Hattori (Wako) Building, c. 1910
Mikimoto Pearls, Ginza, c. 1950
Ginza Methodist Church, c. 1915
Matsuya Department Store, Ginza
“The Ginza, a great artery of trade, that runs from Shimbashi station northwards toward Ueno Park, is destined to be one of the most magnificent streets in the Far East. Even the last two years have seen remarkable changes here. The recent visitor will remember a short stretch of broad street with willows on either side on an unaccustomed sidewalk, but this little touch of the modern extended only from Shimbashi to Kyobashi, the bridges that span canals at either end of the thoroughfare.”
– Tokyo, the leading city of the Far East, Overland Monthly, Vol. 55, C.E. Ferguson, January, 1910
If Asakusa and Yoshiwara represented Tokyo’s feudal past, then Ginza [Silver mint], in 1903, represented Tokyo’s modern future.
Technically a grouping of smaller neighborhoods, Ginza was — and still very much is — popularly referred to as Tokyo’s “Main Street”; a promenade stretching northward from Shimbashi on through Ginza Crossing and Kyobashi to Nihonbashi. (The thoroughfare is technically known as Chuo-dori [Central Road].) Along it are still found many of the city’s most prominent stores.
After a fire in 1872 leveled much of the district, Ginza was fashionably, and famously, rebuilt as a showpiece of Japan’s rapid modernization. Among the earliest influences was Western architecture. For decades, brick, stone and ferro-concrete were more widely used along Ginza’s famed boulevard than anywhere else in Japan.
As Ginza prospered, it became fashionable to walk its boulevard to window-shop [ginbura] or to sit in its cafès and beer halls … and even milk bars! It very much was not unlike walking down New York’s 5th Avenue around the same time. The Roarin’ ’20s brought to Ginza the same sense of liberating energy that could also be found on the streets of Paris. The moga [Modern girl, from mo-dan ga-ru] and the mobo [Modern boy, from mo-dan boi] were Tokyo companions of the Lost Generation making waves in post-WWI arts and literature before it all came crashing down with the Great Depression.
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