Japan

Tokyo: Ginza, Mariage Freres and Kabuki

The next morning we wanted to go and explore a different part of Tokyo and we picked Ginza. This district is Tokyo’s most famous upmarket shopping, dining and entertainment district, featuring numerous department stores, boutiques, art galleries, restaurants, night clubs and cafes.

One square meter of land in the district’s center is worth over ten million yen, making it one of the most expensive real estate in Japan. Virtually every leading brand name in fashion and cosmetics has a presence here.

When we got there on a Sunday morning, Chuo Dori street was closed for traffic and it was a big pedestrian zone for everyone to walk around. The only problem was the weather, it was raining – so not many people ventured out onto the streets.

We just walked around, taking in all the Western brands and expensive shops. There were some amazing department stores and we went inside Matsuzakaya (originally from Nagoya), which has a history that reaches back to the year 1611. Of course, we also went into the famous Mitsukoshi, which was opened in 1930 and offers goods and services on twelve floors. Mitsukoshi’s history reaches back to the year 1673. We strolled around in Mitsukoshi and the food hall was so amazing that I’ll post about it tomorrow.

When we left Mitsukoshi we walked through a few smaller streets with lovely boutique shops – and we suddenly noticed a familiar looking brown-coloured shop front. It was made out of lovely wood and the window display featured beautifully arranged tea – we stood in front of the famous French tea house Mariage Freres.

I had been lucky enough to visit it in Paris (there are several ones, but I love the traditional store close to Centre Pompidou) and I could not believe my eyes that a very similar looking store was here in Japan. Finally I could stock up on my supply of the wedding imperial tea, which is flavoured black tea with chocolates and caramel.

Our next planned stop was the Kabuki-za Theater – but unfortunately it was closed for renovation (my guidebook forgot to mention this, even if it was printed in 2010!). Kabuki pieces were performed in this theater until April 2010.

Kabuki is a traditional Japanese form of theater with roots tracing back to the Edo Period. It is recognized as one of Japan’s three major classical theaters along with noh and bunraku and is an art form rich in showmanship. It involves elaborately designed costumes, eye-catching make-up, outlandish wigs and exaggerated actions performed by the actors. The highly-stylized movements serve to convey meaning to the audience; this is especially important since an old-fashioned form of the Japanese language is traditionally being used, which is difficult even for some Japanese people to understand.

The theater is now being torn down and rebuilt at the base of a new skyscraper. The facade and interior of the new theater will resemble the previous structure. The new theater is scheduled to open in spring 2013.

Useful info:

  • Here’s a English-language website with info about Ginza
  • There are quite a few Mariage Freres shops in Tokyo, the one in Ginza is the main one with the tea salon. It’s at Suzuran-Dori, 5-6-6 Ginza, Chuo-Ku, Tokyo, Tel: +81 3 3572 1854
  • The Kabuki-za theater is undergoing reconstruction and closed to the public until 2013. I could not find any English language version of its website 
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