Japan, shopping spree!

The shopping part of the trip is always a new experience each time we head up to Tokyo. So, it’s really like an annual pilgrimage for us (well specifically Suan) to “pay homage” to the shopping scene in Japan and particularly Tokyo.

If shopping were to be recognized as an Olympic sport, I am sure that Suan will be vying for a place at the podium, and I dare say for the Gold Medal.

So, what is different this year? Well for one the format is slightly different, in that we had got into Tokyo first and did a small amount of leg work in the vicinity of the Shinjuku hotel we put up for a night.

Then it was off on the express train to the small city of Gotemba (or is it Gotenba? Never got this sorted out). There is the Premium outlet mall nearby, probably less than 10 minutes’ drive from the train station. This journalog starts from Tokyo and skips the Fuji five lakes segment and picks up from when we returned to Tokyo for the real shopping.

With a late morning Shinkansen, we arrived at mid day and picked up the rental car. Drove to our hotel and then onto the outlet mall. It was a long shopping day!

5th February
The delay did not stop us from making our way to the hotel and finally to dinner. Of course no end of the day without a small dose of shopping!
Japanese Doll festival1 Finally made it to Haneda! The flight itself was not an issue and we actually watched quite a few movies onboard.

However the more than 1.5 hours’ delay was such a bummer!

There is no direct stop of the limousine bus at the Kadoya hotel and we had to walk from the Keio

Japanese Doll festival3
We had alighted the limousine bus at the Keio plaza hotel. After buying the return tickets we browsed the dolls on display for the children’s Doll festival in the hotel lobby.

It is only a 5-minute walk from Keio we got to the Kadoya hotel, a smaller outfit right next to one of Shinjuku’s many shopping areas. Eventhough we could have taken a taxi, we decided to drag our luggage across.

Kadoya hotel viewView of the Kadoya hotel Kadoya pillowsKadoya room
Shinjuku night1 Shinjuku night2 Shinjuku night3
After a dinner at our usual jaunt (Ton chin kan), we ended the night doing a small amount of shopping (mostly heat pads, lip balm etc) along Shinjuku. There just wasn’t enough time today!
Overnight stay in Kadoya Hotel, Shinjuku @ ¥17,800 (no breakfast)

And so we rested for the night full of trepidation of the next few days. Questions in my mind were: how safe would the roads be to drive in all that snow? I had not driven in winter since 2005! Suan, meanwhile was fast aseleep dreaming about where and in what sequence she will visit the shops…

6th February
No shopping in the morning, but this was more than made up for in the late afternoon at the premium outlet. Suan almost did not want to leave…
Shinjuku station food2 We got to Shinjuku station really early as we booked the 10:50am “Asagiri” limited express departure. This is a 1.5 hour train ride.

We spent some time browsing the food outlets and buying some light brunch before heading in to wait for the train. The inter-cabin where the toilets and waste chutes are located.

Romance car interior2
This is a limited express train, which means it makes quite a few stops along the way. We had five. Tickets for this service are via booking only and all the seats are reserved. It cost us ¥5,620pp.  Surprisingly there was no food service cart on this service but we had our rice “balls” with cheese sticks along the way.  Upon arrival, we walked a short distance from the train station to the Nissan car rental office. We rented a Nissan Note once again, and headed off to check in at our hotel for 2 nights. Romance car interior1
 Super hotel 1 Super Hotel LogoView of Fuji from Aeon2Just 10-minutes’ drive from Gotemba station, we checked in but did not get the room, but then it was ok as we headed off to the outlet mall!  Gotemba outlet night3
We had stopped at an Aeon max-value mall where we picked up supplies for the next few days. Then off to the outlet mall for our entire afternoon’s shopping.
Quite some rotation of the tenant mix noted this round, which is the norm. The Burberry blue label store is gone!Gotemba outlet night7
Gotemba outlet night10Suan did pretty well this time with her clothing acquisition, netting a total of more than 10 items over the day at a fraction of the original price!

We only left when it was time for the outlet to close!

Gotemba outlet night13
Gotemba outlet night12 Gotemba outlet night2 The opening hours of the mall are from 10am-7pm almost every day. There are only a few days in which the mall is closed, one of which is in February, so look out for it.
Unlike the daytime, where there are hordes of tourists, it was so pleasant to walk around and shop at a leisurely pace in the evening.
Overnight stay in Super Hotel I, Gotemba @ ¥9,440 and includes breakfast!

So ends this first part of the shopping. For those who are in for bargains, the premium outlet mall offers some of that. However if you are looking for something specific you may not find them all here. Remember that the outlet mall concept is not just to retail the out of season stuff. Some retailers actually make stuff for sale at the outlet malls.

Next up we are off to see Mr Fuji. Click here to read more about our road trip adventure at the Fuji five lakes.

We now pick up from the time we left the five lakes and journey back to the alluring shopping neon lights of Tokyo…

After a great morning view of Mt Fuji, we had a morning drive to Yamanakako where we continued the pleasure of viewing the mountain from various scenic spots. But alas it was time to go back to Tokyo soon for the shopping!

10th February
Ok, so the sightseeing part is finished. Time for the start of serious business. Not much photos to share here, it was serious serious browsing time.
Kadoya hotel logo

Back in Tokyo, we checked in and immediately headed out to the shops. First stop – pre owned outlets that seem to have sprung out all over the city!
And the interesting thing is – they all seem to have mandarin speaking staff to cater to the Chinese!

Pre-Owned shoppingA lot of Hermes here! The in-thing seems to be pre-owned shopping in Japan and there is a lot of supply!
Then it was shopping all over Shinjuku ending with dessert “shopping” in the evening.
We happen to be here on the eve of a public holiday and also being close to Valentine’s day.
In our journalog on culinary experiences while in Japan this time, you will find a whole host of photos of intricately designed confectionery. All to tickle the visual sense.
Overnight stay in Kadoya Hotel, Shinjuku @ ¥17,800 (no breakfast)

The train ride back was the only respite the whole day from walking. Ever since this trip and with Suan discovering that my iPhone has a health app that tracks how many steps or what distance was covered in a day, she has been tracking her progress when it comes to the walking for shopping…

11th February
Full day shopping at the Shibuya area. Ometesando does not disappoint and we (me and Suan) both had a great haul!
Shinjuku Sekaido stationery 2 Shinjuku Sekaido stationery 1 Suan started her morning with a visit to her usual stationery store in Shinjuku. It stocks everything you need in the 5 floors.
Our first stop was at Kiddyland, with 4 floors of toys, trinkets etc. It is a public holiday in Japan, thus the crowd was unbelievably large. So, it was quite some jam at the check-out counters.
Then it was off to the small shops all around Ometesando. Today we had the pleasure of exploring the area at a slow pace, walking to smaller side streets we normally did not have time for. Melvin even bought for himself a hand-made watch!
Kiddyland1 Kiddyland2 Ometesando1 Ometesando2
While Shibuya and Harajuku is traditionally known as the hotbed of youth culture and fashion, adjacent to it (Ometesando) is considered a more sophisticated area of artistic and gallery lined streets.

Really worth spending some time here!
No shopping day will be complete without a visit to the drug store. The ones at Shibuya seem to have a slightly different range, hence the reason for Suan to ‘source’ from different parts of Tokyo…

Shibuya Drug store 2Then the discounts offered are different across stores in Tokyo from different chains. It is a fine art to shop for personal care products in Japan!Shibuya Drug store 1
Overnight stay in Kadoya Hotel, Shinjuku @ ¥17,800 (no breakfast)

We walked 13.97km today according to the iPhone. Now over a near 10-hour period that’s actually ok (I run it in about 1½ jours). The challenge is not the distance but the standing. Now if Apple can track how long I was standing – in queues to pay, at malls waiting etc, that would be a revolutionary development.

12th February
Back at Shibuya today, we had less competition for the shopping floor space as it back to working day for the locals. We managed to cover the lost ground from yesterday!
Disney Store9 Disney Store1 After the lunch, we went to the Disney store again. Today no crowds! On the top floor is where discounted goods are offered. Today there was 50% discount. Each time when we come back, it never ceases to amaze us what is “in store”!
Obviously Suan went gaga over this and bought lots of stuff. Now this cannot compare to Disneyland itself, but it is a very good consolation prize.
The latest offer is tiny or miniature characters – see rows of them as you scroll down! Be prepared to spend at least two hours here. You’ll need it.
Be sure to check out the top floor for deals è
After Disney, we left for Parco where Suan continued her shopping for clothes and accessories for the home…
We walked a short distance to Tokyu hands, which have such a large selection of products. This outlet has an innovation-based theme and many of the products here are novel. This one’s packed into 10F of almost anything under the sun. Definitely a must to do at least some browsing here. You might just find something you never thought you’d need here.
Disney Store8 Disney Store10
Shibuya night1 Shibuya night2 Finalizing our day with some drug store shopping along the side streets of Shibuya, we went to the Hikarie mall to have Okinawa our meal.
You see, the famed cross junction here in Shibuya is perpetually crowded. And many people are carrying plenty of shopping with them!
Shibuya road crossing1
Overnight stay in Kadoya Hotel, Shinjuku @ ¥17,800 (no breakfast)

Only 8.5km today. And that was only because we had “focused” on a few shopping destinations in Shibuya. Lucky Melvin!

13th February
A gourmet experience today at the Bvlgari restaurant. After a 2½ hour dining experience, we came away impressed! Then it was yet more shopping till dinner time.
Bvlgari boutique2 Bvlgari boutique1 Today is Ginza shopping day.
←First stop was at the Bvlgari boutique – where Suan surveyed the bags on sale. The ‘serpent’ design is quite alluring. And some of these you cannot find in the other boutiques.
There is a bridal floor for newlyweds (or to be) to select their wedding bands on the second floor. The jewelry selection is definitely wider here! So for those who are seeking out engagement rings, this is the place to get that made only for Japan piece.
Ultimately, the ground floor’s where the really pricey stuff are. Lots of fine time pieces and jewelry and many customers!
Ginza Kitchoran Persimmon store 3 Then the true shopping begun. Browsing the streets (it turns pedestrian only until 5pm on weekends), we shopped at Printemps, then a successive number of pre-own stores. Brands like Ragtag given the impression of worn down luxury. Quite the opposite is true!
Suan made her usual stop at Shiseido here in Ginza (where you can get a facial and have tea after). Main item to purchase – lavender soap.
We visited the Kitchoan confectionery store (源吉兆庵) next to Shiseido and bought dried persimmons. The store has an exhibit of dolls (remember doll festival) on the 2nd floor. Just realized that they actually have a restaurant / private dining.
Ginza Kitchoran Persimmon store 1
Overnight stay in Kadoya Hotel, Shinjuku @ ¥17,800 (no breakfast)

Ginza is the Orchard road to Singaporeans. And like its counterpart in the little red dot, there are numerous luxury brands strewn all over. Lots of tourists, probably well outnumber the locals. Not that there were much to buy but except perhaps a really good meal (click here on the Gastronomy page). We ended up walking only 9.3km.

14th February
Spent this final full shopping day in Shinjuku, for Suan to ‘mop up’ any last minute purchases. We spent the day at Takashimaya and Tokyu Hands.
Tokyu Hands5Today we stayed at Takashimaya for most of the day and the adjacent Tokyu hands for the whole day. They have a cloak room and we left our coats in their care (for free!).

We spent a lot of time at Tokyu hands. Different from the one at Shibuya, the one here appears to have a more comprehensive offering. Just take the face mask as an example →

This is where we found lots of craft products. There are silver clay kits and gemstones to match (Melvin was so excited.

These kits come with a small “oven” to fire up the silver clay moulds. Have been looking for this for months!Tokyu Hands1
Tokyu Hands2 Tokyu Hands3 Tokyu Hands6
Good view of the city on a sunny day!View of Tokyo from Takashimaya2 Then there are also products for the DIY enthusiast to make your own leather ware.
Again there are kits where the tools and materials to weave a wallet, handbag etc, whatever you may wish…craft heaven. Hobbyists take note, this is the place to come to and spend the better part of an afternoon.
Not everything is about shopping of course (isn’t it?) and Takashimaya building offers you an opportunity to rest those tired eyes from all the shopping on the 13F.
Tokyu Hands4
Overnight stay in Kadoya Hotel, Shinjuku @ ¥17,800 (no breakfast)

What can beat celebrating Valentine’s day in a foreign country? And we don’t even want to talk about the distance covered, it was all for love!

15th February
Today we bid Tokyo farewell and did some last minute shopping. Then it was off to the airport for a first class check in and flying home in style in SIA suites!
We started the day with a walk at the Lumine shopping center and lunch. All packed up now and the wallet being empty (meaning card overcharged…burnt perhaps) we did not really shop beyond lunch. Just window shopping… Then it was time to take a taxi to the Keio Plaza and off we went to the airport for our first class experience!
Tokyo taxiIt cost us ¥1140 for the short ride of approximately 7-8 minutes. Keio pickup point Airport Limousine←The shuttle picks up passengers in a number of points as indicated in the map on the left.
It took us more than1½ to get to the airport.
Flight SQ12, ETD 2050hrs for Singapore

And it ends here…

Well at least for now. The pace of change in the retail landscape in Japan is constant, though some remains static. You will probably not notice the “recessionary” feel of the country while you are browsing in the shopping streets of Shinjuku, Shibuya, Ginza etc.

Buoyed by tourists, Tokyo (and the other large Japanese cities) are buttressed against the downturn that perhaps is afflicting other parts of the country. It has been an incredible week to witness once again the innovation that can only be said to be legendary.

The only parallel for comparison to shopping is probably eating. And in a separate journalog we do a little more justice to explaining just what we were up to on the culinary side. Click here to read more on our eating adventures.

February 2016

Coming back for more, for sure.

Back to Hunting for Mr Fuji

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