Shopping street epitomised
or: Names, names, names!
If one thinks of “shopping” in Tōkyō, one automatically thinks of “Ginza” – at least that’s how it has been for the last 100 years. Even though there is quite a number of districts with most attractive shopping opportunities, the Ginza (銀座 / ぎんざ)quarter in Tōkyō’s central Chūō district (中央区 / ちゅうおうく) still remains one of those places for consumers with gold- or platinum-coloured credit cards and those how have others pay on their behalf – and tourists from near or far just as well. For quite a while the Chūō Dōri (中央通り / ちゅうおうどおり) (the central street), that crosses the quarter from northeast to southwest and that is usually simply called “the Ginza”, has been conquered by shoppers from China. Should you still be of the opinion that there is no need to differentiate between Japanese and Chinese (or not to be able to tell the one from the other), a visit to the Ginza might be an eye-opening experience for you. You need to be blind or deaf – or both – if you cannot realise that there is a fine difference between Japanese and Chinese. Refined behaviour and respectful consideration of others may not be among the virtues in “the Land of Smiles” (which, at least according to Franz Lehar, is to be found in China).
But that is no reason for not presenting the big names that mark the buildings on both sides of this street of joy of consumtion. The pictures below will show you the daytime impression in the upper half, and the nighttime illumination in the lower one. This collection of impressions is not a complete one at all – but I tried to capture at least those names which should be known to fairly everybody, even those who don’t call themselves “power shoppers”.
Should you come to the conclusion that a visit to the Ginza in the evening hours would be more rewarding, I wouldn’t be the one to object.
Click on the pictures to enlarge them
The area of Ginza is the result of one of the first reclamation projects of the old city of Edo. Previously this area had been a swamp. But already in the early 17th century the first houses could be built here. The Tokugawa Shōgunate had its silver-coin mint erected here 1612. And that’s what the Name “Ginza” (銀座) derives from – “gin” (銀) means “silver” and “za” (座) means seat/location.
But the Ginza came to popularity only after it had completely burnt down in 1872 and was re-built in a pseudo-western style with brick buildings – amongst others by my “dearest” architect of those days, Josiah Conder.
These buildings haven’t survived the troubles of times (and obviously weren’t best-suited for earthquakes) – and I’m not one of those who mourn them. But after all, as a rare exception I may praise even Josiah Conder, as it was thanks to his efforts that the Chūō Dōri (“the Ginza”) was broadened to 27 metres – double of the streets that run parallel to it. It has everthing that makes it a boulevard – but one that is at its best during the hours of evening illumation, as the pictures may indicate.
But it is not only the big names and flag stores along the Chūō Dōri that shape the character of it. It is also the confusingly large number of boutiques in the side streets in the checkered outline of this district. And the Ginza is also famous for its enterainment establishments for the not-too-poor. But that’s not the topic of this posting that is mainly dedicated to the names, names, names on both sides of the Chūō Dōri.
How to get there:
Even tough the Ginza can be approached by more than one subway line, the Tōkyō Metro Ginza line (東京メトロ銀座線 / とうきょうメトロぎんざせん), the oldest of Tōkyō’s subway lines, is the one that is practically predestined to bring you there. Its “Ginza” station (銀座 / ぎんざ) is located directly beneath the central crossing of the Chūō Dōri (中央通り / ちゅうおうどおり) and the Harumi Dōri (晴海通り / はるみどおり).
Nevertheless, the Tōkyō Metro Hibiya line (東京メトロ日比谷線 / とうきょうメトロひびやせん) brings you there as well. Just a touch less conveniently located is the station of the Tōkyō Metro Marunouchi line (東京メトロ丸の内線 / とうきょうメトロまるのうちせん).
And should you insist to come here by Japan Rail, you can either leave the train at Yūrakuchō (有楽町 / ゆうらくちょう) and walk in southeastern direction or in Shimbashi (新橋 / しんばし) and head northeast.
On Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 7 pm the Ginza is being transformed into a “pedestrians’ paradise” (literally: 歩行者天国 / ほこうしゃてんごく), when the main street is closed off to road traffic.