On my mental list of “Why didn’t I think of that first?” this is one of the more obvious items: the refrigerated coin locker! You know all those coin lockers you see at train stations, department stores and community centers all around the world? Well, in Japan, a few of them are actually refrigerated for when you have bought stuff that needs to be kept cool but you still want to hang around a little longer before heading home with your perishables! Here’s a bank of cool coin lockers I found in the Mitsukoshi Department store in Tokyo’s Ginza district.
If you like me enjoy taking pictures of the city from tall places, one of the most convenient places to do this in Ginza is the recently blogged about Mitsukoshi department store. Just go up to at least the 11th floor, wander around and here and there in the corners, near the elevators, in the smoke rooms etc. you will find sections of the wall used as a window and allowing for a decent view of the streets below. There are quite a few places like this around the city but most are not well known to tourists I think. The interior of this department store gets quite beautiful once you get to the uppermost floors, all natural colors, cute cafes, calm surfaces and a much nice atmosphere than the more cramped shopping floors beneath. I do not know if you are actually allowed to take photos in here, but I think it is a nice place and deserve to be better known than it is! I had lunch at the Minori Cafe last summer and it was actually quite good.
The famous, and very expensive, Mitsukoshi department store in Ginza has a well kept secret in it rooftop garden, one of the few green areas of Tokyo’s posh Ginza district. The rooftop garden has been around for a few years now and it is getting better every summer with more greenery, more flowers and more visitors. The department store is built in such a way that there is almost a second a department store on top of the first, with some very nice and quite reasonable (at least for Ginza) restaurants, art space and shops. Well worth a visit! Naturally, in the summer this garden gets a lot of visits from the bees of the Ginpachi beekeeping project I wrote about a couple of weeks ago and I remember seeing the little guys in action when I visited this place last summer and took these photos. There’s even a little shrine on the side of the garden which has services open to all once a month (I think). So the next time you are in Ginza, take a few minutes and get above street level to this oasis in the middle of the concrete!
Japan is the home of the giant department stores, and one of them is the Hankyu chain of department stores. Of all the major chains Hankyu is the one with the strongest presence in Western Japan, and the main store is in Osaka’s famous Umeda district. The new store in Ginza, just next to Yurakucho is called “Hankyu Men’s Tokyo” with a slogan that translates to something like “For the men on the world’s stage”. I haven’t been inside yet but someday maybe. Most major department stores have dedicated buildings to the men’s collections, the Isetan Men’s in Shinjuku being quite famous. In mixed stores the men’s floors are usually near the top. From the bottom, the layout is mostly: food basement, ground floor (make up or fashion, small items etc.), a few floor of ladies fashion, men’s floors, restaurants and cafes. Most Japanese women are quite particular as to their favorite department store chains!
Personally I am not sure if our cities (and this holds true whether you’re in NY, Leeds, Tokyo or Moscow) actually need more space dedicated to consumerism. It seems to me, that globally, the consumer culture that shaped and gave meaning to our city centers is changing. Book stores were the first to disappear, and I wonder just how sustainably, both economically and culturally this consumer culture really is? Perhaps this old department store building could have been better used as a space for makers, artists, students and families?