Tokyo’s Ginza district has established itself as Japan’s shopping mecca, drawing in people from all over the world.

Yet the bustling area is further evolving, with several major redevelopment projects taking place this year and beyond.

But how exactly is Ginza being transformed?

In this week’s FYI, we look at Ginza’s redevelopment projects.

What projects were recently completed and what is coming up?

Two major shopping complexes have opened in Ginza this year.

Tokyu Land Corp. opened the Tokyu Plaza shopping facility with 125 shops in March, while Sapporo Breweries unveiled its Ginza Place complex, which has a Nissan Motor Corp. showroom and official store in September.

Next April, the Ginza Six mall will debut where the Matsuzakaya department store, which was Ginza’s oldest emporium, formerly stood. The 147,900-sq.-meter shopping facility will be the biggest of its kind in Ginza, featuring 241 stores, a rooftop garden and traditional noh performance theater.

The Sony Building, another landmark of Ginza, will be demolished next year, with the site to become a temporary park. Sony eventually plans to open a new building on the site, sometime around 2022.

Major newspaper company Asahi Shimbun Co. also plans to open a 12-story building that will house the Hyatt Centric Hotel in 2018.

Why are the redevelopments happening now?

While some big projects have been in the planning for up to a decade, aging structures are one major factor for the flurry of development, said Eriko Takezawa, secretary-general of Ginza Machidukuri Council, which consists of dozens of store representatives and discusses the district’s development.

She said many buildings in Ginza date back to the 1960s, so they need to be rebuilt, especially to improve their earthquake resistance.

The 2020 Tokyo Olympics and rapidly increasing numbers of international visitors may be stimulating investment in Ginza as well, Takezawa said.

Are there any similarities in the new redevelopment projects?

Some of the new shopping complex designs are quite new to Ginza.

While Ginza is famous for traditional department stores, such as Mitsukoshi and Matsuya, as well as fast fashion brands like Uniqlo and luxury overseas brands, it did not have a huge modern shopping mall.

The new Tokyu Plaza building boasts a modern exterior and interior design, while the under-construction Ginza Six has a similar concept.

“People from various generations have different needs for where they want to go and how they want to spend time,” so Ginza welcomes these new shopping malls since they can attract new customers, said Keisuke Okamoto, an executive of the Ginza Machidukuri Council.

Launching something new is important for developers to pull more shoppers back from online stores, as well as to appeal to the growing ranks of overseas travelers.

“We think now is the time for Ginza to meet the changing environment and evolve. We want to be a front-runner in global trends and attract people from around the world by providing new types of commercial complexes,” Ginza Six Retail Management, which is overseeing the Ginza Six project, said.

Another characteristic of the new projects is that they involve players not traditionally involved with the district.

For example, Mori Building Co., which is involved with the Ginza Six project, may be best known as the developer around the Roppongi district, including the Roppongi Hills complex. Tokyu group’s home territory, meanwhile, is Shibuya.

Okamoto said that unlike other areas of Tokyo where major builders lead urban development projects, Ginza has many stakeholders involved in small to large shopping projects, making its diversity one of the district’s strengths.

Does Ginza have special rules that developers must follow?

Okamoto said his council asks new developers to respect the district’s harmony.

Initially, the Ginza Six shopping complex was planned to be a nearly 200-meter-tall skyscraper, but the idea was not welcomed by other merchants in the area.

“It would be awkward” to have such a high-rise building in Ginza, said Okamoto, adding that Ginza values the ginbura concept, in which shoppers can walk around the district and visit a variety of stores.

Existing stores worried that if such a tall complex was built, visitors would be tempted to stay there and not experience other options on offer, he said.

As a result, Ginza Six followed the local guidelines of keeping the building’s height to 66 meters or less.

What does Ginza want to improve?

Although Ginza’s image as a shopping district is already well-established, Okamoto said there is still a lot more to do to improve the district.

“We are hoping to do something with traffic to make it safer for pedestrians,” since the area has many narrow streets open to cars, he said.

While the Ginza Six building will have office space to accommodate 3,000 workers, Okamoto said Ginza overall still lacks office space. If more companies come to Ginza, it would further stimulate shopping demand, he said.

Ginza Six Retail Management also pointed out that more offices will improve the Ginza brand.

“By actively inviting international major companies, Ginza could add more value to its brand as an area for creative workers, on top of its cultural and commercial value,” the company said.

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