grilled chicken skewers) stalls. It's a great place to try Tokyo street food and mingle with locals.
- Mitsuo Aida Museum: Explore this museum dedicated to the life and works of the Japanese poet and calligrapher Mitsuo Aida, whose unique style combined poetry with calligraphy to express his thoughts on life, nature, and human relationships.
- Police Museum: Learn about the history and role of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department at this interesting museum, which offers interactive exhibits and displays on law enforcement in Japan.
Where to eat in Ginza
There are many wonderful restaurants in Ginza to suit all budgets. Here are some of the restaurants I tried and recommend. The first ones are for breakfast, then lunch and dinner. There is also an option for afternoon tea.
- Bill's (Breakfast) - Bill's is a welcoming breakfast spot with a focus on international cuisine. The Ginza branch offers stunning views of the Tokyo Tower. The menu features classics like pancakes, omelets, and avocado toast.
- Eggs n' Things (Breakfast) - Eggs n' Things is a cheerful Hawaiian restaurant that specializes in egg dishes and pancakes (with lots of cream on top). It's very popular, especially on weekends, so be prepared to queue.
- Tsumugi (Breakfast) - Tsumugi was my favourite breakfast spot in the whole of Tokyo, not just Ginza. You will get 18 small plates of Japanese items that are absolutely delicious. The items include fresh fruit, yuzu tofu, beans, a small tamagoyaki and so much more.
- Tonkatsu Aoki Ginza (Tonkatsu) - Tonkatsu Aoki Ginza is a well-regarded restaurant specializing in crispy, tender tonkatsu dishes. It's a very popular restaurant, so you may need to wait quite a while before getting seated, but it's well worth it.
- Sushi no Midori Ginza (Sushi) - An affordable sushi joint known for its fresh, high-quality seafood and expertly crafted sushi rolls. You can get classic nigiri as well as innovative rolls.
- Ramen Takahashi (Ramen) - Ramen Takahashi is a beloved ramen joint known for its rich, flavourful broths and perfectly cooked noodles. Was top 5 best Ramen in Ginza picked by a Tokyoite.
- Ginza Kagari Main Branch (Ramen) - Ginza Kagari Main Branch is a renowned ramen destination that specializes in a unique, creamy chicken-based broth. Just be mindful that it usually comes with a long queue, especially at lunchtime.
- The Grand Lounge (Afternoon tea) - The best afternoon tea to date, The Grand Lounge is a incredible place to indulge on a special occasion. You must reserve a table in advance and remember that the afternoon teas here change depending on the season. You will have stunning views of Ginza too.
- Eataly (Italian) - Fancy a little Italian food? Then head to the 6th floor in Ginza Six and indulge in some freshly made pizza or pasta. I tried their truffle pizza and would strongly recommend it. The restaurant is divided into two, a casual and more formal part. Prices are slightly different, but you can sit down wherever you prefer.
- KOMEDA(Vegan) - If you need to take a little break and enjoy a plant-based meal, then Komeda should be added to your list. I especially recommend their burgers, and the restaurant even has some very affordable European wines. The pancakes were very delicious too.
Where to stay in Ginza
Ginza is a wonderful place to find a hotel because it's well-connected, it's quiet at night and it's an affluent neighbourhood. I've stayed in many hotels in Tokyo, and my favourites were always in the Ginza/Chiyoda area.
For a complete breakdown on all important areas in Tokyo and reviews of my favourite hotels, read my where to stay in Tokyo article. I elaborate on different areas and why they are most suitable for your type of travel style and budget.
These are my top favourite hotels in Ginza, organized by budget:
- Best luxury hotel: Imperial Hotel Tokyo
- Best mid-range hotel: Hotel Musse Ginza Meitetsu
- Best budget hotel: Henn na Hotel Tokyo Ginza
Find your hotel in Tokyo, compare prices and check reviews at Booking.com.
Frequently Asked Questions about Ginza, Tokyo
Why is Ginza famous?
Ginza is famous for being Tokyo's premier luxury shopping, dining, and entertainment district. It is renowned for its upscale boutiques, flagship stores of international brands, and sophisticated atmosphere.
Ginza is an affluent district in Tokyo but has an array of wonderful points of interest. Ginza has a great blend of modern architecture and traditional Japanese aesthetics, and it features well-known Japanese landmarks such as the Kabuki-za Theatre and the Shizuoka Press and Broadcasting Tower.
What does Ginza mean in Japanese?
The word "Ginza" means "silver mint" in Japanese, and is said to have got its name from a silver coin mint that was established there in the 1600s. Today, Ginza is a major shopping and tourist destination with lots of things to do and interesting points of interest.
Is it worth going to Ginza?
Yes, definitely! Ginza is certainly worth a visit for several reasons. If you're a shopper, you'll love the variety of high-end stores, luxury brands, and unique boutiques that you can find in the area. The rooftop gardens like the one in Kiriko Terrace and Ginza Six offer beautiful views of the city and are great spots for a relaxing break from the busy streets.
The coffee shops in Ginza like Blue Bottle or Starbucks Reserve, are known for their quality and single origin bean, and there are also many great food places where you can try traditional Japanese cuisine as well as international dishes.
Ginza is a great place to buy souvenirs, as there are many shops selling traditional Japanese goods and crafts like Natsuno for premier chopsticks or Ginza Washita for Okinawan gifts. If you're looking for a shopping, dining, and cultural experience, Ginza is definitely a great place to visit!
Is it better to stay in Shinjuku or Ginza?
Both Shinjuku and Ginza have their own unique qualities, but I, personally, prefer Ginza as it is more elegant and more quiet at night. You can read a more in-depth comparison on our where to stay in Tokyo article.
Shinjuku is a more youthful and entertaining-oriented area, known for its neon atmosphere and large variety of shops, restaurants, bars, and entertainment. It is also home to the red-light district, which may or may not appeal to everyone. Accommodation in Shinjuku is generally more affordable, and it is a convenient base from which to visit other nearby attractions like Harajuku, Shinjuku, Roppongi, and Aoyama.
Ginza, on the other hand, is a more sophisticated and upscale neighbourhood with a more refined atmosphere. It is an affluent area with elegant hotels and caters to a more mature crowd. There are many Michelin-starred restaurants and sophisticated food joints in Ginza, as well as high-end retail shops. This neighbourhood is a great place to stay if you're looking for a quieter and more upscale experience, although it is slightly further from other attractions like Shibuya and Shinjuku. However, Ginza is closer to Tokyo Station, making it easier to access other parts of the city.
Tips for first time visitors
- Purchase a prepaid Suica or Pasmo card to make commuting via public transportation more convenient. These cards are rechargeable and can be used on trains, buses, and even for purchases at some stores. Get them from any main subway station or the airport.
- To stay connected, rent a pocket Wi-Fi device or buy a prepaid SIM card. This will help you use navigation apps, use a translator, and do some extra research on the go. I recommend ordering it in advance. You can pick it up either at the arrivals at Narita airport or Haneda airport, or have it delivered to the hotel reception if that's most convenient.
- Tokyo's public system can be overwhelming, but with the use of Google Maps, it's super easy to get around. The metro lines are colour coded for your ease and Google Maps even tells you in real time the next train, the best car for boarding and where to make connections.
- While cards are widely accepted, many small establishments, particularly in older neighbourhoods, still prefer cash. Take some Japanese yen with you. Major banks in Japan now accept international cards for cash withdrawals, too. Speaking of money, check out how expensive is Japan.
- Be aware of Japanese customs and manners such as removing your shoes before entering someone's home or specific rooms in restaurants, bowing as a form of greeting, and not tipping at restaurants.
- Knowing a few simple Japanese phrases can go a long way in making your trip more enjoyable. If you're serious about learning Japanese, I recommend Japanese with Aimee. Use YCTRAVEL when you sign up and get 10% discount on the course.
- Ginza is a food lover's paradise, so research and plan what you'd like to eat in advance. Most popular restaurants will have a long queue, while others will require a reservation in advance.
Useful resources for first timers
- Check all the dos and don'ts for when you are planning your first trip to Japan.
- Learn what to pack for Japan to ensure you have the perfect wardrobe for every season.
- When planning your first trip to Tokyo, it's a good ideal to check the best time to visit Japan. Remember that cherry blossom season is a lot busier and pricier. Koyo Festival is the most beautiful time of the year.
- I highly recommend booking most of your activities in Tokyo in advance. Popular attractions can book up in advance, so it's always best to have all your tickets ready. This also means less queuing.
- If you wish to stay a little extra and explore more of Japan beyond Ginza, make sure to check our Japan itineraries with details on where to go, and how to plan the perfect trip. For this, I recommend that you invest in a JR Pass to save you lots of money.
- When it comes to customs and manners, Japan can be fairly peculiar, which is the joy of seeing such a different country! I strongly suggest that you get our Japanese customs and manners book with fun Japanese illustrations and crucial information on how you should behave in various scenarios when visiting Tokyo!
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