Ginza, which means “silver mint,” was once the site of a coin mint. Today it is home to exclusive boutiques and cafés, bringing contemporary style to an Old World backdrop. The density of buildings and mixture of old tradition with modern culture give the district a globalized atmosphere, according to Nori Akashi of Japan National Tourism Organization.
“Although Tokyo has a few more major shopping districts, Ginza still embraces historic shops carrying traditional products and crafts,” Akashi said. “Accordingly, even Western boutiques tend to articulate on craftsmanship and traditional beauty with their products.”
Some of these Western boutiques include Maison Hermès, Burberry, Chanel and Cartier, plus many more in the district’s department stores. There are thousands of cafés and restaurants, including several commissioned by major fashion brands such as Gucci Café and the Armani restaurant, and Michelin-rated restaurants.
To make the most of a day of shopping in Ginza, Tokyo resident Kristine Huo turned to the experts at Shangri-La Hotel, Tokyo. The hotel’s Exclusive Personal Shopper accommodation package includes transportation, hotel delivery, interpretation services and a deluxe room for 46,000 yen (about $465).
“Ginza, being known for its glitzy images and highend brand names, you’d be surprised to find out that [it’s] actually for everyone,” Huo said. “It offers the mid- to low-range of clothing lines such as Muji, Gap, Uniqlo.”
Indulge your eyes even if your wallet shies away from Ginza’s legendary price tags, where a cup of coffee could cost you $10. “There are so many iconic brand shop buildings in that area, even if you don’t have the budget to buy the luxury goods, it’s an architectural feast for visitors just to see those places,” said Huo, who named Mikimoto, 4-5-5 Ginza, as one to check out. The rectangular polished tower is pocked with uniquely shaped windows, making the building as gorgeous as one of Mikimoto’s pearl necklaces.
Huo recommends taking on the district during a weekend, when the street is closed to cars. “The entire street is transformed into a walking street, where people can walk freely or simply sit in the middle of the street for a cup of coffee,” Huo said. “It’s a very relaxing feeling.”
One of Huo’s favorite spots on Ginza Street is ITOYA Stationery Shop, at Ginza Dori/Chuo Dori by the Mitsukoshi department store. ITOYA specializes in traditional letter paper and modern stationery. “I love the small cards and envelopes,” Huo said. “It has unique postcards you could use to write back home.”
From there, Huo heads to Mitsukoshi, 4-6-16 Ginza. Offerings at the shops within range from traditional kimonos to jewelry and casual fashion. “It offers from retail, gourmet to supermarket,” Huo said. “I personally am very fond of this place.”
When it comes to clothing, furniture and décor, Huo heads to Muji Ginza Matsuzakaya, 6-10-1 Ginza, which focuses on using natural materials and organic goods.
Both Akashi and Huo recommend travelers take the time to check out Ginza’s attractions beyond shopping — or combine sightseeing with retail therapy. “Since Kabuki-za Theatre is on the premises, go to the basement shopping floor inside the theater,” Akashi said. “You can find unique sweets, such as a cupcake decorated with Kabuki patterns, crackers wrapped in Kabuki costume patterns and more.”
The theater recently opened after renovation and is a can’t-miss for travelers interested in learning more about Japanese culture.
The world-famous Tsukiji Market is a half-hour walk from Ginza, Akashi said. “If you have time and don’t mind getting up very early, [the] fish market’s auction tour should not be missed,” said Huo, who likes to follow up the auction with a Japanese breakfast of kaisendon (a bowl of rice with fresh seafood on top) at the outside market.
To end the day of shopping, Huo likes to head back to Shangri-La for afternoon tea. “It’s highly regarded as one of the top service and quality afternoon teas,” she said. Just remember to book reservations in advance.
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