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14 best things to do in Ginza besides shopping

Tokyo’s glitzy neighbourhood is more than just a retail paradise. Don’t miss these restaurants, cafés, galleries and more

Written by
Time Out Tokyo Editors
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When you think of Ginza, your mind immediately goes to glittering high-rise buildings full of luxe fashion flagships and department stores filled with even more floors of shopping. But beyond all that retail therapy, Ginza is also home to a handful of renowned restaurants, age-old cafés and more art than you can pack into a day. If you’re looking to enjoy a new side of Ginza, check out these spots the next time you’re in the area.

Note: these venues might close early depending on the current Covid-19 measures. Please check with the individual outlets for the latest business hours.

RECOMMENDED: Check out the best things to do in Shibuya

Restaurants

  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Ginza

The shopping enclave of Ginza is the last place you’d expect to find a Bib Gourmand meal for just ¥1,000. But on weekday lunchtimes, this anomaly of a restaurant, tucked away in a narrow basement in a back alley, serves excellent tendon (tempura on rice) for just that. It’s a steal, considering dinner here will set you back at least ¥5,500.

This place has serious pedigree: the proprietor Chef Abe had previously worked at Nadaman, one of the city’s top Japanese restaurants, for 30 years. Prawn tempura is a speciality: you’ll get two of these perfectly executed fritters plus three kinds of seasonal vegetables with the Oebi tendon lunch, or a large shrimp-and-vegetable fritter plus a tempura egg with the kakiage don. Whichever you choose, you can count on fresh ingredients and non-greasy batter, and a filling ¥1,000 meal that includes miso soup and pickles.

  • Restaurants
  • Ramen
  • Ginza

Hungry diners should seek out this chic noodle joint in Ginza, which specialises in spicy, mapo-style ramen noodles. Whipped up by a former Chinese restaurant chef, the mapo-men (¥1,000) is made with ample amounts of mouth-numbing Sichuan pepper, bound to get your tear ducts working. Thankfully, if you’d prefer to customise your bowl, the restaurant lets you choose from three levels of spiciness: light, medium and heavy. If need be, add a bit of the sansho oil provided on each table for an extra punch; it'll make the noodles all the more fragrant.

The menu also includes the popular jiru-nashi tantanmen (soupless dandan noodles, ¥980), a regular tantanmen (dandan noodles in soup, ¥1,000) featuring ground meat, nuts and coriander, and a sanra-anmen (sweet and sour soup noodles, ¥1,000) – all of which are classic Japanese-Chinese dishes. If you’re coming for lunch, drop by a bit early as the shop is known to sell out pretty quickly.

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  • Restaurants
  • Ginza

The 10th-floor of the iconic Shiseido building in Ginza is home to some of Tokyo’s most creative and elegant plant-forward dining. Faro re-opened at the end of 2018 with executive chef Kotaro Noda at its helm, bringing to the table 20 years of experience cooking in Italy along with his Michelin-level accolades. His dishes combine the delicacy and precision of Japanese kaiseki multi-course dining with the soulfulness of Italian cuisine. For desserts, you can look forward to the inspired creations of Mineko Kato, who also trained in Italy.

  • Restaurants
  • Ginza

Sister shop to their ever-popular Kyoto-based restaurant, this is the perfect spot to get your late-night gyoza fix as most nights it's open till an early 3am. The Kyoto-born shop is best known for their signature dumplings stuffed with a savoury garlic and leek filling and crisp exterior, but their ginger gyoza which contains no garlic or onion are a popular alternative for those who are wary about serious garlic breath. Other than the gyoza, the simple menu is rounded off with a few side dishes and drinks, making them a must-eat spot for serious dumpling eaters.

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  • Restaurants
  • Ramen
  • Higashi-Ginza

The world-conquering ramen may have the reputation of being a pragmatic comfort food, but over at Ginza Hachigo, it’s elevated into a refined, elegant dish. Owner-chef Yasushi Matsumura’s training has much to do with this; once you realise he’s worked more than 30 years in French cuisine, you’ll see how this bowl of ramen came into being.

Ginza Hachigo’s ramen soup is like consommé: a clear liquid gold that’s light yet complex and full of flavour. It’s made by boiling down Nagoya Cochin chicken, duck, scallop, dried tomatoes and shiitake mushrooms, konbu (seaweed), an heirloom green onion from Kyoto and surprisingly, cured ham. Where your standard bowl of ramen calls for tare, a sauce concentrate that acts like a seasoning, Matsumura eschews that for a sprinkling of French sea salt to round out the flavours. And it’s just phenomenal.

Cafés

  • Restaurants
  • Tea rooms
  • Ginza

This tea salon puts a fresh twist on traditional Japanese confectionery. As well as the typical combination of green tea and sweets like cold kuzu noodles, the salon also serves alcohol – ask the staff which beer, shochu or wine goes best with your sweets. They also offer a sparse food menu, including a sumptuous lunch tray with five small dishes, miso soup, rice, green tea and wagashi. It's a spot relaxing enough for hours of lingering in busy Ginza.

  • Restaurants
  • Coffeeshops
  • Ginza
  • price 2 of 4

'Coffee Only' reads the sign outside Café de l'Ambre, which has been keeping the Ginza hordes well caffeinated since 1948. The kissaten was founded by the late Ichiro Sekiguchi, and the staff on-hand continue to run the shop under his legacy. Though they treat their coffee with the utmost seriousness, this isn't one of those fussy, killjoy coffee temples where conversation has to be conducted in furtive whispers and customers need a secret handshake to get through the door (we exaggerate, but only slightly).

The interior looks like it was last remodeled in the early '80s, although some of the equipment is clearly much older, and it's also the only coffee shop we've visited that has a washing machine behind the counter, on account of the cloth filters used when preparing drinks. Take your pick between a lone blend coffee and 15-odd single origin varieties, including a few aged coffees. The air of accessibility extends to English-language menus, and practically demands that you order something odd.

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  • Restaurants
  • Cafés
  • Ginza

The commercial hub of Ginza may be the last place you’d expect to find a local and independent coffee roaster, but Toriba Coffee is just that. A gorgeous golden-hued space of high ceilings and shiny chrome fixtures, this boutique coffee specialist makes a wonderful pitstop for freshly roasted beans as well as a caffeine boost at the tasting bar.

The roasting process happens on the second floor – just ask the staff and they’ll take you upstairs for a look – and the beans then get transported down via a dumbwaiter. Toriba offers five signature blends using a variety of beans from across the coffee-producing world, plus one single-origin Kona coffee that’s harvested from its very own plantation in Hawaii. The roasts are just as varied, with options from light to medium, dark and even acidic, and there’s merchandise too, including coffee-flavoured awamori (Okinawan rice liquor).

  • Restaurants
  • Cafés
  • Ginza

This Ginza shop and café specialises in ginger syrups and fruit confitures, and its shaved ice creations combine the two. The year-round kakigori menu consists of shaved ice topped with housemade ginger milk and served with a jar of confiture (kiwi, strawberry or orange ginger). Its monthly seasonal selections are equally stunning: think foamy espuma or milk tea cream topped with blueberries and mini macarons.

Things to do

  • Things to do
  • Weird & Wonderful

On the edge of Ginza stands what looks like a precarious heap of run-down washing machines. The Nakagin Capsule Tower, comprising 140 individual capsules, was once a beacon of modern architecture, but is now a relic of 1970s Tokyo. The building is in need of costly repairs, and according to Asahi Shimbun could soon be sold, making its future uncertain. But for now, you still have a chance to see it from the inside and get a glimpse of what it’s like to live in a prime example of Japanese Metabolist architecture.

Every few months, the tower holds an online lottery, giving Tokyoites the chance to stay in a capsule room for a whole month. There are seven apartments available, including one that has been refurbished by Muji. If you don’t want to commit to living in the building for a full month, you can sign up for a tour of the building instead. The next tours will be held in July, with only a few slots still up for grabs.

  • Art
  • Ginza

At the latest teamLab exhibit held at Ginza 456, you can step into an enchanted digital forest full of butterflies. The exhibition is interactive and you can download an app to 'catch' different specimens to study them before releasing them back into the wild. You can also reach out to and try to touch the butterflies, though they will quickly fly away from your hand. When you snap a picture of a butterfly through the app, it disappears from the forest and will remain on your phone until you have gotten enough information for your app's collection book.

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  • Art
  • Ginza

Suspended in the atrium of Ginza Six is the department store’s latest public art installation by Kyoto-based artist Kohei Nawa. The installation features a sculpture of a deer floating above clouds, a creature that has appeared at the centre of many of Nawa’s coveted works for its symbolic ties to Shintoism and ancient Japanese history. 

There is more to the installation than meets the eye, with a corresponding app you can download to see the work come to life through your smartphone. In addition to the ‘Metamorphosis Garden’ installation, a handful of other works by Nawa will be available to experience through the use of AR technology. This includes the artist’s 2013 project ‘Foam’, which was presented at Aichi Triennale 2013 as well as his 2016 collaborative performance art piece with Belgium choreographer Damien Jalet, ‘Vessel’.

  • Art
  • Ginza

Like Maison Hermes, this place – run by cosmetics giant Shiseido – is more of a kunsthalle than a commercial gallery. It hosts important group and solo shows by contemporary Japanese and international artists such as Masato Nakamura and Roman Signer, as well as occasional retrospectives (Man Ray, for instance) and fashion-related shows. The gallery is located in the basement of the company’s Ricardo Bofill-designed headquarters.

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  • Art
  • Ginza

Now home to around 20 art galleries, the 1930s Okuno apartments were once some of the most luxurious abodes in the neighbourhood. Room 306 is a multi-purpose space hosting everything from exhibitions to talks – when visiting, make sure to check out the retro tiled exterior and Ginza's oldest manually operated lift.

Discover another 'hood

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