On a recent Wednesday afternoon, after a thoroughly tiring day of ginbura (roaming the streets of Ginza) we stepped into the elevator of a nondescript building and took it to the second floor. As the doors open and we stepped out, a heavy white canvas noren hung before us, signalling our temporary reprieve from the humidity, the tourists and the taxis.
We pushed our way through the curtain and entered our oasis: Higashiyama Ginza. The Japanese green tea and wagashi sweets shop has called Ginza home for almost 7 years now. A host of different materials occupied the space from wood, steel, bronze and glass. But everything breathed calmly together, offering a deep calm while also offering visitors a never-ending array of eye candy. It was surely the mark of designer Shinichiro Ogata, who had been meticulously responsible for every last detail of the shop from the glass pendant lights to the bronze menu clasps that mimicked vintage newspaper holders.
Higashiyama Ginza offers Japan’s take on afternoon tea. The staff are all versed in the shop’s 30+ varieties of green tea, and will offer seasonal wagashi sweets to pair with the tea. The shop also serves lunches using seasonal ingredients, but we opted for tea.
After 3 refills, which is standard operating procedure, we felt rejuvenated and relaxed. After we had devoured the wagashi, staff brought out a small place of pickled cucumbers and rice crackers, which was a nice touch. As we walked out, the heavy noren felt lighter. But that didn’t make it any easier to push our way out and back onto the streets.