Saturday, November 19, 2011
Ginza (銀座?) is a district of Chūō, Tokyo, located south of Yaesu and Kyōbashi, west of Tsukiji, east of Yūrakuchō and Uchisaiwaichō, and north of Shinbashi.
It is known as an upscale area of Tokyo with numerous department stores, boutiques, restaurants and coffeehouses. Ginza is recognized as one of the most luxurious shopping districts in the world. Many upscale fashion clothing flagship stores are located here, being also recognized as having the highest concentration of western shops in Tokyo. Prominent are Chanel, Dior, Gucci, and Louis Vuitton. Flagship electronic retail stores like the Sony showroom and the Apple Store are also here.
Ginza is named after the silver-coin mint established there in 1612 during the Edo period.
Ginza as it appeared in the late 1870s-1880s (Miniature model at the Edo-Tokyo Museum)After the Tsukiji area burnt to the ground in 1872, the Meiji government designated the Ginza area as model of modernisation. The government planned the construction of fireproof brick buildings, and larger, better streets connecting the Shimbashi Station and the foreign concession in Tsukiji, as well as to important government buildings. Designs for the area were provided by the Irish-born architect Thomas Waters; the Bureau of Construction of the Ministry of Finance was in charge of construction. In the following year, a Western-style shopping promenade on the street from the Shinbashi bridge to the Kyōbashi bridge in the southwestern part of Chūō with two- and three-story Georgian brick buildings was completed.
"Bricktown" buildings were initially offered for sale, later they were leased, but the high rent meant that many remained unoccupied. Nevertheless, the area flourished as a symbol of "civilisation and enlightenment", thanks to the presence of newspapers and magazine companies, who led the trends of the day. The area was also known for its window displays, an example of modern marketing techniques.
Most of these European-style buildings disappeared, but some older buildings still remain, most famously the Wakō building with the now-iconic Hattori Clock Tower. The building and clock tower were originally built by Kintarō Hattori, the founder of Seiko.
Its recent history has seen it as a promiment outpost of western luxury shops. Ginza is a popular destination on weekends, when the main north-south artery is closed to traffic. The traffic blockade began in the 1960s under governor Ryokichi Minobe.