help save Japan’s visual heritage of daily life
70124-0017 - Ginza, Tokyo, 1910s

Tokyo 1910s
Hattori Building, Ginza

Artist Unknown
Publisher Ueda
Medium Postcard
Period Taisho
Location Tokyo
Image No. 70124-0017
Purchase Digital File

Two streetcars pass by the Hattori Building in Tokyo’s fashionable Ginza. Carts are parked under the verdant trees.

This classic tree-lined avenue with buildings only three floors high is utterly different from the Ginza that we know today. The only thing that is remotely similar is the existence of a clock tower. Now there is one on Wako Department Store (和光, see left – click to enlarge).

The Hattori Building was one of Ginza‘s main landmarks. It was the home of K. Hattori & Co., a watch and jewellery shop opened in 1881 (Meiji 14) by Kintaro Hattori (1860-1934). In 1892 (Meiji 25), the company started making clocks and in 1913 (Taisho 2) it started with the production of watches, the first ones in Japan.

We now know this company as Seiko, one of the most famous watch companies in the world.1

The iconic Hattori building did unfortunately not survive the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 (Taisho 12). The task of designing a replacement fell in the lap of Japanese architect Jin Watanabe (渡辺仁, 1887-1973). In 1932 (Showa 7), he completed a massive granite Neo-Renaissance style building with a wide curved base. This became the home of Wako Department Store.

80318-6712 - Wako Building at Ginza, Tokyo, 2008
The Wako Building at Tokyo's Ginza in 2008 (Heisei 20). It is hard to imagine that this is the same location as the top image.

The building’s outer wall has an interesting relief that most people overlook. It features the letter H for Hattori, with a cane and snake that symbolize Hermes, the god of commerce; scales to symbolize precision machines; and a silver cup to represent precious metals.

The building’s predecessor was not forgotten. While the Hattori Building featured a bell that was manually struck to mark the hours, Wako has a clock that plays the chime of London’s Westminster Abbey.2

Watanabe left quite a mark on Kanto. Many architects will be happy if they get to build one landmark building, but Watanabe actually designed a whole string of them.

Besides Wako, the most renowned are undoubtedly Hotel New Grand (Yokohama, 1927), Waseda Elementary School (Tokyo, 1928), Nichigeki Theater (Tokyo, 1933-1981), Tokyo National Museum Honkan (Tokyo, 1938) and the Dai-ichi Seimei Building (Tokyo, 1938).

The Dai-ichi Seimei Building even managed to enter into the world’s history books when General Douglas MacArthur (1880-1964) decided to use it as his GHQ after the end of WWII. It was one of some 600 Tokyo buildings taken over by the Americans.

Amazingly, Ginza Wako survived the massive aerial bombing that Tokyo sustained during WWII. The US military therefore used it as a PX during the US Occupation of Japan (1945-1952), one of several in Tokyo.3

After the occupation ended, Wako managed to recapture its former glory and to this day many people consider it one of Japan’s top luxury department stores.

For another view of Ginza, see Tokyo 1890s • Shinbashi Bridge, Ginza.

1910 Map of Ginza in Tokyo
1910 (Meiji 43) Map of Tokyo: 1. Shinbashi station; 2. Shinbashi bridge; 3. Ginza; 4. Hattori Building; 5. Hibiya Park; 6. Kyobashi bridge.

see current map


1 Seiko. History. Retrieved on 2008-04-15.

2 Shiseido. Ginza Wako. Retrieved on 2008-04-15.

3 Ginza Concierge. Ginza during the occupation. Retrieved on 2021-08-29.


Leave a Comment

Reader Supported

Old Photos of Japan aims to be your personal museum for Japan's visual heritage and to bring the experiences of everyday life in old Japan to you.

To enhance our understanding of Japanese culture and society I track down, acquire, archive, and research images of everyday life, and give them context.

I share what I have found for free on this site, without ads or selling your data.

Your support helps me to continue doing so, and ensures that this exceptional visual heritage will not be lost and forgotten.

Thank you,
Kjeld Duits


Reference for Citations

Duits, Kjeld (). Tokyo 1910s: Hattori Building, Ginza, OLD PHOTOS of JAPAN. Retrieved on April 12, 2024 (GMT) from

Explore More


Kobe 1910s
Motomachi Itchome

Shops and rickshaws at Motomachi Itchome in Kobe, Hyogo Prefecture Japan.


Kobe 1910s
Fukuhara Brothels

Women stand in front of a building with an exotic mixture of Western and Japanese architecture in Fukuhara, Kobe’s renowned red light district.


Yokohama 1923
A Story of Survival

A devastated landscape, almost everything burned to the ground. This is Yokohama after the Great Kantō Earthquake of September 1, 1923, this year exactly one century ago. How could anybody have survived?

Add Comment

How to download the pictures with bigger size?



Dear Meta,

Thank you very much for your interest in Old Photos of Japan. The download function has now been fixed, and you can download the images straight from the site.

Please click on the “download this photo” link above the photo, and follow the instructions.

The license fee is USD 199.00 which can be paid online with a major credit card.


• 300 dpi jpg
• longest side = 2400 px (8 inches on paper)
• immediate download

You can use the image in a single medium for a maximum of 12 months. In case of books, there is no time limit.

Please free to contact me if you require a larger image, or need a wider license. I will inform you right away of the applicable fees.

Speak to you soon,

Kjeld Duits