This is more of a pictorial article! I was in Ginza a few days ago and whilst I was navigating my way through Ginza subway station I almost accidentally strayed into Tokyu Plaza department store. Like so many of Tokyo’s department stores and malls, Tokyu Plaza has several direct exits to the underground public transport system. On my way to the Marounochi line I saw one of the exits for Tokyu Plaza and went in; was charmed by the food places and restaurants in the basement levels and decide to explore the store further. And this is how I ended up walking around the Hands Expo Culture Mall for almost an hour, admiring arts, crafts and foods from all over Japan.
One a side note: I was interested to see that Tokyu Plaza also includes two Lotte Duty Free floors. Korean consumer goods manufacturer Lotte operates Lotte department stores and Duty Free malls all over Korea – visiting the gigantic Lotte Duty Free near Myeungdong in Seoul is a very special experience indeed! Other Korean retailers also have their own Duty Free Malls and all the major airports in Korea have Duty Free counters and retail areas where you can pick up the Duty Free purchases you made downtown, so you don’t have to drag your shopping all the way to the airport.
These duty free malls cater almost exclusively to mainland Chinese shopping tourists. Over the last few years these same Chinese tourists have also discovered Tokyo as a tax free shopping destination and in Ginza especially there are now many duty free luxury stores. Anyway, I quickly walked around the Lotte Duty Free in Tokyu Plaza but the floors looked exactly like any Duty Free mall: Western and Asia luxury fashion, accessories and cosmetics brands in glittering splendour. Then I saw the sign for “Hands Expo Culture Mall” and went to check it out.
Hands Expo Culture Mall is a joint project of Tokyu Plaza department store and the Tokyu Hands retail chain – both retailers belong to the Tokyu Lands group.
Tokyu Hands is what is called a “variety store” in Japan; the stores sell a huge range of goods – stationery, DIY tools and materials, cosmetics, travel goods, luggage and emergency supplies (in earthquake-prone Japan emergency supplies are an important product category), lighting and interior design, household goods, accessories, technical gadgets, leather goods, umbrellas, party supplies – you can lose yourself for hours in a Tokyu Hands! My favourite outlets are the ones in Shibuya and Shinjuku; I also like the one in Marronier in Ginza which carries Quon cosmetics ; )
Anyway, Tokyu Hands is also a great place to find Japanese arts, crafts and really unusual products that can only exist in Japan! And at Tokyu Plaza, Tokyu Hands is now presenting “undiscovered interesting things” from different places in Japan to the “interesting of people interacting [sic]” in Ginza. Sort of bring the two together. And it certainly worked in my case!
The entire floor is filled with beautiful product design. As you exit the elevators you have the Hands Café on the left hand side and directly ahead are foods and confectionery – hand-packed Japanese teas, sweets and snacks from different Japanese prefectures; several shelves full of regional “sake cups” (ready-to-drink glasses filled with sake) – some in limited edition designs (there were three sake glasses alone dedicated to Shinkansen trains!). Beautifully packaged bottles of rice from different Japanese cities and regions; seaweed snacks and candies.
Further to the right are arts, crafts and design articles ranging from exquisite artisan pottery and hand-painted scarves all the way to “The Wave” decorated t-shirts, capsule toys and the ubiquitous kabuki-style Japanese face masks. The selection really shows off the range of design in Japan, all the way from kitsch-y gift items to breath-taking handicrafts. I just walked around and took pictures – they are fairly high-res and will open in a new browser window, so feel free to click on the pics to see more.
As far as I could tell the Hands Expo seems to be a permanent or at least semi-permanent installation, so it’s not a pop-up store or anything. I also think that there might be cultural events, concerts and so on in the Hands Expo Café; there were a number of flyers posted near the café area.
P.S. Check out the grumpy owl backpacks in the last pic!