The very first Apple Store in Japan moved to a new, eco-friendly location in late 2022. In May, AppleInsider went to see how it turned out.
Apple Ginza was originally opened in 2003, and was not only the first Apple Store in Japan, but the first anywhere outside the US. It was followed by another four stores in Tokyo, and a further five across the rest of Japan.
Coming just two years after the first-ever Apple Stores, the design of the one in Ginza was very familiar. But, it isn't now.
That old store with its instantly recognizable space-gray aluminum cladding was demolished in 2022 and relocated about half a mile to its new home at Hulic & New Ginza 8, 9-7 Ginza 8-Chome, Chuo-ku, Tokyo.
New environmentally-friendly store
Apple Ginza had been in the bottom floors of an eight-story Sayegusa building, but it closed on August 28, 2022. While that building was scheduled for demolition, Apple moved its store, opening up in its new site on August 30, 2022.
The new store is significant because it has been purpose-built to standards that are being seen as a new era in Japanese architecture. Over half of its major load-bearing structure supports is wood, coupled with more regular steel and concrete for additional strength.
Around 300 cubic meters of wood has been used. And across the lifetime of the building, it's intended that the design will significantly cut carbon dioxide emissions.
The new store is also built to withstand earthquakes. Tokyo is very regularly subjected to minor earthquakes, and at times devastating ones.
In 2011, a 9.0 magnitude quake (on Japan's scale) and a resulting tsunami caused almost 20,000 deaths. In the aftermath, Apple Ginza and all of the city's Apple Stores became rallying points for people needing to contact the outside world.
Now in 2023, the new Apple Ginza has been built to withstand at least a magnitude 7 earthquake.
When you strolling up to the store in early evening, though, you don't see a heavy-built structure. Instead, you see what initially seems to be a small and narrow boutique kind of space.
It is narrow, and it is small, but Apple Ginza is spread out vertically. Unlike most Apple Stores with one or perhaps two floors, Ginza has four that can be seen by the public.
According to original reports of the construction, the building is actually 12 storeys high and Apple is believed to occupy half of those.
In terms of width, the store is clearly narrower than the original, and looks like it's been squeezed in between existing retail outlets on the street. It's actually easy to miss as you walk down a wide street that's replete with stores.
Inside the store
From side to side, there are also two regular tables but against each side wall is a half-width third table, built like a shelf.
It's got to be one of Apple's smallest stores and yet despite its size, and despite the fact that it was busy, it still feels easy to saunter around. There were no crowds, there was no jostling, yet the place felt as alive as any Apple Store.
Roughly the same floor space is also available one floor down in a basement, and for two more floors up.
The basement is where the "Today at Apple" sessions are held, plus it's where pre-orders can be collected. There are also iPhone accessories in the basement, but the same ones are up on the third floor as well.
An Apple Store like few others
It of course makes sense that big sellers like accessories would be prominently displayed, but having them in two areas somehow adds to the boutique feel. You could be walking through a craft market, just a very expensive one.
This feel and this small size is unusual for Apple, but not for Tokyo. All around the city there are remarkable examples of architecture, yet above street level it looks like they've been crammed too closely together.
At street level, the rows of office blocks and retail stores are blended more than crammed, and the buildings feel like little Bento boxes.
Apple Ginza will never have the space for trees inside the store, as with many of Apple's other recent innovations.
But it's got charm.
For other new or recently updated stores that do, for instance, have trees, read about Apple Brompton Road in London.