Ginza Area

The delights on display in the department store food halls make it nearly impossible to choose

Ginza has always been known as the luxury shopping district of Tokyo, but it’s the hidden delights that are well worth seeking out.

Like Art Aquarium! This used to be a seasonal event, but now there is a permanent installation called the Art Aquarium Museum.

At the Art Aquarium Museum, living goldfish are showcased in sculptured aquariums, with choreographed lights and music.
Each exhibit is a constantly changing delight of fish and light
Contemplating goldfish is the age-old way Japanese endure the summer heat, and Tokyo’s aquariums step up to the task with a bunch of cool exhibitions in the summertime. Here are the best ones


The Mitsukoshi department store (exit A7) is a worthwhile dip into the best of the famous department stores, and my favorite floor is downstairs: the food hall. One step inside and you’ll see why.

They sell more than sweets in the food hall – check out these killer salads!

B-1 (Basement food hall): Desserts, tea, traditional sweets, fresh take-out savory foods (skewered chicken, savory dumplings, tempura, barbequed eel, yakisoba, salads, Chinese food & more.) Everything looks so delicious, it’s like an art museum of every food imaginable, and all of them are from Japan’s most famous makers. (Note: if you buy something – and I dare you to leave without a shopping bag in hand, wafting delicious smells – you have to take it home to eat it – there’s nowhere to sit and eat take-out in the neighborhood.)

B-2: This is a super high-end grocery store, stocked with premium versions of all your favorite Japanese ingredients. If coming home with a suitcase of only-in-Japan fixings is on your shopping list, you’ll certainly find a good selection to choose from here. And best of all, they have refrigerator lockers you can use for free to store your perishables while doing your other shopping!

Stash your perishables here and get your ¥100 back when you pick them up

And even if you think you’re not interested in traditional Japanese theatre (although you should be, and here’s why), just a few blocks away is the Kabuki-za theatre, where the famous white-faced heros, villains and blushing maidens are all played by men.

If you’d like to go to the kabuki, there are several options, from a whole show (three acts) to same-day tickets for viewing just one act, or the Kabukiza Gallery, where ten bucks will get you a five minute glimpse of the current live show and an up close and selfie-friendly experience with some of the props. More info on how to do that here


Back on the dreaded flagship shopping street, I want to show you the one fabulous side effect of the neverending quest to lure free-spending customers: some stores are adding attractions that we can enjoy for FREE!

This gorgeously animated creation is in Ginza Six. It falls from the fifth floor to the third, inside the front wall. You’ll find the top next to the Tumi luggage store, and the bottom next to Moschino.

And while you’re there, the fifth floor has some shops full of amazing modern Japanese design goods. Most are silly expensive, but there are some (like the one called Cibone) which have less expensive goods, like this:.

Cibone might not have these exact square fruit balloons, but they always have some great riff on origami, usually for less than ¥1000

But those are a little out of my price range, so let’s push on to the KitKat Chocolatory!

This is the swanky Japanese home of the iconic wafer bars – to check out the only-in-Japan flavors, and maybe even buy a few gifts for friends back home.
Inside they sell all their “premium” flavors – made from more expensive ingredients – and their limited edition seasonal offerings (which were a somewhat baffling Yuzu Sake and Strawberry Maple flavor when I was last there)
You can mix & match your awn assortment in gift boxes of 3 or 10, at no extra charge
Or even get your choco noshes personalized! Writing the message of your dreams takes 40-60 minutes, on either the white chocolate or milk chocolate flavors


And now it’s time for The Best Coffee In The WorldCafé Bechet is just around the corner, and I’m never disappointed by the hand-dripped brew made from beans roasted daily, measured out bean by bean, and ground fresh for every cup.

Be patient - the secret to this amazing cup o'joe is that they take their time with the pouring.
Be patient – the secret to this amazing cup o’ joe is that they take their time with the pouring.


On our way back to the subway station, we need to make a last pit stop at the Matsuya Ginza department store food hall, so I can stock up on killer miso peanuts from this counter:

“Mamegen” is the name of the venerable maker of supremely tasty, traditional, sweet and salty snacks made from roasted soybeans, peanuts and other nuts. There’s a flavor for every taste, from spicy wasabi to green tea. At ¥400-600, these make ideal gifts for friends back home (but be sure to buy enough for yourself too, or you’ll be unable to part with them!)


Most stores in Ginza open from 10:00 am

The Last Tea Bowl Thief was chosen as an Editor’s Pick for Best Mystery, Thriller & Suspense on Amazon

 For three hundred years, a missing tea bowl passes from one fortune-seeker to the next, changing the lives of all who possess it…read more

“A fascinating mix of history and mystery.” —Booklist

Jonelle Patrick writes novels set in Japan, produces the monthly e-magazine Japanagram, and blogs at Only In Japan and The Tokyo Guide I Wish I’d Had

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