Ginza is one of Tokyo’s most famous shopping and entertainment districts. The area is full of high end stores, stylish cocktail bars, and fine dining restaurants. Ginza is not just about glitz and glamour though, there’s also plenty of low key, traditional shops, bars and eateries tucked away in the backstreets.
I’ve written this comprehensive guide to help you get the most out of your trip to Ginza. Once read, you should have a good idea of things to do, where to eat and where to stay in this popular district.
This central neighborhood is one of Tokyo’s most upmarket shopping areas. The landscaped boulevards and narrow lanes are lined with department stores and mega-outlets from the world’s most recognized brands, including the likes of Apple, Sony and Louis Vuitton.
Up until the 1800’s, Ginza was home to a silver coin mint (Ginza literally means ‘silver mint’). It’s seen a lot of upheaval since then, with a huge fire destroying much of the area in 1872, followed by the Great Kanto earthquake of 1923. Since then, massive redevelopment has transformed the area into a hub of commercial modernization.
Today, the heart of the action is the main street of Chuo Dori. The stores here are open 7 days a week, but one of the best times to visit is on the weekends from 12 noon to 5pm. During these hours, the area gets closed off to traffic and becomes what the locals call ‘hokosha tengoku’ (literally pedestrian paradise).
Ginza is not just about shopping; it’s also famous for having the highest concentration of art galleries in Tokyo; over 200 in total. Besides galleries, the area is also home to some of Tokyo’s most iconic architecture. Around every corner there’s an eclectic mix of abstract, sometimes bizarre looking buildings that make wandering the streets of Ginza an architectural adventure.
Since this is a pretty swanky neighborhood, eating out here can be expensive. It’s definitely worth splurging at least once though, because Ginza has some of the most highly rated restaurants in all of Tokyo. Try visiting the more upscale places at lunchtime, when the menus tend to be cheaper but the food is just as divine. Luckily, Ginza also has plenty of smaller, down to earth budget eateries, which tend to be hidden down the narrow backstreets.
Things to Do in Ginza
You can spend a whole day just wandering around Ginza, taking in the charming streets, the stylish locals and the glamorous atmosphere. In fact, the area is one of the best people watching spots in Tokyo.
That being said, the area is packed with attractions and things to do. Below, I list some of the best of them to help you make the most out of your visit.
Take a Tsukiji Fish Market Tour
This three hour walking tour will take you on a journey through Tokyo’s culinary history in the space of a morning.
First you’ll explore the sprawling Tsukiji Fish Market and sample some traditional Japanese seafood delicacies. Then you’ll visit the Namiyoke Shrine and learn about Japan’s oceanic deities, followed by a trip to the newly opened Tsukiji Uogashi wholesale market, where some of Tokyo’s best chefs source their produce. By the end of the tour, you’ll have a real insight into the market culture of the area and the importance of seafood in Japanese cuisine.
The morning ends with a visit to a local restaurant for a delicious sushi lunch, washed down with a cup of ice cold Saki.
Catch a Show at Kabukiza Theater
Kabuki is a traditional Japanese dance-drama, known for its elaborate costumes, striking makeup and exciting plot twists, and there is no better place to catch a performance than the Kabukiza Theatre in central Ginza.
It’s worth arriving early to check out the exhibition on the 4th floor, where you can learn about the Kabuki tradition and the history of the theater itself. There’s also a free to enter roof garden with great views of Ginza, as well as a souvenir shop and restaurant.
There’s no need to book ahead, you can buy your tickets directly at the entrance half an hour before show-time. If you don’t speak Japanese, it’s a good idea to the hire translation device for around 500 JPY (~$4.60), so that you can follow along with the show.
Go Shopping at Ginza Six
This glitzy upscale mall opened in 2017 and it’s now one of the most popular shopping spots in Tokyo. Ginza Six has a huge selection of high end Japanese and international brands, selling everything from clothes and accessories to cosmetics and art.
If you’re into art and literature, don’t miss the Tsutaya book store on the top floor; it’s a treasure trove of art books and off-the-wall artifacts you won’t find in a usual book store. There’s also an impressive roof garden and two cafe’s where you can take in the views over Ginza.
Appreciate Art at The Shiseido Gallery
If you want a taste of contemporary Japanese art, head over to the Shiseido Gallery in the heart of Ginza. This free to enter gallery is run by the well known cosmetics company of the same name, and it’s one of the oldest remaining art spaces in Japan, dating back to 1919.
The exhibitions are held in the white cube gallery in the basement, which is open from 11am to 7pm every day. After checking out the art, you can also try some traditional Japanese cuisine in the attached Shiseido Parlour restaurant.
Release Your Inner Child at Hakuhinkan Toy Park
It may be just a toy store, but Hakuhinkan Toy Park feels like wandering around a giant toy exhibition; no matter your age, you could easily while away a couple of hours wandering around its 5 huge floors.
There’s a massive collection of Japanese toys (with an especially impressive Studio Ghibli section) as well as global brands like Star Wars, Disney and Lego. There’s also a huge candy selection and heaps of interesting novelty ornaments that make great souvenirs to take home.
The toy park is open until 8pm so it’s a good place to head to before dinner after a long day’s shopping.
Become a Samurai for the day
Learn ancient Samurai techniques with an interactive lesson at TOKYO Samurai Kembu. You’ll be dressed in the traditional garb and taught the basics of swordplay. By the time you leave, you’ll know a full choreographed routine and have a deeper understanding of this ancient Japanese art.
Places can get booked up quickly, so it’s best to make your reservations online ahead of time, where you’ll also have the option of booking an extended 20 minute Samurai performance.
The Best Restaurants & Must-Eat Foods
Ginza has one of the best culinary scenes in Tokyo, in fact there’s more Michelin stars here than anywhere else in the city. The area is especially famous for it’s fine dining sushi restaurants, but don’t worry if sushi isn’t your thing; there’s still a huge variety of other cuisines available.
As you might expect with its ritzy reputation, it can be expensive to eat out here, but luckily there’s plenty of cosy, budget joints tucked away in the narrow backstreets.
I’ll tell you about 3 of the best places to eat in Ginza where you can sample some of Japan’s best sushi, as well as traditional teppanyaki and ramen.
Sushi at Kyubey Ginza Honten
For some of the most highly prized and authentic sushi in town, head over to Kyubey Ginza Honten. This is one of the largest and most famous sushi establishments in Tokyo and is set over multiple levels. Despite its size it can still get busy, so make sure you book ahead.
For a truly Japanese experience, be brave and order the Omakase set, which literally means “entrust yourself to the chef”. They’ll prepare their own choice of mouth-watering sushi for you, right at your table. If you’re squeamish, be sure to ask them to omit the raw shrimp, which is served up still moving on your plate!
Teppanyaki at Ginza Ukai Tei
Teppanyaki, one of Japan’s most famous cuisines, involves grilling seasoned meat, fish or vegetables on a hot plate or iron griddle, and there’re few better places to try it than the Michelin-starred Ginza Ukai Tei.
The restaurant itself is pretty jaw-dropping; it resembles a kind of museum of traditional Japanese and western Art Nouveau antique furniture. You’ll take a tour of the restaurant during your meal, with various courses served over three rooms, with the option of a private room with your own personal chef.
People go wild for the wagyu steak here, along with the juicy scallops, long legged crab and blue lobster. With its Michelin star, you can probably guess this is a pricey restaurant, but it’s worth it for the incredible dining experience. Booking before 3pm for their lunchtime menu will shave a good chunk off the price.
Ramen at ABC Ramen
Another must-try Japanese dish is a classic bowl of Ramen. If you’re looking for an affordable, hearty and traditional meal in Ginza, ABC Ramen is the perfect hidden gem. It’s filled with locals (which is always a good sign), but there’s an English menu available on request.
The restaurant is tucked away on a side-street, down a flight of stairs, so it’s a little hard to find. If you get lost, ask for directions from the Apple store, it’s just around the corner.
Where to Stay, from Budget to Luxury
The choice of accommodation in Ginza is pretty overwhelming, so to help you decide where to stay, I’ve narrowed it down to 3 of Ginza’s best hotels, from budget to luxury.
Budget: Tokyo Ginza Bay Hotel
If you’re looking to save money while having a uniquely Japanese experience, this capsule hotel in central Ginza is a great option. The capsules are clean and surprisingly spacious, with roomy lockers provided for your belongings. The hotel is a couple of minutes walk to the main shopping street and about 20 minutes to the train station.
There’s also a convenience store just next door where you can stock up on essentials, as well as being easy walking distance to the Ginza Six mall, the Shiseido Gallery and Hakuhinkan Toy Park.
Mid Range: Hotel Musse Ginza Meitetsu
The Hotel Musse Ginza Meitetsu is just a ten minute walk from Shimbashi Station, Higashi Station and Ginza Station. Its super convenient location makes it a great base to explore the rest of Tokyo, as well as being stumbling distance from numerous eateries, bars and clubs.
This friendly hotel offers basic, clean and comfortable rooms at a fair price. There’s a 7 Eleven on the ground floor for stocking up on snacks and essentials, plus a Don-Quijote tax free shopping center right around the corner.
Luxury: The Peninsula Tokyo
This is easily one of the most prestigious and luxurious hotels in Tokyo, and it’s right in the middle of Ginza’s high class shopping area. The elegant rooms are some of the most spacious in the city.
As well as being super swanky, the location couldn’t be better; there’s a metro station actually attached to the side of the building, a train station a couple of minutes walk away, and restaurants galore right on your doorstep.
One of the most impressive things about The Peninsula Hotel is the incredible views from the pool and fitness area, as well as the rooftop Peter’s Bar and Restaurant.
How To Get There From the Airport
Narita Airport (the international airport serving Tokyo) is not actually in Tokyo, it’s about 70km/43 miles east of the city, so it’s best to allow extra time for transfers, no matter which mode of transport you choose.
That said, there are several ways to get from Narita airport to Ginza. Out of the options below, the cheapest and best value for money is the Keisei Bus Airport Shuttle, while a taxi is the quickest and most convenient way.
By Keisei Bus Airport Shuttle
Keisei Bus operates a low cost shuttle service that goes from the airport directly to Ginza station. This is by far the cheapest way to reach Ginza, with a one way ticket costing 1000 JPY (~$9.20). The shuttle takes around 90 minutes, depending on the traffic. Buses are frequent, leaving the airport every 20 minutes.
A quicker and more convenient way of getting to Ginza from the airport is to take a private taxi. These can seat up to 4 passengers, and take around 80 minutes depending on traffic. The advantage here is that you get dropped off directly at the door of your hotel, although it’s considerably more expensive, at 21770 JPY (~$200).
By Shared Shuttle Transfer
Another convenient option is a shared shuttle transfer which you can book through Get Your Guide. The shuttle takes around 80 minutes to reach Ginza and will drop you off directly at your door. You’ll travel with other passengers going to nearby areas, so you may need to allow extra time depending on how many drop offs are before yours. The shared shuttle transfer costs 9776 JPY ($90) per person and needs to be booked in advance.
Conclusion & Summary
Ginza is a fantastic place for shopping, eating and drinking, while getting a taste for the more luxurious side of Tokyo life.
It’s one of the best places in Japan to try sushi or splash out on a dinner to remember. The streets of Ginza are also perfect for people watching and soaking up the quintessential Tokyo vibe.
I hope this guide helps you get the best out of your time in Ginza.
Happy travels! 🙂