Having never been a tourist in Tokyo myself I don’t have a lot of the common points of information that many people often ask me – where are the cheapest hotels? What kind of train ticket packages do you recommend? What kind of cell phone coverage can I expect in Japan? Where do I withdraw cash from international ATM machines? …and so on. But the one thing I has managed to gather is that a lot of foreign tourists visit the Softbank store in Ginza to get Internet access to their cell phones for the duration of their visit to Japan. The Softbank store (It’s one of the biggest cell phone service providers in Japan) in Ginza makes creative use of a statue of their main spokesperson, a white dog starring in a long running series of commercials where he plays the father of a family (I don’t know the story so don’t ask!). At first I thought it was a real and very well behaved dog that was sitting there at the back entrance of the Softbank store in Ginza. There is another one at the front.
If you need phone access, you can do worse than visiting this store, and there’s lot of stuff to see in the neighborhood as well! Softbank’s English website is here, although I have never met a foreigner who could interpret their maps so I include a proper map you can print out and show the locals should you need to find the store on your first day in Tokyo!
In March this year the fourth incarnation of the Ginza Kabuki theatre opened. Originally founded in 1889, it burned down several times in earthquakes and wars, and in 2010 it was torn again to make room for a safer building. Even if you have been to the original building site it is hard to notice that the new building has been set back a few meters from the road, leaving more room in front of the theatre to make it more accessible. One of these days I am going to try and see one of the kabuki shows here!
I visited Seizan Gallery in Tokyo’s Ginza district to see the fantastic metal sculptures of Yoshirou Iwaisako (祝迫芳郎), an artist originally from Kagoshima prefecture, focusing on craft and metallurgy to create massive series of animals in imaginative warrior outfits. These photos show just a few of the ones he had on display which in turn was just a very few of his total production! He works in series of animals, this time chicks, but he’s also done scorpions, snakes, sheep, mice and many others in massive little armies! Keep an eye out for this guy, he knows his craft!
An epoch was ended in Ginza yesterday when the famous Matsuzakaya department stores closed up for good after 90 years in business. When the store opened in Ginza in 1924 it was the first Japanese department store that allowed customers to keep their shoes on through out the store, before that all Japanese stores had customers take their shoes off before entering. It had a massive 25.352 sq meters of retails space. The company itself stays alive and healthy though, having started as a kimono cloth store in 1611 in the center of Nagoya.
The Ginza store survived World War 2 but it could not survive the downturn in economics and the changing trends among Japanese consumers. After demolishing the building a new shopping mall will take its place in 2016. On the last day of business tens of thousands of people thronged to get a last chance to experience the store but it was far too crowded for me!