Ginza is perhaps Tokyo’s most prestigious shopping district, known mostly for its high-end department stores, galleries and luxury boutiques. However, there are many other treasures to be found in the popular district if you disengage for a moment from the glitzy lights and signs.
On a recent visit, I happened upon the Okuno Building, a former apartment building that was built in 1932. As the second oldest building now in existence in Ginza, the Okuno has somehow survived not only the ravages of WWII, but also the wrecking balls of development through the boom years thereafter. What once served as luxury apartments for the wealthy (after all, it was the first residential building that was equipped with a manually operated elevator), it has found a second life as home to numerous art galleries, shops for artisans and design collectives.
Unlike restoration or revitalization projects in Hong Kong, the Okuno looks and feels basically the same as it did decades ago—there were no fancy makeovers or upgrades aimed at attracting high-end tenants. Owner Mr. Tsuguo Okuno says he maintains the building by making only necessary repairs here and there. The floorings have been untouched since the building was designed by Ryoichi Kawamoto over 80 years ago.
In fact, one of the rooms, occupied by the same female tenant for 70 years, has been maintained more or less in its original condition as a preservation project by volunteers.
I was short on time the day I visited, and I hope that on my next trip, I’d have more time to visit more galleries and take more photographs of this historic building.
How to get there:
Take the Tokyo Metro Ginza Subway Line and get off at Itchome Station, Exit 10.
Ginza 1-9-8, Chuo-ku, Tokyo-to