Tokyo’s reputation for high-style comes to a fore in Ginza, the city’s most famous shopping and entertainment district. Walk through the streets of Ginza, and you’ll practically see the money flowing. There’s hardly a corner in Ginza not peppered with an upmarket fashion boutique or fine dining Michelin-starred restaurant.
That’s not the say it’s always only about the yen here. Dig into Ginza and you’ll just as easily uncover traditional establishments from izakaya (Japanese pubs) to small souvenir shop crouched in the area’s dimly-lit narrow alleyways.
Not sure were to start? Here’s a quick guide to the best things to do in Ginza…
Table of Contents
- Ready to start exploring? Start with these 11 best things to do in Ginza…
- Want to get close to these Ginza attractions? Here’s where to stay…
- Done with these Ginza points of interest? Here’s where to go next…
- What to do in Ginza: A summary of the best places to visit
Ready to start exploring? Start with these 11 best things to do in Ginza…
Like throughout most of Tokyo, you shouldn’t expect just one thing when visiting Ginza. The district’s trendy reputation isn’t unfounded, but there’s far more to it than it’s modish façade lets on.
Besides finding some of the city’s best opportunities to unload your yen on the latest fashions, Ginza is one of the best places to stay in Tokyo, and certainly one of the best places to eat.
There are more Michelin-starred restaurants in Ginza than anywhere else in the city. And even if the likes of Ginza Kojyu or Sushi Yoshitake are out of your budget, you’re always bound to find in Ginza a small back-alley soba or ramen joint that will tickle your tastebuds as well as any in Japan!
Ginza Crossing (4-chome)
While it may not elicit the suicidal fear of Shibuya’s most famous crosswalk, Ginza Crossing will still get your heart pumping if solely for its infectious energy. Located at the intersection of Harumi-dori and Chuo-dori, Ginza Crossing and its surroundings are home to some of the district’s most iconic buildings from the Wako Department Store with its famous Seiko clock to the world-renowned Ginza Mitsukoshi.
There’s hardly a more a brilliant introduction to Ginza. Whether you want to start your visit to Ginza with a shopping trip, enjoy a coffee or find a tasty Japanese lunch nearby, Ginza Crossing is the perfect place to get your bearings and start exploring one of Tokyo’s most interesting areas. Be sure to visit Ginza Crossing at night when the bright lights and neon dazzle in true modern urban Japanese style.
Getting to Ginza Crossing: To find Ginza Crossing, take the Tokyo metro to Ginza Station. Exiting to street level through any of the A exits will land you somewhere along the corner, either on Chuo-dori Street or Harumi-dori Street.
If you’re a huge fan of Japanese culture, don’t leave Tokyo without catching a performance at the Kabuki-za Theatre in Ginza. This performing arts centre is the most famous of its kind in the entire country, attracting 0.9 million visitors per year.
Attending a kabuki performance isn’t quite like watching your average play. The art is uniquely Japanese, far more dramatic and exaggerated than what we’re used to.
The stories presented at Kabuki-za Theatre, often based on historic events, could hardly be labelled as anything but epic. My guess is that 4-5 hours of such Japanese dramatics would be a little much for most travellers. Fortunately, the theatre offers special reduced-fare tickets that allow you to immerse yourself in the art of kabuki for just a single act, more than long enough to get your first taste.
Getting to Kabuki-za Theatre: Take the Tokyo metro to Higashi-ginza Station. Exit 3 will put your right at the theatre.
Tsukiji Fish Market
Although it’s just slightly outside of Ginza proper, Tsukiji Fish Market is one of those attractions you just shouldn’t miss, even if you’ve only got one day in Tokyo. The market is famous for its daily tuna auction where the day’s biggest catches are hocked off the highest bidder in a bustling & chaotic frenzy.
Getting the full Tsukiji experience will take some sacrifice though. You’ll need to set your alarm clock for the wee morning hours, and drag yourself out of bed to queue up for the daily tuna auction. The auction itself starts at 5:00am, but you’ll need to roll in much before to get your hands on one of the only 120 tickets set aside per day for the public. (Check the Tsukiji Fish Market website for more details.)
Should a desire to sleep in overcome you, the Tsukiji Fish Market experience doesn’t end with the auction. Wake up a little later and you can still get in on the Tsukiji Outer Market—without the hassle of an early-morning queue. The market stalls here sell everything from fresh & dried seafood to kitchen utensils. It’s certainly one of the most interesting and photogenic places to walk around in Ginza!
Don’t miss the chance to top off your visit to Tsukiji Fish Market with a delicious sushi breakfast. Although it make not sound like the most appetizing way to start your day, the fresh sushi at Tsukiji is some of the best you’ll find anywhere!
Getting to Tsukiji Fish Market: Find your way to Tsukijishijo Station on the Oedo Line. From here it’s less than ten minutes to the heart of the market.
Itōya Stationary Store
You’ve probably heard about Japan’s obsession with stationary. And for visitors to Japan, there’s no better place to see it in action than at Itōya Stationary Store in Ginza.
Rising up a whopping nine floors, Itōya features just about everything you’d expect in a stationary shop, from pens and notebooks to postcards and folders. It goes well beyond that though. You’ll find a variety of interesting objects for decorating your home & office—and even art classes!
For a super unique souvenir, head up to the business center where you can create a custom notebook using your own choice of paper and cover stock.
Getting to Itōya: From Ginza Station, take Exit A8 in front of Mitsukoshi Ginza. Turn right and walk two blocks northeast on Chuo-dori.
You’ll need to stash more than a few yen away if you want to shop at Ginza Mitsukoshi. Along with Wako across the street, Mitsukoshi Ginza is one of the most famous and exclusive department stores in Japan.
With five of the seven main floors dedicated to women’s fashion, the focus of Ginza Mitsukoshi is obvious. Perhaps no other single stop in Ginza supplies the streets of Tokyo with so much style.
Besides selling a multitude of clothing and household items, Ginza Mitsukoshi delights foodies on its 11th and 12th floors. Among the restaurants nearly every aspect of popular Japanese cuisine is covered—sushi, teppanyaki, okonomiyaki, soba, udon, tempura, etc.—along with a handful of international choices like Korean, Italian, and French.
Getting to Ginza Mitsukoshi: The store lies directly in front of the A8 exit of Ginza Station.
Like Mitsukoshi, serious shoppers will find their fashion heaven at Matsuya Ginza. This trendy and upscale department store features the latest styles from famous international and Japanese designers ranging from Dior and Louis Vuitton to issey Miyake and Yohji Yamamoto.
And for tourists, it couldn’t get much better. Masuya Ginza offers an array of services to make the lives of foreign shoppers easier from their international shipping to their duty-free and foreign exchange counters.
Getting to Matsuya Ginza: The Matsuya department store is conveniently situated near the A12 and A13 exits of Ginza Station.
Need a break from the glitz and glamour of Ginza? There’s no better escape from the district’s consumerist bubble than the atmospheric restaurant district at Yurakucho.
Whereas Ginza, mere blocks away, feels most comfortable flaunting its high-style, Yurakucho has held onto the old Tokyo vibe better than most corners of this modern city.
Nowhere is this more obvious than in the dimly-lit alleyway set below the train tracks leading to Tokyo Station. Huddle in and treat yourself to some yakitori, the district’s signature charcoal-grilled skewers that draw in office workers of Tokyo for after-work snacks and biiru.
Getting to Yurakucho: The restaurants of Yurakucho sit directly below Yurakucho Station. From Ginza Station, it’s about a 5-minute walk here via Harumi-dori.
Looking to stay close to Yurakucho? Check out these recommendations for the best hotels near Tokyo Station!
Walking down Chuo-dori in Ginza is a retail therapy dream-come-true. Along this renowned street lies some of Tokyo’s most prestigious shopping ranging from Japanese department stores like Mitsukoshi and Matsuya to international fashion boutiques like Dior and Prada.
The best time to join into the Chuo-dori fun is on Saturday and Sunday afternoons when the street closes off to vehicles. In this weekly Pedestrians’ Paradise, you’ll jostle for elbow room among families and well-to-do shoppers in stilettos while enjoying the amusing street performances that always give Chuo-dori a lively atmosphere.
Getting to Chuo-dori: Chuo-dori’s main two-kilometre drag stretches from Shimbashi Station in the south of Ginza to Kyobashi Station in the north. Ginza Station lies at almost the halfway mark.
One of the most famous restaurants in Tokyo, Sukiyabashi Jiro holds a coveted 3 Michelin stars for its delectable sushi. When celebrities visit Japan, they beeline to Sukiyabashi Jiro, thanks, no doubt, in part to the popular 2011 documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi.
What makes Sukiyabashi Jiro so popular in Tokyo isn’t the atmosphere (in fact, it’s often brusque and a tad uninviting for foreigners), but the quality of the food. Chef Jiro and his team meticulously prepare each piece of nigiri in the set menu and expect you to keep up with their quickened pace to eat it as fresh as possible.
Want to get the full Sukiyabashi Jiro experience? It’s not going to be easy.
Reservations for this popular restaurant aren’t easy to come by at the best of times. Foreigners will have their best chance to eat here by staying at a top luxury hotel like The Ritz-Carlton Tokyo, Four Seasons Hotel Tokyo at Marunouchi, or Park Hyatt Tokyo and using their concierge services.
Getting to Sukiyabashi Jiro: The restaurant lies at Sukiyabashi Crossing. Exits C5 and C6 of Ginza Station are closest to the entrance.
One of the city’s best natural escapes, Hamarikyu Gardens whisks you away from the bustle of the streets of Ginza and Shiodome to its relaxing urban oasis. This park is unique in that draws water from Tokyo Bay and shifts with the tide, creating an ever-changing scene. The salt-water pond at Hamarikyu Gardens also features a number of saltwater including eels. Not exactly the type of marine life you’d find at other parks in Tokyo!
Among the best activities at Hamarikyu Gardens is to relax among the beautiful scenery and enjoy a matcha tea at the teahouse perched in the middle of the pond.
Getting to Hamarikyu Gardens: From Shimbashi Station at the southern fringes of Ginza, it’s about a 10-15 minutes to Hamarikyu Gardens. Shiodome Station is slightly closer, only 5-10 minutes way by foot.
If Hemingway spent time in Tokyo, Lupin would be the kind of bar he’d hang out in. This Tokyo institution has welcomed guests since 1928, serving generations of Japanese writers and intellectuals with its selection of fine whiskies and cocktails.
In a city as expensive as Tokyo, it’s hardly a surprise that drinking at a bar with such historical prestige doesn’t come cheap. Although the drinks at Lupin are a little pricier than you might like, the laid-back and quiet atmosphere might be the perfect storm for launching into serious intellectual discussions with newfound friends.
Getting to Lupin: From Exit B3 of Ginza Station, it’s a short 2-3 minute walk to Lupin.
Want to get close to these Ginza attractions? Here’s where to stay…
As Ginza’s one of the most prestigious areas to stay in Tokyo, it shouldn’t be shocking that hotels don’t come cheap. Most of the best hotels in Ginza fall between the mid-range and luxury. Get your search started with these top picks:
- Tokyu Stay Ginza: A no-frills 3-star hotel with relatively large (for Tokyo at least), excellent value rooms in a super central location.
- Mitsui Garden Hotel Ginza Premier: A chic and classy 4-star hotel soaring up above the 16th floor. The city views through the floor-to-ceiling windows are simply divine!
- The Peninsula Hotel: The ultimate 5-star Tokyo hotel experience combining contemporary stylings with traditional Japanese twists.
Done with these Ginza points of interest? Here’s where to go next…
- Shinjuku: From Ginza, it’s a 15-minute ride on the Marunouchi Line to Tokyo’s busiest urban district. Make a day of it with this guide to what to do in Shinjuku.
- Asakusa: You’ll love the traditional Japanese feel of Asakusa, just 16-17 minutes north of Ginza Station by metro. Get started in this cool historical district with this list of the best things to do in Asakusa.
- Shibuya: Couldn’t find what you wanted in Ginza? One of Tokyo’s other favourite shopping and entertainment districts is just 15 minutes away by train.
What to do in Ginza: A summary of the best places to visit
Still can’t decide among the best things to do in Ginza? Here are a couple last-minute suggestions:
- Want to shop till you drop? Ply along Chuo-dori, Ginza’s main drag and one of the best shopping streets in the entire country, to check out the best in Japanese and international style. Make sure you pop into Ginza Mitsukoshi for the ultimate Japanese department store experience.
- Craving the world’s best sushi? You might have found it at Sukiyabashi Jiro, one of the most famous sushi bars in the whole world. Book ahead!
- Need an interesting cultural experience? Take in a weird and wonderful kabuki performance at Kabuki-za Theatre or shake your early-morning blues at the daily Tsukiji Fish Market tuna auction.