Okuno Building Manual Elevator – Tokyo, Japan - Atlas Obscura

Okuno Building Manual Elevator

This atmospheric pre-war building is home to one of the few manually operated elevators left in Tokyo. 

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Ginza is Tokyo’s flagship shopping district and is home to numerous boutiques, art galleries, and cafés, upmarket but with comfy historic charms.

A little off its main street stands the Okuno Building, a relic of pre-war Japanese architecture. Built in 1932 and extended with an annex in 1934, it was designed as a high-income, earthquake-resistant apartment complex then-named the Ginza Apartment, and survived the Bombing of Tokyo into the current age.

Old-fashioned to a fault, the Okuno Building is well-maintained and home to several art galleries and antique shops, a microcosm of Ginza culture before brands took over it. Its hallways and staircases are full of character, narrow and dimly lit, evocative of life in the bygone Shōwa era.

But the Okuno Building’s centerpiece is its manually-operated elevator, one of the few remaining in Tokyo, which continues to work just fine. While the nearby Takashimaya department store’s elevator is more widely known—and even designated as an Important Cultural Property—the Okuno Building elevator does not have its own staff operator unlike it, letting visitors ride by themselves.

Though the elevator itself is not the original, having been replaced for safety concerns, its door remains a manual type and the floor indicator plaques are believed to be as old as the building, boasting a different, Art Deco-style design for each floor. If you ever wanted to slip back in time and get a glimpse of pre-war Tokyo, take this chance and take this elevator—you’re in for a ride, that’s for sure.

Know Before You Go

The Okuno Building is located at 1-9-8 Ginza, just across the street from Exit 10 of Ginza-itchome Station. It can also be easily accessed from Ginza Station or Higashi-Ginza Station, about five minutes away by walk.


Another manually-operated elevator in Tokyo can be found on the periphery of the Jimbocho Book Town, on the second floor of the Shintendo Building.

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October 20, 2023

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