各ジャンルに精通する個性豊かなエディターたちが、GINZA SIXをぶらぶらと

Ginza and the New Normal

田島 朗


I’ve been commuting to Ginza for 23 years. Well, not precisely Ginza: Magazine House is in the Kobikicho district, across Mihara Bridge, under which the now-buried Sanjikken canal once flowed. I’m 45 now. This is my 23rd year in Ginza, which means I’ve been coming to the district for half my life. I’m finally starting to feel I may have a special connection to Ginza, though perhaps it remains presumptuously soon to say such a thing. Within Magazine House, Hanako has even deeper ties to Ginza, having run nearly 80 features on the district in the course of its 32 years. Since becoming a monthly, Hanako still features Ginza twice a year. So, ever since my transfer to Hanako, I’ve had the opportunity to get to know numerous Ginza locals. I’ve even participated in community festivals. Perhaps I’m entitled to say, with more decision in my voice, “Ginza is my town!” Or maybe not quite yet. I believe Ginza is just that special a place.

On taking this assignment, I said I wanted to go to three establishments that opened recently. Opening a store or restaurant in prime Ginza real estate is something special. Nevertheless, in the coronavirus age, is the picture of Ginza the owners of these three establishments once had in their minds still true? They themselves may be wondering if Ginza is OK. And that’s why, as an editor who works in and regularly features Ginza, I wanted to meet and talk to people from these three new places.

I went first to Kumamoto Akaushi Shabu-Shabu Koubai on the 13th floor. The 13th floor is a GINZA SIX hideaway filled with great establishments. Here you can enjoy shabu-shabu with Akaushi Kouseigyu beef from Aso, one of my favorite places in Japan. Akaushi beef from cattle raised in a magnificent natural setting—I’m getting pretty excited.

Today I’ll have the Rin course (18,000 yen; all prices listed before tax). First up are four appetizers: clockwise from top left, godofu, stewed Akaushi beef, taguri yuba, and Akaushi beef cooked at low temperature.

The local Saga godofu in particular, homemade tofu made by kneading soy milk and hon-kudzu from Yoshino, is especially savory. “The kneading process takes quite a bit of work,” Ms Ueda, the restaurant’s proprietress tells me.

Next is meat sushi. The cut served changes each time. This time it’s chuck flap. Add Maldon salt and powdered roasted sea urchin to taste. And it’s just as one would expect for the 13th floor!

And now, yes, the shabu-shabu has arrived. Today’s course is chuck short rib, tongue, ribeye lip, chuck flap, rib roast, sirloin, top sirloin cap, and top blade. The meat is sliced after you place your order.

Why am I grinning here? Way back when, when I was at BRUTUS, we did a meat feature with the title “Meet around Meat” (which sounds a bit embarrassing now), meaning that meat is social, that people congregate around it. My talk with Ms Ueda is warming up. “You look like you love meat.” “Don’t we both?”

I’m not trying to hide anything (and I’m not), but I’m a fundamentalist about sesame seed sauce. I make a pretty big fuss about it. To be honest, I’m often more interested in the sesame seed sauce than the meat. But, taking in the sauce that’s arrived, I’m amazed. This sauce! This glorious sesame seed sauce!

The restaurant’s own sesame paste is presented as something like a dumpling, to be broken apart as you wish, essentially allowing you to make your own sesame dipping sauce. The flavor is magnificent. The sesame paste alone could probably be paired with sake—altogether a course of action worth taking.

Shiitake samurai mushrooms from Tokushima further enrich the flavor of the Rishiri kombu dashi in the pot, wherein one slowly swishes the meat, shabu-shabu style, through the low temperature broth. This is because if the broth were brought to a boil, God forbid, the savor would simply take its leave. Swish-swish, shabu-shabu, swish-swish, shabu-shabu, slowly, leisurely, chill.

The talk turns to Aso, to Ginza. Ms Ueda is a pleasing conversationalist; I’m completely settled in now. Times being what they are, it’s nice to have the option of a private room into which one can settle, as I’ve done today, a place where one can come to have a leisurely dinner with a friend or close acquaintances. I promise to come again on my own time, then make my way belowground.

Now standing on the second belowground floor, I stop by Bicerin, named for the oldest café in Turin, Italy, a legend founded way back in 1763. The famous Café Cova Milano is another of Italy’s venerable cafés, this one founded in 1817 and located in Milan on the upscale Via Monte Napoleone shopping thoroughfare. Actually, they’re both here at GINZA SIX, so the one will have to pardon me for opting for the other. Not such a rare occurrence at GINZA SIX, I imagine.

I’m in a dolce mood after shabu-shabu and order the café’s signature bicerin (1,000 yen), a chocolate drink that means small glass in the Turin dialect. You drink it by tilting the glass to your mouth without disturbing the lovely layers of hot chocolate, espresso, and fresh cream. The recipe and temperature are rigorously controlled. Hemingway is said to have loved it. As an aside, I’d hazard that recommendations from Ernest Hemingway, Shotaro Ikenami, or Juzo Itami are clinchers for just about any male editor.

As I’m enjoying my bicerin alone, not stirring it with a certain panache, I suddenly notice Hello Kitty sitting next to me. What? Kitty? How?

Actually, Kitty was so moved by the taste of bicerin when she visited Turin, she’s now in training, I’m told. She’s sitting there in the middle between the seats to help in the café’s social distancing efforts. Compatriots of the same age, we share a sense of affinity. I’ve been wrapped up in men’s magazine mode for a bit, but now I’m back in Hanako lane. Well, Kitty, I think next time I’ll have something off a special Hello Kitty collaborative menu.

In no time at all the time has come to head back to the office. I’m thinking of buying our editorial staff a little souvenir, so I’m off to Bashodo, also located here on the second belowground floor. Founded back in 1868, it’s sold mochi rice cakes forever—it began making its trademark warabimochi some 80 years ago.

There’s a demonstration space in the corner of the store. When I inquire, I’m told the current president hosts events at department stores around the country, from Hokkaido to Okinawa, and that his sales demonstrations have become quite popular. The warabimochi of just this squishy-squishy consistency, the powdery matcha, and the cut, cut, cut, cutting. Actually, strictly speaking, in ASMR terms, it doesn’t sound like cut, cut, cut. But, at any rate, the sensation of warabimochi being cut is a thrill.

I find myself, without thinking, gazing, gazing, gazing from the front row. My apologies. I inquire into the secrets of the wondrous consistency. I’m told the warabimochi is prepared over direct heat in copper pots, which are somewhat difficult to handle, and that the proprietors are anxious that we enjoy the fresh warabimochi at its softest.

I look into the showcase and see these as well. These Warabimochi Manju (from 232 yen each), with fillings including smooth sweet bean paste (anko), white bean paste, roasted green tea latte-flavored bean paste and mango-flavored bean paste, surrounded by dough made from warabimochi that is jiggly-jiggly (differing from squishy-squishy, to be sure). I believe this is something the women editors at the office would like. I get some, along with the warabimochi.

I wrote on the whiteboard that I was going out a bit (the actual term I used puzzled some of the younger staff; it must be a middle-aged male thing), and I ended up buying all sorts of souvenirs and gifts. But, my dear younger colleagues, warabimochi is to be regarded as something like a drink! Hopefully I’ll make it back before our 3 o’clock break.

Since I’m in Ginza every day, I remember my shock when GINZA SIX was built. Until then, I’d seen Wako as the only iconic building in Ginza. Along comes GINZA SIX, a sparkling newcomer reflecting an understanding of traditional Ginza rules.

The first floor portion maintains continuity with the very Ginza-esque storefronts at street level, the indoor passageways zig and zag like the alleyways outside—a tribute to Ginza—while updating tradition with a presence the district lacked before. I get the sense it was built to last, to be a Ginza fixture for a very long time to come. When I’m an old man, the youngsters will likely look at Wako and look at GINZA SIX and see, on equal terms, two really cool Ginza buildings that have been around a long, long time. I certainly hope so.

There are fewer people in Ginza right now, and it’s been this way for some time now. Is this really the new normal? Both retail complexes and magazines, strictly speaking, are non-essential. But the new normal gets constantly overwritten. We need diversion and brightness in our lives to live. In these unpredictable times, we have no choice but to faithfully proceed, little by little, while keeping a hopeful eye on the latest developments.

In the middle of all this, from my depths, I want to cheer on and support the three establishments I visited today at GINZA SIX. Urban areas are becoming less attractive while rural areas grow more attractive—it’s something you hear all the time these days. But I feel Ginza’s charms will never fade. The appeal of Ginza doesn’t lie in its urban character. Rather, it’s that rare neighborhood, regardless of scope or scale, where one encounters shopkeepers, their bearing and conduct, as people, openly. I want to eat that food, I want to be in this space, I want to see that face. It’s not simply about lavishly enjoying consumption. We come for the richness of the time spent here. Ginza is a rare example of this kind of space. I hope it remains so for a long, long time to come.

Text: Ro Tajima Photos: Yuichi Sugita Edit: Yuka Okada(81)
©1976, 2020 SANRIO CO., LTD. APPROVAL NO. L611995


田島 朗



熊本あか牛しゃぶしゃぶ 甲梅






2020.07.31 UP