Tokyo: Ginza, Yurakucho, and environs

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Compact, central area known for high-end shops, restaurants and galleries, Ginza is the spot where the elite meet--especially on Sundays, when many streets are pedestrian-only. Yurakucho lies to the northwest.

SEE Mitsukoshi Department Store Jizo and Shrine
Ginza 4-6-16, 011-81-3/3562-1111,
Push through crowds shopping for everything under the rising sun and head to the rooftop. Overlooking the scene is a large stone statue of Jizo, guardian deity of luck, success, and prosperity in business. Open daily 10 a.m.--8 p.m.

SEE Tokyo International Forum
Marunouchi 3-5-1, 011-81-3/5221-9000,
Standing inside this architecturally stunning, swooping, almond-shaped exhibition center is like being inside a whale. The excellent Oedo Antique Fair, held on the first and third Sunday of every month, is also worth a look; it's a good place to search for antique kimonos.

EAT Ginza Sembikiya Fresh Fruit and Parlour
Ginza 5-5-1, 011-81-3/3572-0101,
Perfect apples, ambrosial grapes, and heaven-sent melons have been the hallmarks of this high-end fruit store since 1894. For those who can't afford a $185 melon, the parlor upstairs serves single slices.

EAT Little Okinawa Taketomi-jima
Ginza 6-12-13 B1F , 011-81-3/5537-1293,
Exotic items--such as stir-fried bitter gourd, 'sea grape' seaweed, and sliced pig's ear--from Japan's southernmost Okinawan islands draw a young and devoted crowd. They believe that the cuisine here may be the secret to longevity--Okinawans have an average life expectancy of 81 years, one of the highest in the world. Everything pairs nicely with awamori, a rice wine from the islands.

EAT Yakitori Alley
Under the JR train tracks near Hibiya Station (Use Exit A1, walk south)
Follow the smoke and join the merry salarymen at one of these convivial street-side yakitori (meat on skewers) bars. If you don't fancy the chicken skin and cartilage options, ask for negima (boneless meat with leek). The bullet trains speeding by overhead provide a stark contrast to the old street stalls.

EAT Hanadaikon
Ginza 6-7-4 B1F, 011-81-3/3569-0953,
High-quality Japanese flavors emerge on little plates from the kitchen. Traditional ikebana (Japanese flower arrangement) and washi (handmade paper) decorations adorn this small basement restaurant. Take a seat on the floor at one of the low tables with ladies who lunch. Order the Tofu Rakuzen ($23): your 12 dishes of seasonal delicacies might include sesame tofu, sweet steamed pumpkin, or grilled eel. The pretty, patterned wooden chopsticks are for taking home. Warning: There's no English sign; look for the giant chopsticks and head down the stairs.

SPLURGE Sushi Karaku
Ginza 5-6-16, 011-81-3/3571-2250
Top-quality, melt-in-the-mouth sushi at reasonable prices. The chef will recommend the best catch of the day or season, but you can't really go wrong with the buttery chu-toro (fatty tuna). The evening omakase (chef's selection) costs $138; cheaper options are available at lunchtime. Try the assorted nigiri sushi plate--delectable slices of raw fish on lumps of vinegar rice. From $27.

DRINK Cha Ginza
Ginza 5-5-6, 011-81-3/3571-1211,
A teashop that perfectly combines contemporary Japanese architecture and traditional taste--smooth concrete walls, white benches, and a long beverage menu. For just $4.50, you can sip matcha green tea, which comes in espresso-size cups, accompanied by a flower-shaped wagashi sweet made from rice or bean paste. Closed Mon.

SHOP Bic Camera
Yurakucho 1-11-1, 011-81-3/5221-1111,
All the newest Japan-made electronics. There's a dazzling array of cell phones, digital cameras, computers, hand-helds, and video games. This store is a less nerdy alternative to the vast tech emporium of Akihabara, but it does feature an irritating, non-stop jingle. It has handbags and booze,too.

PLAY Big Echo Karaoke
Ginza 4-2-14, 011-81-3/3563-5100,
Individual themed rooms that accommodate up to 30 people. Thanks to extensive soundproofing, crooners are protected from added humiliation as they belt out old favorites. The pink, sparkling Hello Kitty floor is especially fun--a talking statue of the bubbly 30-year-old character welcomes you as you exit the elevator. From $7.50 per person for 30 minutes; $9 for the astounding 120-minute all-you-can-drink option.


Ever wanted to dine while handcuffed to your partner, or under the hallowed gaze of the Virgin Mary? Alcatraz E.R.+ (Dogenzaka 2-13-5 2F, 011-81-3/3770-7100), a prison-cum-hospital-themed restaurant, serves up "prescription cocktails" in test tubes to inmates locked in their cells. Diners can only leave if they post "bail" after their meal. For an altogether holier experience, the cathedral-like Christon Café (Dogenzaka 2-10-7, 011-81-3/5728-2225) has statues of Mary, stained glass windows, and chalices for the holy wine. The food at both places is surprisingly good.

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