by Mark Leong

Ginza is Japan’s answer to LA’s Rodeo Drive and London’s Bond Street. Named after the coin mint built in the 1600s, it is historically known as the most up-market shopping area in Japan, and often ranks as one of the top posh shopping destinations in the world. This reputation comes from the numerous designer label flagship stores that line the streets of Ginza. Today,  however, affordable global fashion labels and non-fashion brands (such as H&M and Apple) have also made their presence felt in the area. Much lesser known, though, is the variety of showrooms and specialist stores which are well worth a visit. One can easily spend an entire day, if not days, exploring the smaller streets that branch out from the main artery, Chuo-dori (closed to automobile traffic on weekends).

Literally translated as ‘flower garden ranch,’ Hanabatake Bokujo is most wellknown for its nama kyarameru (soft caramel), which originated in Hokkaido. Today, the cafe there prides itself on using ingredients, including water, transported all the way from Hokkaido. All products are handmade and hand-wrapped. With such treats as strawberry caramel candy and caramel swiss roll, the sweetest of sweet tooths can find a fix here.

Nissan Gallery is the auto company’s main gallery, showing off their engineering and technical capabilities. It also acts as a museum where classic models are displayed. On the showroom floor its latest high-end model is usually the main attraction (currently a Fair Lady 370).

Unohana Natsuno is a charming little store that sells hand-made traditional Japanese trinkets with a modern twist. Highly recommended novelty items include chopsticks that look like a set of coloring pencils on one end, pizza slice-shaped ceramic soy sauce dishes, mobiles with Japanese motifs, and leather bento bags.