In Travel

A Luxury Guide To Ginza, Tokyo’s Most Overlooked Spot

Wallets tremble at the very mention of Ginza, Tokyo’s famously luxury shopping district. Originally named for a silver coin mint established there in 1612, Ginza has long been known as the city’s historic seat of eye-popping price tags, lavish flagships, and high-end department stores.

Although it would be a mistake to pin Ginza as just a haven for shoppers. The suburb between is one of Tokyo’s most vibrant and accessible areas. Slotted between its retail shops are swanky restaurants, upscale cocktail bars, casual cafes, sleek art galleries, and some of the city’s greatest architectural achievements.

Ginza nightlife

Ginza is just a stone’s throw from Tokyo Station, which connects to the rest of the country. Image: Ginza at night / Japan Tourism

Ginza is also one of the most convenient bases for those looking to explore the rest of the country, seeing as it’s just a stone’s throw from the magnificent Tokyo Station and its large railway network that stretches far beyond the city.

To help you make the most of your time in Ginza, we’ve rounded up some of the suburb’s best places to shop, eat and drink, and stay.

Where to shop

It’s a big deal for a fashion house to open a store on Ginza’s Chuo-Dori. Image: Japan Tourism

Ginza is a very well-known name in the world of fashion. One need only look at Louis Vuitton’s thematic, head-turning facade to understand how big a deal opening a store on Chuo-Dori is for the world’s most iconic fashion houses.

From the recently opened Bally flagship and the luxurious interiors of Gucci, to the largest Uniqlo in the world, the renowned brands that dot Ginza’s main strip of Chuo-Dori hold themselves to a very high standard.

Ginza SIX is a shopping complex that hosts contemporary art exhibitions. Image: Ginza SIX / Facebook

The district also boasts several luxury department stores and shopping complexes like Ginza SIX, which also hosts plenty of contemporary art and has previously welcomed works from Yayoi Kusama, teamLab and Patrick Blanc.

Numerous independent boutiques can also be found here. They line smaller streets, and feature beautiful, locally-made fashion, gifts, homewares and designer goods. Also featured are tech-forward showrooms like the futuristic Nissan Crossing and the experimental Sony Park.

Head here on the weekend between midday and 5pm, and you’ll find Chuo-Dori completely closed to traffic. Locals call this ‘Ginza Pedestrian Paradise’, where talented street performers entertain and cafes place tables on the street.

Where to drink

Bar Orchard serves patrons a basket of seasonal fruits in lieu of an actual menu. Image: Bar Orchard / Facebook

Not only are Ginza’s bars are only some of the most highly-regarded in Japan, but also in the entire world.

Japanese culture places great emphasis on technique and mastery, and that meticulousness combined with wealth and ambition have given these streets some exceptional drinking dens.

The speakeasy-styled Star Bar is the place to go for rare Japanese whiskies and a dapper atmosphere.

Bar Orchard focuses on seasonal fruits – a basket of which is given to guests on arrival in lieu of an actual menu. Simply choose the fruits you like and the expert bartenders will take care of the rest.

And then there’s Bar High Five, a consistent presence on the World’s 50 Best Bar list and a champion of the truly bespoke anti-menu, pro-conversation approach.

Where to eat

Motif is located inside the Four Seasons. Image: Motif / supplied

This ritzy district is a foodie’s dream come true. Among the highlights is an eight-course kaiseki (Japanese haute cuisine) experience at Toro Okuda’s three Michelin-starred masterpiece Ginza Kojyu, tucked away on the fourth floor of an office building (as many of Ginza’s greatest spots are), the city’s most delicious tonkatsu (breaded, deep-fried pork) at the humble Ginza Bairin, and the irresistible ricotta hotcakes at bills.

It would be an incredible feat to try and list all of Ginza’s essential eats, but casual local favourites include creamy chicken ramen at Kagari, Michelin-starred yakitori at Bird Land, and freshly made Belgian waffles at Manneken.

Dig a little deeper into the pocket for finer dining like the produce-forward degustation at Four Seasons’ elegant Motif, where Hokkaido ingredients are front-and-centre, traditional Japanese at Nadaman in Shangri-La, famous king crab at Kitafuku, and of course, incomparable sushi at the coveted Sukiyabashi Jiro.

A treasured local secret is the dessert-filled ground floor of department store Daimaru, located within the Yaesu South Exit of Tokyo Station. The space is packed with the city’s best dessert stalls, the most popular of which is N.Y.C. Sand, serving biscuits best described as the Tim Tams of Tokyo, only fancier and pricier.

Where to stay

Four-Seasons-Hotel-Tokyo

Four Seasons Tokyo is one of the luxury brand’s smaller, more intimate hotels with only 57 rooms. Image: Four Seasons Tokyo / Facebook

From lively izakaya-rich Shimbashi to the business-minded Marunouchi, you’ll find a range of hotel-filled areas in Ginza and its surrounding neighbourhoods.

Marunouchi, where Tokyo Station is, remains the preferred place to stay for those wanting to stick close to Ginza without being in the busy centre.

Flanking Tokyo Station are two of the area’s most recognised properties. The boutique 57-room Four Seasons is one of the luxury brand’s smaller, more intimate hotels, and is home to the aforementioned Motif restaurant.

On the other side of Tokyo Station is the towering Shangri-La Hotel, supreme in its design from the lobby’s extravagant custom-made chandeliers to its housing of some of Tokyo’s largest guest rooms.

Closer to the sprawling grounds of the Imperial Palace are valuable properties like the captivating Peninsula Hotel and Hoshinoya Tokyo, the latter a luxury expression of traditional ryokan-style accommodations.

(Lead image: Four Seasons Tokyo / Facebook)

Published 12 April, 2019