Ginza is not for the faint of heart when it comes to spending. The streets are lined with upscale shops featuring glamorous names from fashion’s elites, and the well-dressed crowds moving between stores don’t seem at all fazed by sticker shock. At first glance, there doesn’t appear to be much in Ginza for the average cheapo, but there are many great deals to be had if one goes slightly off the beaten track.
Visit a legendary monster
Our first stop is not technically in Ginza, but is just two blocks outside the unofficial boundary of the region. Yurakucho and Ginza Stations put you close to a small but fierce-looking statue of Godzilla, the famous monster who is popular in Tokyo right now due to the release of the film Shin-Gojira this summer. This ferocious beast can be found in the middle of Hibiya’s Chanter Square next to Starbucks.
Address: 1-2-2 Yurakucho, Chiyoda, Tokyo
Arts and crafts time
Walking down the main street of the Ginza region brings you to the Itoya stationery store and its easy-to-spot red paperclip sign, which heralds twelve levels of cute items for writing and home decor at a variety of price ranges. It is fun just to wander through and look at all of the goods, but Itoya also frequently hosts free craft areas. Last time I visited, there was a station overflowing with rolls of adorable washi tape where you could decorate cute paper Halloween masks in the shape of a bear face.
Enjoy some tunes
The southern part of Ginza’s main street houses the gorgeous Yamaha flagship store, where you can buy instruments, sheet music, CDs, or even hear a concert in one of their two state-of-the-art performances spaces. On the CD floor, you can listen to classical and jazz CDs for free for hours, and many of the latest recordings by top artists are available to enjoy. The sheet music floor houses an unbelievable collection of printed scores including music from anime, which are often featured on display tables in the main aisles. Many people come here to buy inexpensive sheet music from the Studio Ghibli films.
Drink coffee surrounded by anime figures
Just a few blocks east of the Yamaha store on a small side street is one of my favorite places in Tokyo, Cheepa’s Café. Owned by a retired toy company executive, this two-story café is decorated with anime figurines and toys from the present day back to the Showa era. The food and drinks are delicious and reasonably priced, and you can easily relax in this tidy, cozy café. I especially love the hot chocolate, which I order every time! The third floor houses a gallery of exhibitions on anime and manga. The owner’s professional connections allow him to host unique exhibitions by some of the most famous anime and manga creators in Japan, and these exhibitions are always free or cost only a few hundred yen.
Eat cheap and delicious kushiage
The kushiage (deep-fried skewers) restaurant Isomura is in the basement of busy building just north of the famous Kabukiza Theater. If you visit between 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m., a mere 930 yen gets you an amazing lunch special consisting of eight skewers (meat and veggies), raw veggie sticks, rice, miso soup, pickles, and sherbet. To make it even better, the veggie sticks, rice, miso soup, and pickles can all be refilled, making it impossible for you to walk away hungry. The kushiage skewers are crisp and tasty, each one served to you fresh from the fryer, and you get to toss the empty sticks into the mouth of an adorable ceramic fish when you are finished eating!