Local Focus: Ginza — Trust as a Core Value
Ginza has been exposed to a great deal of change over the years, often involving difficult arguments and negotiations. In 1998, after countless consultations between Ginza and Chuo Ward, the “56-Meter Rule” was established, limiting buildings facing the Ginza-dori, Harumi-dori, Nishi-ginza-dori, and Showa-dori roads to 56 meters (around 183 feet) in height. In 2003, however, Matsuzakaya and the Mori Building proposed the construction of a 200-meter (650-foot) tall skyscraper, and the Ginza Machidukuri (community development) Council was formed in response to help bridge the communication gap between locals and developers. In 2006, Chuo Ward also adopted the “Ginza Design Council System,” which requires local approval for construction of new buildings in Ginza.
These debates, plans, and conferences are driven by a strong sense among the store-owners of Ginza that they constitute a unique community. What they can accomplish individually may be limited, but faith in mutual discussion to find ways of maintaining the past in the present and into the future, rather than simply accepting every trend as inevitable, is deeply engrained in the area.
“Paging through older materials, in the Taisho Period (1912–1926) you can already see the birth of the Tori-kai (Street Association) to represent the area in discussions of governance and traffic problems, and it’s clear there were attempts to form an all-Ginza conference in the prewar period. Ginza has always placed great importance on trust, and how relationships of trust can be built between newly arrived and longstanding businesses, local government, and customers is one of the community’s perennial concerns.”
In the early 1990s, Eriko Takezawa was the head of a research organization commissioned by Shiseido to study Ginza. Through that project, she made the acquaintance of many Ginza locals; today, she credits it with putting her on the path to her current position. What originally attracted her to Ginza as a topic, she explains, was the human element. “The trust and warmth of the people of Ginza won me over. There’s a tendency to emphasize the exclusive, luxurious side of Ginza, but the people there are very warm.”
Takezawa believes that trust is the essence of Ginza.
“When you shop in Ginza, you can trust in both the product and the store. If you ask at a store for guidance, you can trust that you’ll be given the information you need. You might call this trust in Ginza’s present. I think there’s also an element of trust in Ginza’s past—suits bought there by fathers that sons wear decades later, or wristwatches that can be repaired and made as good as new.” And, of course, trust in Ginza’s future. “The things you can buy in Ginza are so reliable that your children will eventually inherit them. The faith that the people of Ginza have in their own junior employees and eventual successors is unique as well.”
The current rules that Ginza has in place may be changed in ten or twenty years’ time, if extensive discussion reveals that this is necessary. The current Ginza leadership, Takezawa explains, sees this as the natural outcome of a new generation playing a more central role. This ability to take the long view may have something to do with Ginza’s deep history, which has already seen the torch passed down many generations.
“The number of overseas companies in the Ginza Street Association is growing, and this trend looks set to continue. Debates that used to be premised on mutual understanding as Japanese citizens may have to consider matters from different angles. But rather than draft a series of complicated rules for this, the members hope to share the responsibility of making a better future through ‘Ginza-like’ business and culture.” To make this happen, Takezawa says, Ginza needs to get its message out. Ginza Progressive, held in Sukiyabashi Park on September 30 and then again on November 11–12, is part of addressing this. Ginza Progressive is an event that includes everything from on-stage panels to food stalls, and preparations for the next one are well underway. Many other ideas are also in the planning stages.
“Ginza is different in every age; change is in its nature. But even though a family’s grandmother, mother, and daughter may not share the same memories of Ginza, all three might still consider it their favorite place to visit. Those are the kind of trusting relationships Ginza has always cultivated, and while the storefronts may change, the trust they inspire doesn’t. That’s the Ginza I continue to help protect.”
Our interviewee Eriko Takezawa, Secretary-General of the Ginza Street Association, Ginza Association, Ginza Machidukuri Council, and Ginza Design Council.
Following work at a publisher and operation of a planning company, has been involved in Ginza’s planning and development since 1992. Earned her doctorate from the Tokyo Institute of Technology’s Graduate School of Decision Science and Technology in 2011. Publications include Why Are There No High-Rise Buildings in Ginza? (Ginza ni wa naze chokoso biru ga nai no ka; Heibon Shinsha, 2013) and the co-authored of Ginza: The Tale of a Town (Ginza: Machi no monogatari; Kawade Shobo Shinsha, 2006) and Cooperation Between Regions and Universities on Local Development (Chiiki to daigaku no kyoso machizukuri; Gakugei Shuppansha, 2008).
GINZA OFFICIAL: http://www.ginza.jp/