Welcome to Yamaha's $100m music palace
Imagine a building where you could choose from a selection of 20,000 music CDs/DVDs, plus 80,000 musical scores. Where you can also buy, learn and listen to a vast array of instruments, from £100,000 grand pianos to the latest in 'silent' digital drum-kits - or maybe just pick up a plectrum. Then you could cut your own album. And finish off by enjoying a concert from a maestro.
If you live in Tokyo, you don't have to imagine - you can do all this, and more, at Yamaha's new Ginza store.
Built at a cost of $100m, this stunning building sits at the heart of the high-end Ginza district, where Yamaha has had a flagship store since the 1950s (its first Tokyo store opened in 1909).
Officially opened back in February, we were able to investigate each of its 15 floors - 12 above ground, plus 3 basement levels - when we visited Tokyo last week.
One in four musical instruments is a Yamaha
For those of us maybe more familiar with Yamaha's AV receivers, soundbars or even motorbikes, the Ginza store is a reminder that the company started as a maker of reed organs, and now accounts for an impressive 25% of musical instrument sales worldwide.
Three floors of the new store - as well as the lobby - showcase the company's near-endless array of instruments. While pianos - grand, upright, digital, plus keyboards great and small - remain central, you'll also find wind instruments, brass, strings (including guitars) and percussion. Entire orchestras and pop groups can be/are outfitted here, right down to the carry cases and accessories to match.
Traditional instruments sit alongside their modern digital counterparts, along with plenty of digital/analogue hybrids. It's a little eerie watching the digital instruments - including the cello and double bass above - being played in silent mode, while their player hones their skills via headphones.
Yamaha offers a further neighbour-friendly option for musicians - and hi-fi fans - in the shape of soundrproofed room 'shells', which it also sells at the Ginza store.
There are also two floors selling sheet music, music books, music paper and that 20,000-disc music CD and DVD store. Surveying rack upon rack of recordings, we wished London offered such a resource for performers and music fans alike.
Listen and learn
Floors 7-9 of the store are filled with a magnificent concert hall (pictured above), which seats 333 people and will host 50 concerts a year. While we were there, the staff were preparing for a forthcoming concert by tuning a £100,000 Bosendorfer piano - the Austrian brand, made famous by Liszt, is now owned by Yamaha.
The acoustics are excellent, with the added bonus that the hall still smells of the fresh wood from which it was built!
Downstairs on floor 6, meanwhile, is a Concert Salon for smaller shows.
However, it's floors 10-12 where members of the public can get to play as well as listen. These floors house the flagship branch of Yamaha's Music School, which has the capacity to teach 3000 students - 2300 (children and adults) have already signed up since the store opened. They join more than half a million students worldwide currently attending Yamaha music schools.
Gonna Make You a Star
When you've bought and been taught the instrument, got inspiration from all those CDs and written your own masterpiece on some of that music paper, you can head down to the sub-basement of the Ginza store, where you'll find a recording suite (pictured below). It's a flexible space that can accommodate a wide range of performers and performance styles. Sadly we had no time to lay down a hit of our own...
For more pictures of the Ginza store, visit the Yamaha Music Japan website.
For more on how Yamaha makes its musical instruments, check out Andrew Everard's blog from his 2008 visit to the company's piano, woodwind and brass factories.