Finding Apple Store Ginza

Adel Gabot

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5:09PM

I saw Alex Gibney’s new, controversial documentary Steve Jobs: The Man In The Machine the other day, found it eye-opening and enlighening, and saw how Apple certainly wouldn’t get behind the film, and wouldn’t find it flattering at all. It was sometimes nasty, actually. It shows the raw side of Jobs, and it certainly doesn’t paint the company in the best light, much less its fabled, legendary founder. At the beginning of the film, it showed Apple Stores around the world and how people flocked to them after Jobs’ untimely, but not entirely unexpected, death in 2011, setting up veritable shrines to the man in the street, piled high with flowers.

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One of the scenes showed the Apple Store in the Ginza area in Tokyo. It seemed pretty familiar to me, and I realized I was actually there at one time in my life!

I went to Tokyo on a press junket in 2007 in connection with one of my jobs as Editor-in-Chief of Pinoy Rider Extreme, sponsored by the magazine’s main (and unspoken) benefactor, Honda Philippines (let’s not fool ourselves—it was a glorified advertising campaign for Honda, disguised as a magazine for motorcycle enthusiasts). We were there to attend the Tokyo Motor Show, to take a tour of Honda’s factory and facilities and to see the sights. I did my duty and went to all the exhibits (it took me three whole days to cover everything), and even went on a trip to the countryside to go visit the Twin Ring Motegi racetrack.

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I remember I took some of the off-time to go seek out the large, five-story Apple building there. It was my chance to see an actual, honest-to-goodness Apple Store. It so happened the day that I went was the international launch day of OS X 10.5 Leopard too, so it was a big deal for the Apple folk.

We had the entire day to ourselves, and in the morning some of my companions and I went to Akihabara, that gadget, tech and otaku haven I had read about on the net. It was glorious, but I couldn’t really buy anything, because funds. But I enjoyed going around the many shops and stores and had a great time windowshopping. We had lunch at a KFC before going back to the hotel.

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In the afternoon it started raining, and when I asked my friends if they wanted to go to the Apple Store in Ginza, wherever that was, they all declined. Not only because it was raining hard and they didn’t know where Ginza was, but also because I was, apparently, the only Apple nut in the group. Which was not very encouraging, as I didn’t know where the hell to go, and it was very intimidating to find a building in the vast but orderly chaos of Tokyo. But I persevered, and went out on my lonesome.

I can’t imagine doing that nowadays, after my stroke. But I was a different person back then. It was a formidable task, but I was younger, and more impulsive and adventurous. I set about scouring for the address on the net, and when I got it, I went to the nearby commuter train station to find out how to get to Ginza. I spent a long time trying to decipher the inscrutable maps, but the natives turned out to be very helpful to a lost tourist. A couple of them took the time with their halting English to try and help me.

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Pretty soon I had the basic instructions on how to get to Ginza. Ginza Block 3, actually—it was located in a busy commercial district on Chuo-Dori, across from the Matsuya Department Store. It was a long, arduous trip from our hotel, with many train transfers, but I was game—how often do you get a chance to go to an actual Apple Store on such an eventful day? I got to the general area, but checking the map on my laptop, I found out there weren’t any rides to the place from the nearest train station other than a cab, and it was a long walk in the rain. Cabs in Tokyo were expensive. I chose to walk. At least I brought my trusty old raincoat with me.

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So I went, and when I finally got there I found a large crowd in front of the Apple Store. The store opens from 9AM to 9PM, everyday. It was around 3:30 in the afternoon, but apparently it was closed from 3 to 6PM to prepare for the Leopard launch, after which it would open again to loud fanfare, fuss and french horns. Swell.

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I went and took pictures of the building and checked out the surrounding shops before joining the long line to get in. It must have wound around at least three or four blocks when I finally got to line up in the pouring rain. Japanese people were so orderly and polite, and you didn’t need to ask them to line up properly; they just did so by themselves. I was amazed. The Apple staff was very nice, and they gave us free drinks and complimentary umbrellas and plastic raincoats and generally tried to keep our spirits up while we waited.

It was kind of a nasty couple of hours, but I didn’t really mind. I made friends with the people in line with me— or at least I tried to; it was hard with my limited Nippongo and their limited English. But there was something about being Apple zealots that transcended nationalities, and we got along swimmingly. But it was getting dark, and I was alone in a strange, unfamiliar place populated with people that didn’t speak my language. I was determined not to worry.

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Finally, 6PM rolled around, and they started letting people in. The line went in fast (it was a big place) and I got to enter the store shortly after 6:30. In honor of the Leopard launch, they were giving away complimentary black t-shirts emblazoned with Apple and Leopard things. I snapped one up right away. I tried to get two, another for a “friend” who was also coming—heh— and using the language thing as an excuse to be largely unintelligible, but they wouldn’t budge. I proceeded into the store.

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The Apple Store at Ginza 3 was certainly a humongous place, four floors of product space and a “presentation” floor on the fifth, but it still got pretty crowded. It was a big party. There was a DJ setup on the second floor, playing loud, riotous, happy music, and the entire place was decorated to the nines with Leopard merchanding. I went up the glass stairs to the upper floors and explored to my heart’s content, looking at all the new Apple stuff, but I couldn’t buy anything, because, you know, funds.

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I went around and around in a daze moving from floor to floor. I saw MacBooks and iMacs and iPods and all the stuff Apple was selling. But it was getting late; I got my fill of the Apple Store, and finally headed for the long walk in the rain and the many train rides back to the hotel. I bungled the transfers on the way back, so I had to take the long away around, and it was almost 10PM when I got back to my area.

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It was too late to catch dinner with the guys, so I did something I’d always wanted to do since watching Tampopo all those years ago: getting a quick bowl of ramen at a shop in the train station. It was difficult to order as I didn’t speak the language, so I just pointed to get my order—a large pork ramen with miso, which I devoured quickly standing up, as apparently this was how it was done at a busy train station. Then I walked back to my hotel, exhausted, but happy and satisfied.

Needless to say, I slept very well that night.


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