There’s no denying it - at first glance, the buildings in Tokyo are dreary, colossal and overall just drabs of concrete. Sure, when night falls, the neon lights and flashing bulbs turn on, twinkling this metropolis into an avant-garde futuristic realm. But during the day? You’ll have to take a closer look at Tokyo’s architectural scene to appreciate the city’s beauty in the sunlight. Once you do, you’ll see how special Tokyo is, even though the city has no defining skyline. During my time living in Tokyo, I’ve uncovered some of my favourite buildings and architectural beauties that make this city just so unique to its own identity that straddle between tradition and modernity. Head to Ginza, where these memorable architecture are, and you’ll see how these buildings make its own imprint on this city. Curious? Follow me on Instagram and YouTube for more adventures!
Of course, Tokyo’s wild wild West-like of building styles all traces back to when Japan’s capital got bombed by the allies in World War II. The decades following the war, the uprising from the ashes of Tokyo was rebuilt in a mis-shape cohort of loose regulations that lead to experimental designs. This often happens after a tragedy, as seen by the bombings during the second world war that paved way for the funky architecture in the Dutch city of Rotterdam, or the Great fire that swept across Chicago, allow the city to transform into he architectural jewel of the U.S that it is today.
Tokyo is no different - but with the land that buildings are on being more valuable than the building design itself. Because of Tokyo’s long history with earthquakes and other natural disasters, buildings have a much shorter lifespan than plot of land. Thus the saying goes, every 20 or so years, Tokyo looks like a different city. With that, people are more daring to explore various styles, and unique and playful designs that give buildings much more of an experience than just a utilitarian purpose. So while on the big picture, the buildings don’t really stand out, but on the ground level, there are some, specifically the ones in Ginza, that are absolutely stunning to see in person.
For those who are new to the city, Ginza is a fashionable shopping district in Tokyo that is known for its upscale boutiques, department stores, and rows after rows of luxury brand shops. The buildings in Ginza are considered cool for several reasons, including their innovative architecture, unique designs, and attention to detail - standing out from all of the other neighbourhoods in the city. While you’re there shopping or just having a stroll, be sure to keep an out of for these stellar forms of architecture piercing through Ginza.
Address: Japan, 〒104-8105 Tokyo, Chuo City, Ginza, 4 Chome−5−11 セイコーハウス
An unmissable landmark building in Ginza, the Wako Building features a striking historical clock tower. It was originally built in 1932 and designed by the architect Jin Watanabe in the gorgeous Art Deco style. Fun fact, the clock itself is known for its precision and is one of the most accurate timepieces in Japan. The building now houses a high-end department store.
Address: Japan, 〒104-8145 Tokyo, Chuo City, Ginza, 2-chōme−4−12 MIKIMOTO Ginza 2
This structure is home to the flagship store of the Mikimoto pearl company. The building's façade features unique spotted design that are irregular in shapes dotted up and down the 9 stories. It reminds me of a dinosaur’s back, or a rectangular tub of Swiss cheese… what do you think?
Address: 6-chōme-10-1 Ginza, Chuo City, Tokyo 104-0061, Japan
Opened in 2017, Ginza Six is a modern shopping complex with an eye-catching glass façade on the outside - but the real treasure is a few step inside. The building houses a range of high-end boutiques, restaurants, and cultural spaces, where in the main atrium, has an ever-changing display of art and sculptures.
Address: 5-chōme-8-1 Ginza, Chuo City, Tokyo 104-0061, Japan
Ginza Place seriously looks like something out of an anime - or at least fitting for another rendition of the cyberpunk aesthetic in Blade Runner. The building was designed by the award-winning architect, Yoshio Taniguchi, who is also responsible for designing the renovation of the Museum of Modern Art in New York. One of the most striking features of Ginza Place that you can’t help but notice is its distinctive façade, which is made up of an intricate network of thin aluminum fins. These fins serve to regulate the amount of sunlight that enters the building, while also creating a unique visual effect from the outside.
Louis Vuitton Tokyo Ginza Namikidori
Address: 7-6-1, Ginza 104-0061 Chuo-ku, Japan
There's quite a few Louis Vuitton stores in Ginza - but this particular structure, designed by the architect Jun Aoki, is a striking example of contemporary architecture. The building features a façade made up of over 10,000 glass panels, each of which is cut in a unique shape and angle. This gives the building a shimmering, iridescent appearance that changes with the light throughout the day. My first time spotting this building was at sunset, when an ethereal glow emits from the building due to the golden hour (you can literally see what I mean from the photo I took above).
Address: 4-chōme-12-15 Ginza, Chuo City, Tokyo 104-0061, Japan
Like the Wako building, Ginza isn’t all just glass and shimmering modernity! This is a theatre and entertainment complex for those who are interested in traditional Japanese performing arts, particularly kabuki. The original Kabukiza theatre was built in 1889, but was destroyed by fire several times throughout its history (going back to how Tokyo was fledged by natural disasters). The current building, designed by the architect Kengo Kuma, opened in 2013 and features a striking façade that incorporates traditional Japanese design elements. One of the most distinctive features of the Kabukiza building is its rooftop garden, which provides a peaceful oasis in the heart of this ever-frenetic neighbourhood. The garden is designed to resemble a traditional Japanese landscape, with carefully manicured trees, rocks, and water features.
Address: Ginza Six, 6 Chome-10-1 Ginza, Chuo City, Tokyo 104-0061, Japan
The Fendi building on the main strip of Ginza is one hard not to miss. One of the most striking features of the Fendi building is its façade, which is made up of a series of undulating metal ribbons that wrap around the building - for fashion lovers, we know that Fendi is a long cherish Italian house. Looking at this structure from the street, you can see how the ribbons resemble a Roman colosseum. Since it’s made out of a special aluminum alloy that has been treated to give it the texture and colour that is has now, the building looks like it has a sense of movement and fluidity that is unlike anything else in the Ginza district.
Address: Japan, 〒104-0061 Tokyo, Chuo City, Ginza, 7-chōme−5−5
This building is home to the headquarters of the Shiseido cosmetics company. Its design features a striking, curved red façade made up of over 7,000 individual glass panels glistening on the street from every angle.
Dior House of Dior Ginza
Address: Ginza Six 1F, 6-chōme-10-1 Ginza, Chuo City, Tokyo 104-0061, Japan
Every time I walk on the main street of Ginza, a certain distinctive facade always glistens in my eye. Home to the house of Dior, this glass structure was designed by the renowned Japanese architect, SANAA, and opened in 2004. Right away, the first thing you'll take in is how the building is made up of a series of curved, glass panels that wrap around the entire building. The panels create a sense of movement and fluidity, and they reflect the surrounding cityscape in a way that is both striking and beautiful amongst the Ginza set - being a visually appealing example of contemporary architecture.
Ginza, TokyoGinza, Chuo City, Tokyo 104-0061, Japan
Where to Stay in Ginza, Tokyo
Tokyo's most luxurious and fashionable neighbourhood is also one of its biggest - making it a great base for your stay while exploring Japan's capital city. If you don't want to break the bank but also have the utmost privacy, check out staying at Henn na Hotel Tokyo Ginza. Another great option is Sotetsu Fresa Inn Ginza-Nanachome, which has friendly hospitality and very cosy interiors. Of course if you want to stay in full luxury, in the heart of this beating neighbourhood then Hotel Musse Ginza Meitetsu is the place to be.
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