Chūō is a ward in the heart of Tokyo. It is next to the business and administrative area of Chiyoda. Chūō has a history that dates back to the 17th century. It was at the heart of the old imperial city of Edo, which eventually became Tokyo. Municipal authorities founded the ward of Chūō after World War II when they merged to pre-War districts.
Chūō retains plenty of history, but it is also one of Tokyo’s busiest and most-modern areas. The world-famous Ginza shopping district is here, as are more-relaxed neighborhoods, nightlife, and culture.
Chūō is a central ward in Tokyo, and some of its stations act as hubs for both Tokyo metro area trains and intercity trains covered by the Japan Rail Pass. The western edge of Chūō starts at Tokyo Station. The central subway station in Chūō is Ginza Station, which is one of the busiest Metro stations in Tokyo.
JR East trains run from Hatchobori Station, but most intercity trains stop at Tokyo Station, which is on the western edge of Chūō. Whereas Ginza is one of the busiest Metro stations, Tokyo Station sees more than 400,000 boarding passengers per day. On long-distance trains. More than 3,000 trains per day pass through Tokyo Station. If you plan a day trip from Tokyo, chances are you will pass through Tokyo Station.
Ginza was part of the historical capital of Edo. Roughly translated, “ginza” means “silver guild.” The district got its name because of a silver coin mint that operated there in the 17th century during the Edo period. This name might seem apt today because Ginza is the center of Tokyo’s upscale retail scene.
On the weekends, Chuo-Dori becomes a pedestrian-only street, with the road closed to traffic between noon and 5 p.m. This particular area is known for its upscale boutiques and department stores. Locals call these vehicle-free periods “Hokōsha Tengoku,” which means “pedestrian heaven.” While the busy Ginza Station is the main access point for this district, you can also arrive via the Ginza-itchōme or Higashi-Ginza Stations.
Tsukishima is an artificial island in Tokyo Bay. Engineers created this island using sand from a dredging project that created a shipping channel. In recent years, Tsukiji Fish Market was a major tourist attraction (as well as a bustling wholesale fish market). The market’s vendors recently relocated to the Toyosu Fish Market. Now, Tsukishima has a high concentration of restaurants serving one dish: monjayaki.
Westerners often compare this dish to pancakes, but chefs use many different finely-chopped ingredients such as sprouts, cabbage, and meat or seafood to fill the batter before frying it. The restaurants started because they could get fresh ingredients from Tsukiji, but they are still going strong despite the market moving elsewhere.
Chūō has a long history, but it is most known for its modern elements. One place, however, preserves traditional Tokyo. Ningyocho, which means “Doll Town,” is a small district that has museums, traditional-style shops, and classic restaurants that specialize in traditional cuisine.
Ningyocho is within Nihonbashi District. It started in the 17th century when tradespeople came to Edo from other cities to set up business. The influx of workers led to many entertainment establishments, including Tokyo’s first kabuki theater.
Today, Ningyocho is most known for Amazakeyokocho, an old-style shopping street with street food, retail, and pubs serving craft beer. The statue of a well-known kabuki character, Musashibo Benkei, watches over the street.
Ningyocho was a center for puppet shows and dollmaking. It celebrates this with two large marionette clocks that perform shows on the hour until 7 p.m.
Things To Do In Chūō
Chūō offers a variety of nightlife options, including nightclubs and bars, craft beer houses, and performing arts.
- Lupin is a bar in Ginza that has been in operation since 1928. It retains a classic atmosphere and has moderate prices.
- Gaslight Eve is another Ginza nightspot. It features cocktails by Naomi Takahashi, the winner of a recent edition of the World Cocktail Championships.
- Fresh Hokkaido oysters from Kakiba Hokkaido-Akkeshi, in Nihonbashi, are paired with tasty sake to turn a seafood dinner into an entertaining night.
Chūō has some of the best shopping areas in Tokyo. Whether you want to seek some deals or pick up something you forgot to pack, you can find numerous shopping options throughout Chūō.
- Ginza is the best place for upscale shopping (or window shopping if you are on a budget). On weekends between noon and five, Chuo-Dori becomes a pedestrian-only street. Ginza Six is the biggest shopping center in the district.
- Amazakeyokocho is another pedestrian-friendly area with shops in Chūō. It is decidedly more low-key and budget-friendly than most Ginza stores.
- Hakuhinkan Toy Park is a worthwhile retail space in Ginza. It features 200,000 items over several floors, with toys that would appeal to children and adults.
It may seem like Chūō is dominated by retail and restaurants, but there are some attractive sightseeing spots here as well.
- Hamarikyu Gardens is a large public park that has green spaces and a teahouse. Urban parks like this are often ideal for seeing cherry blossoms in the springtime.
- The Kabuki-za Theater is a great place to see traditional Japanese performance art. There is a box office and automatic ticket machines. If you wish, you can purchase a ticket for one act to get a taste of kabuki theater.
- The history of the Koami Shrine is unclear, but historians believe it is at least 1,000 years old. You can experience one of Tokyo’s traditional events, the Doburoku Sake Festival, here each year.
From luxury hotels to budget hotels to traditional ryokan, Chūō has a full menu of accommodation options.
- The Ginza Capital Hotel is a budget option within walking distance of Ginza’s busiest shopping streets.
- The Millennium Mitsui Garden Hotel in Ginza offers a slightly more upscale experience. This mid-range hotel has a modern design and offers easy access to Ginza’s attractions.
- The Royal Park Hotel in Nihonbashi is a mid-range hotel that is within walking distance of Amazake Yokocho.
Chūō features a variety of restaurants and eating streets. You can choose from Michelin-starred restaurants, casual eateries, and food streets that specialize in one dish.
- Tsukishima Monjya Street has numerous restaurants that serve monjayaki, which are fried batter dishes with many different vegetable and meat ingredients.
- One of the most famous sushi restaurants in the world, Sukiyabashi Jiro, is in Ginza. You need advanced reservations for this high-priced eatery.
- lavish Ginza Ukai Tei is a mid-range restaurant that serves up specialties including steamed abalone.
Chūō does not have any traditional hot-spring-fed onsen, but you can find many full-service spas here.
- Tsukishima Onsen is a Japanese-style bathhouse with saunas and open-air baths that offers a traditional and unpretentious experience.
- The Mandarin Oriental Spa in Nihonbashi features private treatment rooms and a variety of spa packages. Prices are what you would expect from a spa in a five-star hotel.
- Wa Spa is a Japanese Spa in Ginza that offers accessible traditional treatments in an upscale day-spa setting.