Tokyobling's Blog

Okuno Building Gallery – Ginza’s Oldest Apartments

Posted in Places by tokyobling on August 17, 2014

Ginza is known for money, riches, luxury brands and high fashion, it is a city in the city for people who have wealth or who like to spend it. Ginza has always been associated with money, even the name Ginza comes from licensed coin minting operation in the area back in the Edo period of Japan (in this case it was established in 1612). In the 1870a Ginza was one of the first areas of Japan to get western style brick buildings as a way of attracting investment and showing of Japan’s newfound sense of modernity. But what happens when former luxury houses grow old? As times and fashions move on the buildings remain standing and although most of them are torn down, the second oldest building in Ginza, the Okuno Building remains standing. Constructed in 1932 as a luxury apartment complex the building survived World War II and the building boom of the 1980s it is now one of the oldest apartment buildings in the country, the oldest in Ginza and the second oldest building in Ginza overall (the oldest is the Daiichi Ginza Biru, 第一銀緑ビル, constructed in 1924). Up until a few years ago there were almost identical buildings in Harajuku and Ueno but they have gone under the wrecking ball. In 1932 it was still extremely unusual to have people living in western style concrete buildings. These days the former apartments and shops have been converted to about 50 working galleries, artist’s studios and small artisan shops.

The interior matches the exterior perfectly and is wonderfully old, rusty and worn down. Flaking paint, bent railings, deep ruts worn into the concrete floor, it looks more like an abandoned ghost complex than a working building. During weekdays and weekends there’s a steady stream of people coming in and out of the building. With so many galleries there is an opening almost every day and new and old artists mix and meet in the narrow corridors. Some galleries are modern and ultra-hip, using high tech and the showing the latest fashions, others look more like your old Granny’s collection of antique toys. You are never likely to be able to visit all the galleries but there’s always enough of them open to make it worthwhile to visit the building.

Even the elevator is an original working antique and manually operated meaning that you have to close and open the doors by yourself. There are stern warnings to not forget to close the doors after you leave. You don’t see many elevators like this any more and most people I saw entering the building took one look at it and then opted for the stairs. Me included.

I hope to go back soon and get better photos, but for now, here are the (scary looking) interior corridors and stairs. It feels like going on urban ruin safari even though the building is still functioning and in the middle of the most expensive shopping district in the world! I would love to meet someone who actually experienced living in this building! The address to this building is Ginza 1−9−8 and the best subway exit is Ginza Itchome Station, Exit 10.

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12 Responses

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  1. Shabba Doo Hawkins said, on August 17, 2014 at 7:18 am

    Wow! I stayed in the hotel across from this building and really loved the look of it, especially at night. I had no idea about its age or history, though. Thanks for the informative blog post!! ^^

    Like

    • tokyobling said, on August 19, 2014 at 9:31 am

      Lucky you! It is a great place to stay. Very central and convenient. Maybe you can check out the building the next time you visit – it is not very famous even for most Tokyo natives! (^-^) Thank you for the kind comment!

      Like

  2. strangemaggie said, on August 18, 2014 at 4:19 am

    Reblogged this on Margot's Wanderlust and commented:
    dream hom

    Like

  3. Vincent de Groot said, on August 19, 2014 at 6:28 pm

    wonderful work on your blog!

    Like

  4. melsenpai said, on August 19, 2014 at 11:40 pm

    Oh wow! I’ve walked past this building before, but never properly paid any attention to it. Some of your photos remind me of scenes from old horror movies. This type of architecture reminds me of the apartment buildings I’ve seen in old photos that were around my dad’s home when he was growing up in Yokohama.

    Like

    • tokyobling said, on August 20, 2014 at 7:10 am

      Your dad is probably much young than this building though! (^-^) Yes, it did have the feel of a movies set, it is not a scary building in real life though. There are lots of people in the galleries and people come and go all the time. I just didn’t want to show too many of them in my photos… (^-^)

      Like

  5. taroikai said, on September 29, 2014 at 1:11 pm

    I was afraid this building may be demolished by now. So glad to see it as I saw it circa 2005.

    Like


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