10 Office-Front Facades, Ginza

Mike GristArchitecture 4 Comments

Ginza is the core amygdala in the tightly-twined morass of Tokyo’s brain, a nerve center firing off directional impulses telling people what to wear, how to look, what to buy, and who to be. Amongst the district’s densely packed grid of un-signposted streets some of the grandest global corporations can be found- De Beers, Mikimoto, Hermes and so on, parading their garlanded facades like buxom debutantes at the inaugural ball. Look a little harder though, down a few of the shadier backstreets, off the beaten track, and you’ll find the hidden gems of Ginza, the subtle impulses that cut through the brash vigor of the main street’s axonal storm, the places where the real business of Ginza is conducted.

This is the second in a 2-part series- the first is ‘10 Store-Front Facades’

ginza office fronts  - 05

I spent a good few days wandering the streets of Ginza in the past several weeks to get all the photos for this 2-post series. Before that I’d only been to Ginza 2 or 3 times total, for lightning visits to the Apple Store or the Starbucks, despite living in Tokyo for over 5 years. The place had always seemed too big, noisy, confusing, with multiple subway station exits and no easy landmarks to grab onto. The place was slippery, and I never had any real reason to go there, so I never really went.

Well- I’m glad I’ve reversed that trend now. This Structures series has opened my eyes to the Tokyo immediately around me the same way the Ruins / Haikyo series has opened my eyes to the areas around Tokyo and surrounding prefectures. Lots of places I’ve been to in bits and pieces got pulled together by these photo-walks in the same general area, plus areas all-new to me got tacked on: Kabuki-za, Zozoji Temple, Dentsu, Fuji Terebi across the Rainbow Bridge, and all the cool smaller buildings of the Ginza Strip.

Now I’m misting up. Let’s press on, to the 10!

Stucco Pillar Building

This building has no name I could see, but dominates the street it sits on, visible from the main Ginza drag. I think some sort of medical people work here. Next door is an ivy-covered Elementary School with high walls.

I think the top floor would, entirely glass-walled, make a great gym or swimming pool.



This may not actually be office space, as it seemed inside they were selling handbags. But the only Google search result for JS Ginza I could find was for office space to rent, so I’ll go with that.

Aren’t the pinks of this building lovely?


Lift Shaft Building

This was a ways of the main drag, impressive in that the main front glass facade, the thing that most catches the eye, is only just the elevator shaft. That definitely surprised me- but it certainly gets points for a cool way to go up and down.


Alpha Matrix building

Another side-street surprise, metal frontispiece diced like cookie-dough with the cookies taken out and aleady in the oven. Yum. Bonus points for being called Alpha Matrix, very tough-sounding, I just need lines of green code to rush up and down it’s polished metal and I’ll be ready to move in.


Ginza 7 Project

Port-hole building! I love this thing, it’s just so gosh-darn cheery. It’s like a building with window-chicken pox. Sit inside at your desk and pretend you’re at sea. Earthquakes provide the rolling sensation of waves- irregularly, but a pleasant bonus.


Twist Building

It’s another big one, close to the Kabuki Theater, also new and to my eye un-named. I like its twist, similar to De Beers though not as good, but still not too shabby.


Aster Plaza

Lord knows what this thing is or wants to be- it takes up the whole centre of one block, with front facades like this on the streets to North and South. It may have been open but I didn’t bother to go in, I just admired the exterior Disney-ish weirdness.

Here look at this carving:

That’s just excellent. Horns, wings, a cherub, what more could we ask for?


Ribbon-style wrapping on the details, with lilies?, maybe looks a little like the Girl Guides symbol.


Dentsu HQ

The massive rectangular block of Dentsu International HQ sits 48 stories high on the edge of Tokyo Bay, overlooking Hamarikyu Gardens and the Tsukiji fish market. Envisaged by French architect Jean Nouvel and finished in 2002, it’s a paragon of modern design standards, featuring a wind-pliant super-structure that sways with strong gusts, an automatic climate-control system that raises and lowers shades to heat and cool the building naturally, water collection facilities on the roof, gardens on the lower terraces, and a very efficient system of express and local elevators.

I actually work in this building some of the time, and can attest to the whole thing groaning and creaking on windy days, the shutters flying up and down on their own whims, and the elevator system being a speedy if irritating (having to change between local and expresses) way to get up and down. Plus, the view over the Bay to Odaiba and beyond is fantastic.

Here’s a satellite shot:


Swerve Building

Another neat little combo-building, featuring some office space, some shops, a lift-shaft integral to the design stylings, and a curved front wall. I don’t know what the name is for it so dubbed it ‘Swerve’. It stands opposite the old Kabuki theater, providing quite a stark contrast to the older traditional building.


Marugen 15

There’s  a number of these Marugen ## buildings around Ginza, all of them with this strange windowless front. But what is Marugen? Well- check out this thread discussing the meaning of Marugen. To sum up, they are the buildings of an eccentric real-estate mega-billionaire called Gensiro Kawamoto, a shadowy figures who owns huge chunks of central Tokyo, conducts all his transactions in cash, weekends in a palace in Atami, and lives for ‘the Game’.

The ‘gen’ part of Marugen is his name, and the ‘Maru’ part means circle.

His buildings are apparently filled with upscale boutiques, nightclubs, jazz bars, and hostess clubs.


Location – Ginza!

Entry – None, not interested in the interiors this time.

Facts – Many.

Architect – Many.

Highlights – Learning about Marugen without really intending to research it, and stumbling on the Alpha Matrix building just when I was beginning to doubt I’d find 10 Office-Fronts worthy of posting about.


You can see all MJG’s Tokyo content here:

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Comments 4

  1. Great post. I love to look at buildings, especially highrises, and these ones are even cooler with all their weird designs. I really do not see anything like this in LA. Especially in one location like the Ginza. I have been to Ginza a few times but did not see most of these buildings.

    The weirdest building in LA is the new Disney Concert Hall in downtown designed by Frank Gehry. See it here:


  2. Nice collection of buildings…I like the layout form of close-up with wide shot.

    Ginza has been one of my favorite areas of Tokyo ever since I arrived. It always felt like an escape from the chaos and grime of most of the other areas of the city. A bit of high class I could pretend to be a part of for the time I spent there.

    Now, I view Ginza’s existence as a slap in the face to the homeless, to the destitute in other countries. It’s very existence is an insult to every homeless person, every hungry person out there. If you can afford to buy a Â¥300,000 ($3,000) handbag, when you already own multiple handbags, would that money not be much better put to use helping to feed people?

  3. Post

    Tornadoes- Thanks, I had no idea any of these buildings existed before heading out there and really looking around. Most of them are down side-streets and not so obvious- also most of them are very new- not even opened yet.

    The Frank Gehry building, yes- I saw this in the movie ‘Get Smart’, it’s bizarre and awesome.

    Jason- Thanks, glad you liked the layout- thought a fair bit about how best to shoot and present them for a series. About Ginza- the few times I had been there in the past were all to meet you I think- at the Apple store or the big Starbucks.

    About the ‘slap in the face’ stuff, well, it’s hard to argue with that viewpoint, but it’s also hard to truly support it without being hypocritical. I know you’ll say all the expensive stuff you have is essential, but so others will say about their handbags. These designer goods are basically art- they need it for their peace of mind, their status, whatever. Should all art, all entertainment, all ‘frivolous things’ be put to one side until everyone is fed? That sounds a bit like communism, and as such wouldn’t work in reality.

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