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 to do in Ginza besides max out your credit card, but that simply isn’t true. You just have to know where to look.
Visit a legendary monster
Our first stop is not technically in Ginza, but is just two blocks outside the unofficial boundary of the neighborhood. You’ll find this fierce-looking Godzilla statue in Hibiya Godzilla Square, right in front of Tokyo Midtown Hibiya. If you want to get up close and personal, head inside The Blue. This café is tucked behind the Godzilla statue and you can look out the window right at Godzilla as you sip your coffee.
Arts and crafts time
Walking down the main street of the Ginza brings you to the Itoya stationery store and its easy-to-spot red paperclip sign. Itoya is home to twelve levels of cute items for writing and home decor at a variety of price ranges. This shop is the perfect place to visit if you’re looking to give your home office a make over. If you’re after a more austere vibe check out Kyukyodo (link in Japanese) just a bit further down the road. Opened in 1663, this shop deals in high quality Japanese paper, calligraphy tools and incense. On the first floor you’ll also find a small collection of paper products like notebooks, coasters, and bookmarks, which make for excellent souvenirs. Finally, if you’re a painter you can’t go past Gekkō-sō. This shop is much smaller than the other two, but specializes in high quality paint — oil, water color, and gouache to be specific. You can also pick up paint brushes and paper while you’re there.
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. 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.
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 ¥1,000 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. Plus, you get to toss the empty sticks into the mouth of an adorable ceramic fish when you are finished eating!
Then grab some sweet treats for dessert
Ginza Sembikiya is a sweet and fruit parlor with a long history going back to 1894. Its Ginza branch is one of the few branches in Tokyo where you can dine in, and of course that means long lines to enter — especially on weekends. But if you’re patient enough, or visit on a weekday, you’ll be treated to a variety of fruity desserts from traditional anmitsu (a dessert with fruit and jelly) to elaborate fruit parfaits. Just keep in mind that the fancier the dessert looks, or the rarer the fruit, the more expensive it will be. Expect to pay about ¥1,500 for simple desserts like the anmitsu or a slice of strawberry shortcake, or ¥2,000 to ¥3,000 for an Instagram-worthy parfait.
If you’d rather take-away, they sell a range of fruit and fruit-flavored sweets on the first floor. Or head around the corner to Ginza Akebono, a sweets store specializing in traditional fare like mochi (sweet rice cakes) and daifuku (sweet rice cakes with filling). Here, a single piece of fresh mochi or daifuku will generally cost ¥200 to ¥300. You can also find prepackaged sweets and snacks like manjū (a small baked cake) or senbei (a rice cracker), sometimes for less than ¥200.
Visit a ‘living museum’
Or at least, that’s what the Zukan Museum likes to call itself. It’s more like a digital zoo, feauturing animals from all over the world. As you walk around the exhibition space you can learn about the animals and take plenty of photos. Yes, it’s a little like a TeamLab exhibition but a bit less pricey and more pixelated. Don’t let that put you off though, it’s still a fun experience. We especially recommend it for families with young children.
Tickets cost ¥2,500 for adults and ¥1,200 for elementary school students. That drops to ¥2,000 and ¥1,000 on weekdays, and even further to ¥1,700 and ¥900 on Wednesdays and the 16th of each month.
Or visit a free museum or gallery
Yes, even in Ginza some things are free. For watch enthusiasts, there’s the Seiko Museum which has exhibitions about, well, watches and clocks of course. There are even exhibits dedicated to traditional Japanese clocks (wadokei) and elemental time pieces.
If you prefer art, check out Ginza Graphic Gallery. This gallery is dedicated to graphic design, with a steady rotation of different exhibits. Other free galleries in the area include Pola Museum Annex, Palpito Gallery, and Galerie Taménaga Tokyo.
Catch a kabuki show
Want a taste of traditional Japanese performance arts? Then head just a little way down the road to Kabuki-za Theater. Here you can catch a kabuki show. What is kabuki? Imagine something like a musical, but with over-the-top make-up and costumes, and a distinctly Japanese aesthetic. Also, in kabuki all characters — regardless of gender — are played by men. Don’t worry though, there’s also an all-women equivalent called takarazuka, and you can catch their shows at Tokyo Takarazuka Theatre which is in the same area as the Godzilla statue we mentioned earlier.
Keep in mind that these shows are usually in Japanese, and olden-style Japanese at that. Plus, tickets can be get pricey — starting at ¥3,500 all the way up to ¥17,000. However, it is possible to snag cheaper tickets.
Shop, shop, shop
You really thought we wouldn’t mention this? Ginza is one of the most famous shopping neighborhoods in Tokyo, afterall. And to tell the truth, even though it’s known for luxury brands, there are also more affordable options. For example, Uniqlo, Zara, and Muji all have branches in Ginza. But, if you’ve got your heart set on something fancy remember to take your passport so you can at least shop tax-free at participating shops. Of course, this is only for temporary visitors though.
While we do our best to ensure it’s correct, information is subject to change. Last updated in February 2023 by Maria Danuco.