The area of Ginza (located in central Tokyo) is some of the most expensive real estate in Japan. The area is best known for luxurious shopping and high-end eateries, two things that we generally don’t take our small children to do. However, with a little modification we do think that Ginza can be a super fun area to spend the day with littles.
As we have mentioned in previous write-ups our approach to travel in places that seem to be somewhat overwhelming in size is to break them up into geographical regions. That’s particularly easy in cities like Tokyo where there are multiple districts, each with a different feel. So, here’s our top 5 favorite things to do while in Ginza, particularly for families (like us) on a budget. Enjoy!
*Note: We explored this area of Tokyo in 2018 and since then some things have changed due to COVID-19. Many facilities, as a result of the pandemic, have modified their opening dates and times. As such, please use the provided business links for each facility to insure the most up-to-date information when planning your travel.
5. Ginza Chuo Dori
Ginza is home to Tokyo’s first Western-style shopping area, as well as the perfect place to visit many high-end Japanese stores (think Mikimoto, Prada, Louis Vuitton level here). Taking a stroll down, Chuo Dori, Ginza’s main thoroughfare, is great for shopping (mostly window shopping for us that is), people watching, and also to see some of the most expensive cars in the world driving around if that is your thing.
It should also be noted that despite the sea of super expensive brands there are also some affordable shops as well, one of our favs being Uniqlo. Uniqlo is great for parents on a budget (think Gap level) that desire the whole family to look fashion forward. On Chuo Dori you’ll find one of the brand’s biggest shops (hello, twelve floors!) filled with every possible clothing item you could need. So, if you’ve forgotten to pack some clothing related item this is your store!
If you find yourself exploring the area on a weekend afternoon and/or holiday, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find the street closed to traffic to let pedestrians meander freely. The Japanese term is “hokosha tengoku” (literally translated, “pedestrian paradise”). The towering storefronts, brightly lit signs, and streets devoid of vehicular traffic make for a quintessential Tokyo experience.
Ginza Chuo Dori:
- Hours: Most shops are open everyday of the week. The street itself is closed to vehicular traffic from 1200 – 1700 (until 1800 from April – September).
4. Swing by the Tsukiji Fish Market (outer market)
In 1935 the Tsukiji Fish Market opened to fill the void when a different market was destroyed by the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923. Honestly, the Market is about as classic Tokyo as you can get, and it is home to some of the freshest, most exotic, and expensive seafood anywhere in the world. Somewhat confusingly, the market is divided into an inner and an outer market. The inner market (think wholesale market) is where the serious business gets done, with fresh seafood being auctioned daily, sometimes for incredible prices (in 2019 a single bluefin tuna set a record for most expensive sale at over 3 MILLION USD). Unlike the outer market, only a few people are allowed into the inner market daily, and you have to arrive EARLY (read: 0500 or earlier – yikes!) to secure a spot. While we never felt mean enough to drag the kids out of bed before dawn to see the spectacle, the outer market is still an amazing experience. Prior to 2018, the inner market was also located in Ginza, however it closed on October 6, 2018 and was moved to a new site in Toyosu, where it reopened as Toyosu Market. Rest assured however, the spirit of the old market still lives on in Ginza.
The outer market albeit fairly small, however, hasn’t moved or closed and continues on with its narrow alleyways lined with a myriad of shops and vendors. Honestly it’s a bit chaotic (especially with wee ones), however we think (with the right attitude) it’s a lot of fun! If you are a sushi lover, there is no better place to get your fix since the vast majority of the fish served come straight from the Toyosu Market located just a couple kilometers away.
Simply put, come with an adventurous attitude and a healthy appetite and you will leave a very happy traveller.
Tsukiji Outer Fish Market:
- Hours: Monday – Saturday, typically 0500 – 1200ish (some stay open a tad bit later). Closed Sundays and holidays (some shops are also closed on Wednesdays).
- Admission: Free
3. Stroll Around Ginza Six
Wait, you’re telling me you want me to spend time walking around a shopping mall? Yup. And yes, that’s the exact reaction Dom gave off when suggesting this stop. High-end fashion isn’t exactly his jam (to be honest it’s not really mine either), but he can definitely appreciate design and architecture…both of which the 241 store building has in spades. The building itself was designed by architect Yoshio Taniguchi of Taniguchi and Associates, who is also known for the 2004 Museum of Modern Art makeover in NYC (Curious? Read why we think a visit to NYC’s MOMA is a great idea in our article, Top 10 Things to do in Midtown Manhattan with Kids).
Need more of a reason to visit than just architecture? How about some tasty treats? Check out the frozen pop chain, Paletas, while you’re in the building and indulge. Paletas are seriously the best dessert…not too heavy, not too creamy, and fresh, as the chain focuses heavily on seasonal flavors. At 500yen-ish a piece they probs aren’t for chowing down on daily, but they are 100% a worthwhile treat and our kids LOVE THEM! If you find them as enjoyable as we do don’t fret, you can also find these beauties in Roppongi’s Tokyo Midtown, as well as at their location in Kamakura to curb your future cravings!
Belly full? Perhaps you’re lips need a new shade? Dom thought I was joking when I pointed out the Chanel lipstick vending machine (don’t worry, the lipsticks are just as pricey, no bargains here)! Lips good? It’s time to pick up a new book, yes? Tsutaya Books on the top floor will make your jaw drop AND it has an English section! Bottom line: There is a lot more than just fancy-shmancy at Ginza SIX and if you end up in this section of Tokyo on a rainy day (like we did) it’s a great way to wait for the weather to pass.
- Hours: Stores: Daily, 1030 – 2030; Restaurants: Daily, 1100 – 2330. Closed New Year’s Day.
2. Check out Nissan Crossing
Above we noted that Ginza is among the best spots in the world for supercar sightings. Nearly every minute that passes a Lamborghini, Ferrari, Bugatti, or other crazy car will come rumbling by. Out on the street is far from the only place to enjoy Japanese car culture, however. Stop by Nissan Crossing, the Tokyo headquarters of Nissan, to grab a coffee/ho-cho (our nickname for hot chocolate) in their cafe (complete with laser etched latte art – Miles chose the Formula E, see below), travel back through Nissan’s past, and get a glimpse into some of their hyper-futuristic plans for the future.
Miles had a blast hopping into the driver’s seat of a GT-R and just about hit the roof when he saw some of their concept cars on display. Insanity.
- Hours: 1000 – 2000
- Admission: Free. If you choose to enjoy a drink from the Nissan Cafe, cafe lattes and matcha teas: 400yen and hot chocolate 500yen.
1. Visit the Tokyo Police Museum
The Tokyo Police Museum was definitely our kids favorite stop of the day, so since this is a blog about family travel this museum rightfully earns our top spot! Spread over SIX floors, the museum features lots of hands-on exhibits for your little ones to explore. As a bonus, most of the descriptions are in Japanese and English (which after living in Japan for a while we have come to realize that this isn’t typical for museums).
The first level was our kids’ fav as they were able to hop on a motorcycle, as well as sit in a helicopter (read: Miles’ mind was blown). As an added bonus, if you fill out a short form for your child he/she can also try on a kiddo standard officer or motorcycle officer sized uniform (sizes: 100, 120, and 140 are available) making for some pretty great photos! Best of all? It’s free!
Moving on from the lower floor, the upper floors have more of a forensic focus and help littles learn a bit about how crimes are solved. Ha! That’s Penny on the line with not one, but two callers fighting crime and gettin’ the job done! Honestly, both of the kids could have spent all day here, but we think with an hour and a half you could experience all of it.
- Hours: Tuesday – Sunday, 0930 – 1700. Closed Mondays.
- Admission: Free
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