Where History Meets Art in One Tokyo Landmark

Okuno Apartments-Building

There's no shortage of art galleries in Japan, but in upscale old-school Ginza, there's one that goes back, waaaaaaaaay back.

The Okuno Building, built in 1932, was originally constructed to serve as a luxury apartment complex. It has miraculously survived the bombings of World War II, as well as the building boom of the 1980s. It stands now as the second oldest building in Ginza, and one of the oldest buildings in Japan.

Once apartments for the rich, it has since been converted to a den of art galleries; on any given day between 20-50 are open to the public. The Okuno Building also serves as artist's studios and shops for artisans.

The building is in complete contrast to its modern Ginza surroundings, almost as if it were a piece of art itself. And while appearing haunting to enter, I strongly urge you to experience its narrow corridors and short ceilings, poking into gallery after gallery and discovering some of the most eclectic collections of art you'll ever (never) find (again).

One of the more remarkable items in the building is its manually operated elevator - just be sure to follow directions on how to use it! Of course, you can take the stairs if the thought of creaking up four floors on the city's oldest lift isn't your idea of fun.

Whether you love art, antique, or taking photographs of historic breathtaking buildings, the Okuno Building and its labyrinth of art galleries is one of the coolest places I have ever been to in Japan. Highly recommended. To find it, take the Tokyo Metro Ginza Subway Line and get off at Itchome Station, Exit 10.

Ginza 1-9-8, Chuo-ku, Tokyo-to
Okuno Building

Yoshihiko Tsutsumi

On the ground floor of the Okuno Building, be sure to look for the (impossible to miss) cute little European antique shop and design studio owned and operated by Yoshihiko Tsutsumi, an incredibly talented artist and very amiable person whom I'm proud to call my friend.

"Yoshi" has worked professionally for years, covering a wide-range of genres and media. His pieces can be a small and fit in the palm of the hand or cover gallery walls stretching over ten-meters across. His awe-inspiring creations have been exhibited not only in Japan's Ueno Royal Museum, but also in New York, Barcelona, and Rio de Janeiro.

Yoshi will gladly show you whatever he has in his shop and talk to you (in English even!) about it. Definitely put it on your list of places to stop by at when you visit Ginza.

When you do, tell him Lee sent you.

Ginza 1-9-8, Chuo-ku, Tokyo-to
Okuno Building 101/508

TEL: 03-3564-5123

Official Website

by Former Deep Japan Writer

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