Walk down Chuo-dori, the main shopping street of Tokyo’s swanky Ginza neighborhood, and you’ll come across an arresting building. Tall, with a facade of glass panels coated with gold leaf to varying degrees, the building shines bright during the day and glows with light from within after dark. This is Yamaha Ginza, one of the largest musical instrument shops in Japan.
The building’s 14 floors — 12 above ground and two below — are filled with everything music-related. Not surprisingly, you’ll find instruments, sheet music, CDs and books. Also filling the shop’s floorspace are experience areas, cafés and concert halls. Indeed, anyone with an appreciation for music is sure to find something to enjoy. To start you off, we’re sharing five of our favorite features of Yamaha Ginza.
Thrill to the Sounds (and Sight!) of the Key Between People Digital Piano
You’ve never seen a piano like this before. With a circular setup that sees the pianist sit center stage with the audience on benches around them, Key Between People brings audience and performer close together for an intimate musical moment. The piano, the first floor’s pièce de resistance, is part of the Brand Experience Area, which aims to provide customers with novel experiences related to sound and music. The best part? Anyone can play the piano, so you can tap out a tune for your friends and fellow shoppers.
The design concept behind the piano’s creation was all about connection, linking people through instruments and promoting communication between musicians and onlookers. The different pieces of the piano can be rearranged as well, allowing the musician and listeners to create the configuration that works best for them.
Note that there are times when the piano is not on display.
Catch a “Live” Concert with Real Sound Viewing
More unique encounters with music can be found at the Notes by Yamaha (stylized as NOTES BY YAMAHA) café lounge on the second floor of the Brand Experience Area. There, you’ll find Real Sound Viewing, a modern take on live music described by the shop as a “vacuum-packed live performance.” Perfectly placed videos of musicians playing instruments are shown behind in-store automated instruments — a piano, bass and drum set. The effect is incredible:
It truly looks — and sounds — like the musicians are playing right there in front of you.
Performances, open only to customers of the café (more on that next), feature a variety of musicians virtually playing several jazz-heavy sets each day. Schedules can be found online.
Musical Mocktails and Cocktails at Notes by Yamaha Café Lounge
If the sound of ice clinking in cocktail glasses is music to your ears, head to the aforementioned Notes by Yamaha café lounge, where you’ll find an extensive menu of food and drinks. Of special note are mocktails and cocktails inspired by musicians and musical numbers both classical and contemporary.
Love the combination of apple and spices? Order the William Tell mocktail, a tasty concoction of apple-based ingredients, nutmeg, ginger and cinnamon named for the Rossini opera of the same name that sees a father forced to shoot an apple off his son’s head.
Prefer your coffee with a kick? Pick the Secret Coffee Negroni, a combination of vermouth, bitters, iced coffee and orange zest. While sipping, spare a thought for the coffee-loving Lieschen, the heroine of Bach’s Coffee Cantata, whose father sought to keep her from her caffeine fix. The café’s negroni has its roots in this miniature comic opera.
These are but two of the many drinks on offer, which also include beverages inspired by Brahms (Dummy Daisy), John Lennon (Resurrection Alexander) and Frank Sinatra (Sinatra’s Highball).
Relaxing with Music at Notes by Yamaha Café Stand
This smaller but no less delightful café on Yamaha Ginza’s first floor is the perfect spot for a sit-down while exploring Ginza’s exceptional shopping streets. The café serves a variety of teas and coffees, as well as lattes served hot or cold that come topped with your choice of one of five music-themed adornments.
Savor the sounds of the Key Between People piano while sitting on one of its benches with a beverage. Or have a seat at a “music table,” which will have you adding to the music without even trying: Each time you put your glass down, the table responds by producing sound. The more people picking up and putting down glasses, the more music is created, generating a continuous and unique group musical performance.
Soda with craft syrup and soft drinks round out the tempting drinks menu. Yamaha’s original dorayaki, a traditional Japanese sweet that consists of sweetened red bean paste sandwiched between two pancakes, are also on sale and make delicious on-site snacks and souvenirs.
Relish the Resonance of Yamaha Hall
This strikingly designed room is one of Japan’s premier concert halls, with walls made of mahogany, a material used in the making of pianos, and a ceiling made of maple, which is used in drums. Sitting inside is like being in an enormous instrument, a feeling enhanced by the richness of the sound produced by the combination of musician, instrument and acoustics. This is, in fact, the concept of the hall — that it is one enormous instrument. And, as with guitars and violins, the sound of the room only improves with age.
Yamaha Hall, dedicated to acoustic music, was designed to minimize the distance between the audience and the stage, thus bringing the audience closer to the music. Performances are diverse in nature, with classical Western music, traditional Japanese music and more contemporary sounds like jazz all filling the 333-seat hall. Performers, too, come from various backgrounds, with international artists playing as well as Japanese musicians.
Note that tickets are required to attend concerts, which are not held daily. Please refer to the schedule, available online (Japanese).