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70222-0004 - Street Cars at Ginza, Tokyo

Tokyo 1910s

Artist Unknown
Publisher Unknown
Medium Postcard
Period Taisho
Location Tokyo
Image No. 70222-0004
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Looking north-east towards Ginza not too far from the spot where the current Shinbashi subway station is located.

Two electrified streetcars, first introduced in 1903 (Meiji 36), are in the front, others can be seen in the far background. The empty space in front of the building with the tower is Shinbashi Bridge. The building itself is the celebrated Teikoku Hakuhinkan Kankoba (帝国博品館勧工場, current Ginza Hakuhinkan), established in October 1899 (Meiji 32). The building featured a large variety of shops and was similar to our modern shopping center. It is generally considered to be the origin of the Japanese department store.

In 1921 (Taisho 10), a modern building consisting of 4 floors was constructed. It was the first shop on Ginza using an elevator, which made it extremely popular. It also signified the first time that the Japanese word for department store (百貨店, hyakaten), was used. The word consists of the characters for hundred, treasure and shops, and was at the time widely talked about.

The English word department store written in katakana as depaatomento sutooa (デパートメントストーア) was already in use at the time. Photos of the 1910s, show it being used on the wall of Tenkado (天下堂), a store in a four-story modern building just a few buildings removed from Hakuhinkan. It is the large white building visible behind Hakuhinkan.

210121-0046-OS - View on Ginza from Shinbashi bridge, 1910
View on Ginza from Shinbashi bridge from 東京名所写真帖 : Views of Tokyo. Tokyo: 尚美堂, July 1910 (Meiji 43).

After the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 (Taisho 12), Hakuhinkan stopped functioning as a department store. In 1978 (Showa 53), on the occasion of the 80th anniversary of the company’s establishment, a new 10-story building was built on this location, called Hakuhinkan Toy Park.1 It is now an extremely popular toy store always featuring in guidebooks about Tokyo. The Lonely Planet describes it as follows2:

This layer cake of a “toy park” is crammed with character toys, the hottest squawking video games, seas of colourful plastic, the softest plush toys ever invented and even a model racetrack (¥200 per five minutes) on the 4th floor.

For more information, and a view of this corner of Ginza during the 1890s, see Tokyo 1890s • Shinbashi Bridge, Ginza.

see current map


1 博品館。博品館の歩み。Retrieved on 2008-10-08.

2 Lonely Planet. Hakuhinkan Toy Park. Retrieved on 2021-08-01.


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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.

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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: Ginza, OLD PHOTOS of JAPAN. Retrieved on July 13, 2024 (GMT) from

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Add Comment

A wonderful image. I would add that the street name is Chuo Dori, but I have also seen it referred to as Ginza Dori on old documents.

The Japanese caption says:「新橋ノ上空ヨリ俯瞰セル銀座方面ノ盛観」, written right to left as was common in the day. This could be translated as: “Sweeping aerial view of Ginza from above Shimbashi”.

Today, an almost identical view of Chuo Dori and Ginza can be had from either the concourse or platform levels of Shimbashi Yurikamome Station, which is situated approximately 150 meters southwest of where the above photo appears to have been taken, and is about 15-18 meters directly above the same street; the contrast of over 100 years is incredible.



@J Tiffany: Thank you. Interestingly, I think that relatively few Japanese people know that this street is called Chuo-dori. Not so many Japanese streets have names, and this is one of the exceptions. Some years ago, I went to this location to photograph the current situation, but for some reason never got to upload the photo. As you mention, the contrast is incredible.