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Ginza: Tokyo’s beacon of prosperity

by

Staff Photographer

Ginza, Tokyo’s posh shopping and entertainment district, has delighted visitors for over a century with high-end shops selling everything from jewelry and clothing to sweets and stationery.

But the Ginza area was once part of the sea. Reclaimed during the Edo Period (1603-1867) as part of the shogunate’s plan to develop the area, the district takes its name from “gin,” meaning silver, and “za,” for office, after a mint was set up there in 1612.

The Kabukiza theater, which reopened in April 2013 after a three-year revamp, has hosted several renowned kabuki productions. It first opened its doors in 1889; the current structure is its fifth incarnation.
The Kabukiza theater, which reopened in April 2013 after a three-year revamp, has hosted several renowned kabuki productions. It first opened its doors in 1889; the current structure is its fifth incarnation. | SATOKO KAWASAKI

Interestingly enough, it was a devastating fire in 1872 that paved the way for Ginza’s lasting prosperity. Burned to the ground, the area was redeveloped with the goal of making it as fire-resistant as possible.

Using London and Paris as examples, the infrastructure was modernized by using bricks to build homes and sidewalks, and gas lamps to light the streets.

Reborn as “Bricktown,” Ginza soon became flush with tourists and shoppers who turned it into one of the glitziest places in the world.

After surviving the massive 1923 earthquake and the war, Ginza continues to evolve.

A rush of redevelopment projects has altered Ginza in recent years, with a giant new shopping complex to replace the Matsuzakaya Ginza department store due to open in November 2016. Another large commercial building is being erected at the bustling Sukiyabashi intersection.

Ginza is likely to be a popular spot during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics as several hotels are due to pop up there to accommodate the tourist influx.

Ginza 5-chome is one of the most expensive pieces of real estate in the nation. Before the bubble economy imploded around 1991, land prices in the area had soared to ¥36.5 million per square meter.
Ginza 5-chome is one of the most expensive pieces of real estate in the nation. Before the bubble economy imploded around 1991, land prices in the area had soared to ¥36.5 million per square meter. | SATOKO KAWASAKI
Toyoiwa Inari Shrine, tucked away in an alley between buildings in Ginza 7-chome, is just one of 26 shrines scattered across the Ginza district.
Toyoiwa Inari Shrine, tucked away in an alley between buildings in Ginza 7-chome, is just one of 26 shrines scattered across the Ginza district. | SATOKO KAWASAKI
The Wako department store (left) at the Ginza 4-chome intersection deals in jewelry, watches and other luxury goods. It
The Wako department store (left) at the Ginza 4-chome intersection deals in jewelry, watches and other luxury goods. It’s clock tower, built in 1932, is one of the district’s main landmarks. | SATOKO KAWASAKI

This section, appearing on the first Monday of each month, offers a snapshot view of areas that may interest tourists.