Must-Read Guide Top 10 Ideas On What To Do In Ginza Tokyo
1. Ginza ShoppingIt goes without saying that Ginza is the first port of call for fashionistas. Whether you’re a follower of the latest fashion trends, a compulsive fashion shopper and fashion addict, a reputable designer or are looking for some inspiration to make it into fashion industry, Ginza is the place to be. I remember seeing Ginza for the first time, my eyes were literally glued to the colossal and modern buildings with exclusive brands, I felt completely lost but pleasantly lost that I didn’t want to leave for hours! Those who want to experience Japanese fashion at its best should try the Ginza shopping experience. You can shop at Ginza or you can do window shopping and simply enjoy the surroundings. Ginza is undeniably the shopping mecca; home to many Japanese designer brands and also many international brands opening their flagship stores nowhere else but here. For those who don’t know what to do in Ginza but don’t enjoy walking aimlessly, make sure to check out some of the largest and most luxurious Ginza department stores.
The ones worth visiting are Ginza Mitsukoshi, Wako, the symbol of Ginza, Tokyu hands, Tokyu Plaza Ginza, an exclusive Ginza Place and latest addition to the shopping complexes, Ginza Six also featuring exhibition of eccentric art of Yayoi Kusama’s on one of the floors. There are a few duty-free department stores like Laox or Labi Amenity which is also tax-free. You don’t have to go shopping for designer clothing, there’s a colossal flagship store of Uniqlo, Japanese fashion chain with the whopping 12 floors packed with women’s, men’s, children’s fashion and accessories! The list goes on, if you want to know more about how to get the best shopping experience in Ginza, read our article about guide to best shops in Ginza and things to buy.
2. Tsukiji Market (築地市場)Tsukiji Fish Market or Tsukiji shijō is unquestionably one of top Tokyo attractions and a definite must-see in Ginza. It’s truly special even if your interest does not lie in fishing. I’m sure you’ve heard of Clean Bandit’s song Rather Be. Well, let me tell you, the song was recorded nowhere else but inside the world famous Tsukiji Market!!! Go on if you don’t believe me, replay it. The video will look even more familiar once you’ve been inside Tsukiji Market. Now that I got you hooked onto it, here’s what to see. First of all, the opening hours of Tsukiji Market. Make sure to wake up very early to see the tuna auction at around 5.30am. The market is usually busiest between 5.30am and 8am but some auctions can last until late morning hours (it’s best to be there early, the business slows down after 8am).
If you’re happy to skip the tuna auction, apparently second busiest time is around midday where tourists and locals gather for delicious lunch prepared with different grades of fresh tuna, from lean to fat and wide range of seafood. Check out our article about what to see and eat at Tsukiji Market, Tokyo here before you go so you know exactly what’s worth trying and the price to pay.
3. Kabukiza Theatre (歌舞伎座)This is a must for anyone who wants to go beneath the surface of Japanese culture. Apart from the unique Japanese architecture, Kabukiza Theatre is the iconic symbol of Ginza since 1889 and the principal theatre in Tokyo. The building you see today was erected in 2010 after the old one got demolished. Essentially, Kabukiza in Ginza is your main point of contact with Kabuki show, the classical Japanese drama. The actors performing on the stage are stylised in an avantgarde costumes and elaborate, often grotesque make up, usually thick, white foundation, very heavy eye contours and a red lipstick.
The acts often involve actors to perform traditional forms of dance but the most interesting part is the script. Unfortunately, all acts are usually performed in Japanese so make sure you get the audio guide before the show starts (well, it’s more of an electronic display with subtitles in English and other languages). We were so happy we got it, it costs a few pounds for actually understanding the subtle, hidden meanings of the recited poems. You might not know where to start and what to do in Ginza when you first get there but I’d start with finding Kabukiza and purchasing your tickets for Kabuki show for a later time and head out shopping afterwards so you don’t waste time queueing up for the tickets. Try single acts first so you get the feel of the culture without overpaying for the full Kabuki show. If you want to more about how our experience at Kabukiza and how to get the cheapest tickets, read the article about how to get the best experience at Kabukiza in Tokyo.
4. Visit Ginza at nightNo matter what time of the day you visit Ginza, it will be a great experience. Visit Ginza during daytime to enjoy your shopping or come at night to enjoy the undisturbed evening walks, surrounded by bright, neon lights of the tall buildings. It’s a great pastime for those undecided souls without a particular goal on what to do in Ginza. Once they experience it, they’ll decide what their mood resonates with most. It’s hard to tell what I prefer buy whether you want to wander around with your beloved one, want to take some beautiful snaps of Tokyo at night or simply enjoy your own company, this place is very safe and it’s very pretty! In case you wonder, Ginza gets very quiet in the evenings at around 8pm when the shops and department stores close.
Shortly after, the life begins inside many of Ginza’s venues which stay open till late at night. Because of that you can actually enjoy a slow-paced stroll, stop by some of the most stylish and pomp window displays and realise that some parts of Tokyo are not crowded 24/7! You might even spot a few salarymen known for finishing their work pretty late and only just leaving their offices. The more social ones will be standing outside the bars and saying goodbye to their co-workers, often bowing to each other for a good few minutes before they all part their ways and catch their trains to nearby prefectures! (yes, you heard me, it’s not unheard of that Japanese people commute from quite far out to Tokyo’s business districts). If you want to see Ginza at night, there are several places to see, such as Ginza’s famous Yon Chome intersection, Chuo Dori or Gasuto Dori that will make you feel like you’re a part of a movie. In fact, we were part of the movie once as we were scooting back, suddenly there was a big group of people who froze for a few seconds and started moving again and we became part of if without knowing. After a while we were told the scene was being recorded for a movie. Kabukiza Theatre looks very elegant when it’s lit up and really stands out thanks to its beautiful Japanese-style architecture, even from afar.
5. Hamarikyu Gardens (浜離宮恩賜庭園)Not many people know exactly what to do in Ginza apart from the obvious Ginza shopping. If you like nature landscapes, this one is for you. Japanese garden lovers seeking a little refuge from the bustling life in Ginza, can find it in Hamarikyu Gardens located in the heart of Tokyo and created back in 1654! The park featured a beautiful pond with the seawater filled by Tokyo Bay! Since it’s a public garden, it costs only 300 Yen to visit and if you’re thirsty, step in to Nakashima teahouse to enjoy the fresh matcha green tea. You don’t have to look any further to enjoy the tea-ceremony at a reasonable price point. There’s something for everyone and even more if you’re passionate about flowers. At Hamarikyu Gardens, you can enjoy plum trees, cosmos flowers and peony garden. There’s even a 300-year old pine tree! The garden changes its scenery throughout the year and even day. This is because of its dependence on the seawater from Tokyo Bay that changes water level of the pond with the tidal pattern.
Trust me, starting from late June till middle of September, the weather in Tokyo gets too hot. This garden will be your little oasis to cool yourself down a little bit before you continue your sightseeing and it’s a really pretty spot that not many non-Japanese know about yet, giving you a good contrast and a hideaway from the tall skyscrapers of surrounding Shiodome business district. Once you are done, you can hop on Tokyo Cruise Water Bus going all the way to traditional Asakusa district. It’s super enjoyable on sunny afternoons when you don’t mind taking your time to enjoy the views rather than rushing through things. The sea bus is also part of tourist experience in Tokyo which I’m sure you will want to use again in Odaiba!
6. Tokyo Cycling Tour around GinzaSome people say it’s not about what you wear but how you wear it. I feel that many can resonate with this saying, not only in terms of fashion but the way how we perceive things and experiences in our life. Cyclo Limousine is one of the most memorable experiences from Japan and believe me, we stayed in Japan long enough to count many good ones. Cycling around Tokyo will open your eyes to different perspectives of Tokyo, from busy to quiet streets of Tokyo. It’s a concept that is somehow similar to the traditional rickshaw tour around temples like Sensoji temple in Asakusa but better. It’s tailor-made according to your needs and the wow effect you want to make on your beloved one. If you’ve been to Vietnam, you’ll be familiar with a cyclo. This one is a very exclusive form of a cyclo and this is why you’ll find it in the luxurious part of Tokyo, Ginza. The models are designed for two people, with one person sitting in the front and the other (usually, but not always, is a man), sitting behind and pedalling the bike. Essentially, the idea behind it is to connect couples whilst having a pleasant tour around Tokyo.
It’s fun! I arranged this special cycling tour for Kevin’s birthday to celebrate it in style in Japan. We liked it so much that we had to do it again! Yes, it’s more of a special treat but if you’re looking for a unique gift for your beloved one, Cyclo Limousine will be a great option for a number of reasons. It’s a great bonding experience, you’re on a non-motorised vehicle on the road (and pavements, depending on where you are in Ginza), you’re moving at a faster pace, you are wearing elegant clothes, you’re in the centre of people’s attention, getting a leg workout and receiving a professional photoshoot. Now you know exactly what to do in Ginza and how to make it just perfect for you two. The photographer and the owner of the business, Mai, is exceptionally good at capturing intimate moments, check out the enchanting Tokyo Cycling Tour on a Cyclo Rickshaw, the article about our experience, you’ll love it!
7. Konparu-yu onsenWhilst it’s not practically a sento rather than an onsen, this public bathhouse in the heart of Ginza is one of the few remainders of the Edo period, dating back to 1863! The interior is very nostalgic with porcelain tiles portraying beautiful koi fish and Mount Fuji on the walls and sakura trees by the washing stations with faucets and buckets to sit on. With two baths to choose from, one offers bathing in a pleasantly warm water whilst the other one is typical for the majority of sentos and onsens, offering bathing in clearly hot but still bearable 42 Celsius degree water. Quite a pleasant experience if you happen to be in Tokyo in winter or colder months!
It’s worth checking out what’s on offer as depending on the seasons, this sento offers some unique experiences. You might be able to soak in the iris water or yuzu water and every fortnight you can expect flowers inside Konparu-yu sentos, making bathing more glamorous and definitely refining the way you bathe! The entrance fee is 460 Yen, quite reasonable at just 3 pounds to soak in beautifully designed baths with petals. Opening hours starts in the early afternoon and go on till 10pm in the evenings. Visiting an onsen or a sento is one of the best things to do in Tokyo, or rather experiences and it’s different from the Western culture. I know you might feel embarrassed at first so this is why I wrote an article about Dos and Don’ts in Onsens and Best onsens and sentos in Tokyo so you can feel more at ease when you go in for the first time. Check out our video below on our visit to one of Tokyo’s public bathhouses here, it will encourage to do it as well:
8. Ginza fine dining and dating spots with a viewOut of all places in neighbourhoods, Ginza is number one for fine dining experience in Tokyo. Sukiyabashi Jiro sushi is a prime example, it’s a small fine-dining sushi place that served great leaders like Barack Obama and Japan’s Prime Minister, Shinto Abe. Following the Edo-style, this place is bound to make your taste buds shout for more as the seafood comes from nowhere else but the famous Tsukiji Market and it unsurprisingly one of the best best restaurants in Ginza. Impress your beloved ones by taking them one of the best restaurants in Ginza, called Ginza Sky Lounge, for a romantic dinner with the view from high up. The food served there is mainly fine French. We all know you’re paying for the view not for the food but what’s more impressive here are the moving floors that give you a great 360 degrees view of Ginza. Luckily, it’s slow enough not to give you vertigo! Great concept so you don’t end up fighting for that ‘perfect table’ by the window. It’s beautifully decorated with a piano for live music to keep the romantic vibes float in the air.
Fish Bank Tokyo is even better, the views from up there allow you to see skyline view including Tokyo Tower or Dazzle offering premium dining experience with glittering interior, shows and oysters on the menu. Those who like burlesque shows, there’s something to tickle your fancy at Konparu. This rather expensive but totally extravagant show is performed by the top dancers in colourful feathery like corsets, a great way to entertain you and enjoy the top-notch dance performance in the Far East at dinner, a great way to sweep you partner off their feet and show that you’re not a stranger to Tokyo’s best spots that remain hidden gems for the majority of non-locals.
9. Ginza Art Galleries and Museum ToursIt might come at surprise to some of you but it’s Ginza that has the highest concentration of galleries in Tokyo! Yes, you heard it first. Although some of these futuristic buildings are home to some of the world’s greatest designers, some of them hold space for permanent art exhibitions on the upper floors or basements. Visiting art galleries should be added to your things to do in Ginza and other parts of Tokyo.
There are a few that you should definitely check out if you’re into art. Let’s start with Shiseido Gallery, yes, this gallery is run by Shiseido, the Japanese upscale cosmetics and beauty products brand. It dates back to 1919 when Shiseido decided to showcase some of their designers’ works. Ever since, Ginza’s art galleries started mushrooming and are growing at a fast pace! Although in the past Shiseido Gallery displayed corporate artwork, in 2006 opened its first Shiseido Art Egg with works of young, aspiring and most creative artists from all over Japan. Gallery Seizan is another one worth checking out, located opposite Kabukiza Theatre with tireless staff always attending to your needs and questions about the designs and history behind the works. Some of the artwork is very affordable and you won’t feel out of place even if you’re not planning to buy anything. I was invited to one event through a good friend of mine who happened to take me with her to one. Although feeling a little hesitant to interrupt the closed group of visitors at first, the atmosphere was very welcoming, with the vast majority of attendees being Japanese or of East Asian origin. I even got to know one of the artists on a personal level and talk about her works and inspirations. You can read about my experience at the hidden art gallery here.
Make sure to check out a few names, like Beijing Tokyo Art Projects, Tokyo Gallery and Okuno Building dating back to 1930s with manually operated lifts, interesting architecture and complex of many small galleries of up-and-coming artists. Ginza caters also for the alternative souls, Vanilla Gallery, the artwork you’ll find there is anything but plain vanilla! This is a very alternative art gallery if you think you’ve seen Tokyo, think again. Vanilla Gallery is a bit like marmite, you’re either going to love it or hate it.
In here, you’re going to find some of the most eccentric pieces combining dark, grotesque concepts with eroticism. In Japanese, this is defined by the term ero-guro art. Its dim underground works focus on manifesting fetish and even love doll displays. As for the museums, the interesting ones are National Film Center at the Tokyo National Museum of Modern Art and Advertising museum with collection dating back to Edo period. And if you want to deepen your knowledge about Japanese police or simply are a fan of uniformed Japanese both men and women, step into Tokyo metropolitan police museum where you can ride a police motorbike! I hope that now you know more about what to do in Ginza and what art galleries to see. You can read the full article where I explain in more detail where to find the best art galleries in Ginza and to make the best of your stay in this fabulous neighbourhood.
10. Ginza Specialty shopsLast but not least! The famous Ginza specialty shops with history. There quite a few places to see in Ginza. Many of them are generations-old, small independent stores with unique designs, products and always top-quality customer service. For instance, Lemonsha Ginza specialises in imported and second-hand cameras whilst Tenshodo is for collectors who might be after some precious models and train collections.
Kyukyodo is an inconspicuous store that initially opened in Kyoyo and moved to Tokyo back in 1880! Specialising in selling incense, they also sell notebooks, frames and gift cards. It’s one of those places with long history that will make you want to buy something special for your friends and family, and for you, a perfect tangible memory of Japan.
There’s no shortage of premium quality traditional and modern kimono stores, either. Some stores can tailor-make them for you with premium quality domestic silk. I write about it in more detail in the article best specialty shops to visit in Ginza and what to eat in Ginza.
Kyobunkan is another cool place, specialising in selling children’s books with specially adjusted shelf dimensions for the little ones with some titles also in foreign languages. If you’re there, make sure to ask for the children’s books on Japanese legends, you won’t find them in the Western bookstores. There are quite a few places in Ginza specialising in men’s fashion. Some stores with century’s old trading history offer tailor-made first-class suits and neckties, a great gift for any occasion, especially if you’re a man reading it and looking to treat yourself to something more elegant. Remember, your sightseeing around Ginza will be incomplete if you don’t stop for fine adzuki beans paste snacks and shochu tasting! Whilst I don’t really enjoy shochu as perhaps it’s not my cup of tea, some people do and I recommend trying it to anyone who wants to have “the Japanese experience”. If you want to read on in more detail on where to shop in Ginza, check out our article on best specialty shops to visit in Ginza and what to eat in Ginza. You’ve finally reached the end of this article! hope you know have a better understanding on what to do in Ginza. Remember, this isn’t a complete guide but a summary of things to learn about beforehand so you don’t wonder around Ginza aimlessly for the whole duration of your stay there. Check out our guide with 15 ideas on what to do in Shinjuku and 10 cools ideas on what to do in Shibuya. They are just as detailed and will give you clarity on what to do in these special Tokyo wards as they don’t focus only on one or two aspects of sightseeing.
As for Ginza, the list of things to see in Ginza is endless and whilst our must-read guide with 10 cool ideas on what to do in Ginza Tokyo includes a whole array of things, from Ginza shopping being the main attraction, sento experience to specialty shops and versatile art galleries, there’s more to it! Leave a comment if you’d like to add anything to the list!
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