A Ginza Tanaka employee shows off a $1.8 million Christmas tree made with 19-kilogram of pure gold wires at the Ginza Tanaka store in Tokyo on November 22, 2016.
AFP/Toshifumi Kitamura
A Ginza Tanaka employee shows off a $1.8 million Christmas tree made with 19-kilogram of pure gold wires at the Ginza Tanaka store in Tokyo on November 22, 2016. AFP/Toshifumi Kitamura

Ginza, Japan’s largest luxury shopping and entertainment district, is the home of the capital’s top wining and dining offerings, according to Time Out’s Love Tokyo Awards 2016.

Venues in Ginza and its environs took four of the six awards available, for best restaurant, best café, best bar and best activity.

Aside from service, quality and price, judges reviewed nominees based on originality, atmosphere and desirability, reflecting the growing demand for unique and localized experiences, particularly among international travelers.

“We’re all about highlighting unique, independent places loved by locals,” Time Out explained on its website.

Reflecting on the winner in the restaurant category, Kitafuku Ginza, Alex Plim, judge and international digital content editor of Time Out, commented: “The experience was so theatrical, so special, so well executed … It wasn’t just the fact that they dismantled a king crab right in front of you, it was the whole atmosphere of the place.”

The crab specialty restaurant offers meals of at least two hours’ duration featuring boiled, charcoal-grilled and raw variations of the popular crustacean.

Fellow judge Lim Chee Wah, Time Out’s editorial director, gave similar reasoning for his choice of top café, Higashiya Ginza. “It’s a modern and beautiful take on the Japanese tea experience,” he commented. In addition to offering green tea and traditional sweets, the contemporary tea salon serves beer, shochu and wine, with staff on hand to recommend the perfect confectionary pairings.

In neighboring Marunouchi, Bar Oak inside the Tokyo Station Hotel scooped the award for best bar, thanks to its “signature cocktails,” “tremendous truffles” and “excellent atmosphere.”

A key decision-making factor, said judges, was also the décor of red brick and wood. Not only does it match the hotel’s newly renovated exterior but it is also in keeping with the building’s rich history and designation as an Important Cultural Property of Japan.

Not surprisingly given the planned (but delayed) relocation of Tsukiji fish market, a trip to the market near Higashi-Ginza was named as the best activity of 2016.

According to Time Out, the best time to visit is at 9am, when the Inner Market opens to the public and there is a chance to “stroll its narrow alleys in search of superb seafood, street snacks and a taste of old Tokyo in action.

Customers at the sushirestaurant chain Sushi-Zanmai main branch near Tokyo’s Tsukiji fish market on January 5, 2016. AFP/ Kazuhiro Nogi

With a rich history dating back to the 16 th century as well as gourmet finds and cultural curiosities, the fish market has been a popular tourist destination for decades but that keeps growing as visitors grab their chance to experience this epicenter of Japanese cuisine in its original location.

In other categories, the best shop award was given to Isetan Shinjuku, which Time Out described as “arguably the trendiest department store in Japan,” while Tokyobike took the title of best product for its minimalist bicycles.

The judges also gave a Face of Tokyo award to a number of individuals who they consider to be “ideal representatives of Tokyo in 2016.” They include artist Takashi Murakami, the CEO of Hoshino Resorts Yoshiharu Hoshino and singer-songwriter Sheena Ringo.

Announced on December 21 in Shibuya, the Love Tokyo Awards is the global guide’s inaugural award ceremony for the capital following the success of its similar campaigns in London and New York.

To decide the winners, nominees were chosen from Time Out Tokyo’s “Best of Tokyo” articles before its editors from around the world personally reviewed and ranked them. The six judges represented Hong Kong, Beijing, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, London and New York.