TOKYO p.4 / Ginza / Tsukiji / Toyosu / Ueno
(Article updated to 2020)
Tokyo is the capital of Japan and is a must for every time you visit the Rising Sun. It is a megalopolis that boasts over 10 million inhabitants and is always in evolution: for this reason you never stop discovering it and every time you go back you always notice something different and new. This wonderful city is the hub of Japan because it encompasses all aspects of the whole country in its iconic neighborhoods. In Tokyo you must necessarily go back in time: explaining the emotions that this city manages to give is not possible, you have to live them. Only those who have been there can understand it. As a minimum stay, I recommend staying no less than a week: Tokyo should also be turned on foot, admired in its alleys and glimpses. You can't do a hit and run, it wouldn't make any sense, especially if it's your first time here.
Information before leaving, how to get there, how to move, where to stay here.
The name of this neighborhood derives from the word "gin" (silver) because the mint of the silver coin was established here. It is therefore easy to understand that Ginza represents the elite area par excellence: here it is possible to shop for major brands in a unique architectural context. In fact, many architects have worked over the years to make this area a real jewel. I recommend you visit the area on foot to admire, in a particular way, the boutiques of Chanel, Hermes, Cartier, Dior and the headquarters of the Mikimoto Company, a leading company in the cultivation of pearls.
Certainly Ginza is not a very popular destination, unless you are passionate about high fashion and/or refined cuisine. But, in my opinion, it is also worth seeing it quickly to understand luxury in Tokyo.
WHAT TO SEE
Not temples or museums, but boutiques: that's what Ginza offers. Take a walk and maybe stop for a quick snack in one of the many super chic cafés you will find.
WAKO Famous luxury shopping center. What is most striking is the structure dating back to 1932, whose Seiko watch has become a true reference point and symbol of Ginza itself. [opening 10:30 am - 7 pm, address: 4 Chome-5-11 Ginza, Chuo City, Tokyo 104-0061]
ITOYA Large chain of stationery stores with headquarters in Ginza. A shop that will leave you speechless in front of the very high quality of the objects on sale. From hand-crafted Japanese paper to brushes, you will find everything here. [opening 10 am - 8 pm, address: 2 Chome-7-15 Ginza, Chuo City, Tokyo 104-0061]
NAKAGIN CAPSULE BUILDING A very particular building built in 1971 and designed by the architect Kishō Kurokawa according to the metabolist style, it represents the first capsule attempt in which to live. It has been inhabited for over forty years but since 2010 the structure has been abandoned, thanks to the presence of asbestos. It is not yet known what the future of the building will be, in the meantime it is still possible to admire it from the outside. [address: 8 Chome-16-10 Ginza, Chuo City, Tokyo 104-0061]
WHERE TO EAT
If you are in Ginza to eat something then you don't have budget problems. It doesn't make much sense to come to this area and not give yourself the luxury of a very high level dinner.
KYUBEY GINZA HONTEN Very refined restaurant (it was founded in 1936) where you can taste excellent sushi prepared by chef Imada for each guest at the moment, piece by piece. An excellent restaurant where you can experience an incredible gustatory journey. It is not possible to book. [opening 11:30 am - 2 pm and 5 pm - 8 pm, closed on Sunday, website, address: 8-7-6 Ginza, Chuo 104-0061]
TEMPURA KONDO It is one of the best tempura restaurants in Tokyo. With 50 years of experience and two Michelin stars, Tempura Kondo is the reference point for lovers of Japanese fried food. I advise you to book well in advance because the restaurant has only 25 seats.[opening 12 pm - 3 pm and 5 pm - 8:30 pm, address: 〒104-0061 Tokyo, Chuo City, Ginza, 5 Chome − 5−13 坂 口 ビ ル ９F]
SUKIYABASHI JIRO The fame of chef Jiro Ono precedes him: thanks to the three Michelin stars (recently lost) and the documentary made by Netflix, yesterday as today booking here is rather difficult despite precisely this difficulty was the cause of the loss of the Michelin stars. [opening 11:30 am - 2 pm and 5:30 pm - 8:30 pm, closed Saturday evening and Sunday, website, address: 〒104-0061 Tokyo, Chuo City, Ginza, 4 Chome − 2−15 塚 本 総 業 ビ ル B1 階]
Tsukiji fish market has been the largest fish market in the world for many years. Thousands of employees worked here daily and the historic tuna auction gathered curious people from all over the world, who woke up before dawn every morning to see the spectacular sale. The market spread over a gigantic surface and consisted of an area reserved for professionals and another consisting of dozens of shops where you can buy fresh fish, knives, objects related to fishing and fish processing but also small premises old-fashioned where to have breakfast with excellent sushi - it is said that the best in the world is eaten here.
Tsukiji is a real institution, whose opening dates back to a distant past. Its incredible expansion has made it very famous but over the years it has undermined the organization of the hygiene system. For this reason, in 2018 the Tsukiji market was moved to Toyosu. This decision left a bitter taste in the mouth of all fans and tourists because Tsukiji was not a simple fish market but a typical and folkloric district where, for example, you could see the filleting of tuna or simply the hard work of the employees. An essential destination for hundreds of photographers, today it consists only of the external area where there are still some street food stalls, stalls selling fish and kitchen items.
I also recommend a visit to this area which, despite the new provisions, still maintains a little the atmosphere of the past, unique and unrepeatable.
[opening 9 am - 1 pm, closed on Saturday, Sunday and New Year's day]
After two years of continuous postponements, on 11 October 2018 the Toyosu fish market opened on the artificial island of the same name located in Tokyo bay. This is the transfer of the historic market of Tukiji which, after years of honorable service, has unfortunately closed its doors.
Toyosu can be reached easily by taxi if you are already in Tsukiji (the journey takes a few minutes).
The new market boasts a modern and aseptic structure: get away from the confusion and veracity of Tsukiji, here you will have none of this. Toyosu almost looks like a shopping center and, alas, it is not at all fascinating. Among the many attractions that have been abolished, the tuna auction stands out, which can no longer be visited as in the past. There are simply windows from which to view the auction from above, without being able to approach it. Admission is allowed to 120 people per day divided into groups of 40 who will be able to see the auction for a 10-minute time interval between 05:45 and 06:45 in the morning.
The historic restaurants that previously animated Tsukiji have also been moved here, without bringing with them the folklore that characterized them. The same goes for wholesale stores (which are still forbidden to tourists).
Finally, you can go up to the roof where there is a large roof garden from which you can enjoy a beautiful panorama. Admission to the entire structure is free.
[opening 5 am - 5 pm, closed on Sunday and on national holidays]
WHERE TO EAT
Needless to waste words, here you will eat raw fish. Most of the restaurants that previously animated Tsukiji have been moved here, to the area limited to the premises. Unfortunately they have lost the charm of the past but not the queues: arm yourself with patience because before you can sit down you will wait a long time on your feet.
SUSHI DAI In Tsukiji's time, admirers considered the sushi prepared here to be the best in the world. For this reason, it is still the most popular restaurant. To be among the first it is recommended to arrive around 04:00 in the morning. The best formula to try is obviously omakase. [opening 5:30 am - 2 pm]
ISO SUSHI Excellent sushi restaurant, with a less touristy atmosphere and a more authentic offer. Better to go early because it tends to close early when the fish runs out. [opening 6 am - 2:15 pm]
IWASA SUSHI Another historic restaurant that moved to Toyosu. More competitive prices and excellent tuna. [opening 6 am - 3 pm]
Ueno is a very quiet area of Tokyo that hosts the famous park: right here people usually gather on the occasion of the cherry blossoms, admiring its beauty while spending the day in company, perhaps organizing a picnic with family and friends. Usually they buy hanami-themed bento boxes and organize games or card games to spend time together.
WHAT TO SEE
UENO PARK It is one of the most beautiful and extensive public parks in the city which offers, in addition to beautiful naturalistic views, also the possibility of visiting temples and museums. [opening 5 am - 11 pm]
TOKYO NATIONAL MUSEUM Located within Ueno Park, the Tokyo National Museum is not only the largest and oldest in Japan but also features the largest collection of Asian art, archaeological finds and antiquities including pottery, various items, samurai armor, kimonos and swords. [opening Tuesday to Sunday 9:30 am - 5 pm, closed on Mondays, website, address: 13-9 Uenokoen, Taito City, Tokyo 110-8712, cost 620 ¥]