In my final post on Tokyo (for now! as I am sure I will be back to Tokyo again and will be happy to share my tips with you) you can read about the following:
Where else to shop… ladies and gentlemen it is bargain hunting time
My best find during this visit…
For the couples and the romantic hearts out there…
Happy reading! I hope you will find something that interest and inspire you, and you will take up some of my recommendations the next time you are in Tokyo.
…and Dear Park Authority, if you read this entry I hope you will find the beauty of my story. Dear Reader, by the end of this post, the above will all make sense!
Where else to shop… ladies and gentlemen it is bargain hunting time
I covered the basics of Shibuya and mentioned Seria, Uniqlo and GÜ already in my first entry, though I will go on about Uniqlo a bit more here. Promise, solely for your benefit. Even if the brand is available in your country make sure that you check out the flagship store in Ginza. It is the largest in the world and has 12 floors, so guaranteed you will find something either for yourself or as a present. Bear in mind that this shop gets quite busy especially with the Chinese tourists who come on coaches for shopping trips. This area is is considered the Ginza shopping district, so can easily spend a day or two here shop hopping and bargain hunting.
Just remember that Uniqlo and some of the bigger stores also do a VAT exclusion for tourists. The Uniqlo offer is valid for any purchase over ¥5000, but you must have your passport with you, as they staple the receipt in there. Then all you need to do is to hand that slip in at a desk, just before you proceed to immigration at the airport. Ok, the VAT is not that much maybe around 8%, but if you are considering purchasing a few items then it all adds up.
Where to go for the Ginza shopping day out and for the largest Uniqlo in the world just head to Ginza’s main street Chuo Dori
Or cut and paste this into your Google map: Japan, 〒104-0061 東京都中央区銀座 ギンザコマツ ６−９−５ ギンザコマツ東館 1F－12F
Sunshine City – this is one of the department stores I visit every time I am in Tokyo, and is located in Ikebukuro. I used to get off at the main subway station at Ikebukuro, and fight my way through the crazy amount of people both under and over ground, but I must be getting subway savvy, or just got lucky this time (either way it works me). I was taking the Ginza line and noticed that the Y10 station aka Higashi Ikebukuro (just one station before Ikebukuro) had some signposts for Sunshine City. So off I jumped the metro and followed the signs. I was in the mall in less than 5 minutes, no big crowd, no hassle, just pure satisfaction! I think I nailed it, just as good as a local!
Now, I will tell you how on earth I ended up in this mall the first time, as it was not down to coincidence, but careful research and map reading. Believe me, you would probably not find this mall by luck! It is rather a mission in itself!
If you read my previous post on Tokyo, you might have gathered that in the family we have a thing going on for Studio Ghibli, and I really wanted to get some authentic souvenirs for Antoine. However, I read that the Ghibli museum was quite far out of the city, so was very happy when I came across a shop that was specialising in Studio Ghibli items. Since the first trip, we got a few more gismos, but still my favourite are these chopsticks. But even if you don’t buy anything, the shop worth a visit, not to mention, you can get a picture taken with Totoro waiting at the bust stop. Always fun 🙂 ( I know you probably wonder what the hell… )
You can find all Studio Ghibli characters here and the shop also sell Moomins gadgets
Our favourite chopsticks. I own the pair with Jiji, aka the black cat from Kiki’s delivery service.
The mall itself is not that known to tourists, or at least I have not seen a lot of them here, so you will mainly come across locals, which is also reflected in some of the fashion and items that are on offer. My favourite area though is the market hall within the mall, which is located at the far end on the lower level. I found some real gems in this area, though not every time I get lucky. The brand is called archives and is a tiny boutique within the market hall as you enter. Not everything is great here, but I found the best tulle skirt (yes the ballerina type tutus) here. I started off with a navy blue and I liked them so much that since I bought a khaki green and an off white during the follow up visits. So basically, I bought the skirt in every colour that it has been ever made in! I get so many compliments and the skirts are really nicely done, you have two layers of soft tulle and finally an underskirt that is not 20 cm shorter than your actual skirt!
Even if you are not a girlie girl, you will love these tulle ballerina skirts. I wear my navy blue with a navy blue top and a black leopard ankle boots, just to rock it up a bit, or wear the khaki one with my gold top for a more dress up look.
This time unfortunately the shop did not have anything exciting, but this will not prevent me from returning and checking the stock next time I am in Tokyo. And to my luck I stumbled across archives’ outlet store, where I managed to get some shopping done. Read along if you are interested.
Another shop that is also worth checking out and is in the market hall area is the retro girl. I got this top there for ¥1800 in May, well before the off shoulder craze hit the stores. Anyhow, the pattern and style is classic, so I am sure I will use it for a good few years.
What else is in Sunshine City… You have a 3 coins store, where everything is ¥300, and right next to it there is a shop with cute home decoration items. The variety of ladies accessories is also endless here, and they are normally a great bargain. The place is also great for getting everything you may need for a Halloween or fancy dress party. Although I am talking about the actual clothes and accessories and not the cheap mock off that you can order online or find in fancy dress shops. The price and the selection could not be compared to what you would find back at home, not to mention that your outfit would be unique. Once, I was planning to dress up as a Harajuku girl for Halloween, believe me finding the right things for it in Dubai, was not easy or cheap, and was very much cursing myself why I was not thinking of this idea whilst I was in Japan!!!
Two more things about this place…
Make sure you wonder around the stage area in the middle of the mall. They seem to have always something on. This time I came across a traditional drum show, which I really enjoyed.
Secondly… Have you ever had a bubble tea or any variation of it? Well, if you are in Asia, it is a must, and this cute little Moomins bubble teashop makes a great selection. I opted for the strawberry milk version! Happy slurping! Now you feel like blending in, right?
Where to go for Sunshine City: 3 Chome-1 Higashiikebukuro, 豊島区 Tokyo 170-0013, Japan . And don’t forget my tip on getting off at Higashi Ikebukuro. Believe me, it will make your life so much easier. Once you are done with Sunshine City, check out Tokyu Hands that is next to the mall. It is a bit hard to explain what to expect from this department store, lets just say you can buy everything here from hobby and craft materials to travel gadgets and magic trick accessories. So chances of you finding what you need ( and don’t need ) is very very high!
OIOI – at Ueno. This department store would be my other recommendation for shopping. It is one of my new discoveries and I was very happy with myself. Go there if you are interested in more grown up and sophisticated fashion, and also for shoes!!! My big problem with Japanese shoes has always been that they seemed to be catering either for the youngsters made out of PVC with rocket high platforms, or the grandmothers with comfortable and ugly design. I always felt a bit sad that I could not get any nice and unique design combined with leather material. But good news, this store finally understands my needs! Not saying it is cheap, but for once my eyes could have a feast on the display.
This department store is also the home of the archives outlet. Sorry ladies, can’t remember which floor it was on, but at least you have an excuse to check out the whole place. I ended up with this peach beauty for a ¥1900 and even though this skirt is lacking the same drama effect compared to my others due to the fact that it has only one layer of tulle, the colour compensates for a lot.
I left the best shopping find last, hopefully that was not a mistake, and you are still reading the article.
So here it goes, the best bargain I’ve found in the city.Tokyo City Flea Market – apart from my picnics I am also a practicing enthusiast when it comes to flea markets. I think I just love a good old bargain hunt and the market experience. Unfortunately some vendors have a ‘special’ price for the tourists so please be sceptical about that; still, you can find some good buys.
First I was a bit disappointed as I missed out on a good few markets as they are either organised on the first or last weekend of each month, and of course I ended up being in Tokyo on the middle two. C’est la vie, and I just did some more research, then persistence just payed off. So this beauty is held every Saturday and Sunday. Apparently it is only cancelled in case of rain. It opens at 9am and even though the official closing hour is 3pm, I found that lot of the vendors were gone by 2pm. On Saturday I had a nice stroll around the market bought a pre-loved gorgeous silk kimono, which I just love, especially the colours, and if you know how much a kimono cost new in a shop, you will love the prices here.
I was hesitating about a leather bag, but at the end I left it. Had some street foods they sold at the market and headed back to the city for some strolling around.
Of course the following day I still had the leather bag on my mind, and when I popped into Zara and saw all the fake leather bags for ridiculous amount, I knew I had a new mission of returning and finding that leather bag! I think it was good job that I was all by myself as I raced through the whole town, being the market at the opposite end of the city to where I had just experienced this moment of enlightenment, as I could have appeared slightly obsessive to anyone experiencing these moments with me. But as they say, need is a must!
Don’t want to create suspension for too long, so let’s just say I found THE BAG, even though the vendor was at a different spot on Sunday, plus bought three more! Among which I had a vintage Nina Ricci handbag and a Loui Gioune cute little doctors bag. Well, they are pre loved and the Loui Gioune may not have years in left in it, but as long as it is holding together I will cherish every moment with it and wear it proudly. Oh, and did I mention that I paid ¥200 each, minus my leather satchel bag, that was a ¥1000.
So ladies, I think we can conclude that listening to our intuition pays off, literally, on this occasion. The bags from left to right, the vintage Nina Ricci, the Loui Gioune and super soft leather satchel that I had to go back for.
After my Sunday market visit I am now also a proud owner of this very heavy and quite unpractical to carry, but regardless, beautiful glass plate. Sold and bought for ¥100 at the moment of everyone packing up! I think in technical terms, this is what you might literally call a closing deal! And apart from Antoine having nearly a heart attack for having to carry this heavy beauty all over the airport, it is now a nice central piece in our kitchen.
Overall I think it was lucky that I returned on Sunday as there were much more vendors compared to Saturday, and I think I managed to bag some great bargains. But I let you be the judge of that. Antoine also got some souvenirs, a grey summer scarf and a vintage Apollo lighter from the 1960’ s that turned out to have a tiny fault as the gas valve leaks, but we (I am) not giving up on it yet, and will try to get it fixed.
The lighter and the famous glass plate; let the picture not fool you about the size of our 4kgs plate!
How to get there: From Hamamatsucho station take the monorail towards Haneda airport and get off at Oi Keibajo Mae, though be careful as the rapid trains may not stop at this station. Once you are out of the station turn left and carry on walking until you walk past the Oi Racecourse on your left. Then you should arrive in a couple of minutes.
Watch out for this sign, and just to prove that it wasn’t only me obsessed with the bags!
My best find during this visit must be a hidden oasis in this big city; the Hibuya park. I love to visit parks during city breaks, especially to rest my aching legs in between doing an average 10km walks every day, soak in a bit of sunshine and watch the world go by.
Hibuya is actually the best park I came across in Tokyo. It is hidden among the office buildings in the area, and as tourists normally opt for the Imperial Palace next door, Hibuya Park does rarely get discovered and enjoyed. However, it is a popular site with the local people especially during lunch hours from the nearby offices, so expect bench sharing between the hours of 12pm and 2pm. The park is well maintained and has a number of different areas you can enjoy. On day 1 I only strolled around the water fountain section and spent a good few hours enjoying my strawberry milk and writing a nice letter to Antoine for our anniversary by using the traditional Japanese pen, and no I did not get funny looks, or at least I did not notice! The same day I also discovered the Western style rose garden, and a tiny little pub where you can enjoy a cold Asahi close to the exit on the Imperial Palace side.
The second time I’ve visited the park that week, I also found the corner lake with the turtles and raised sidewalk with benches overlooking the park. This became really my favourite spot. Once Antoine arrived, I also introduced him to this place, where we enjoyed a nice al fresco lunch from Lawson with a small bottle of champagne to compensate for the slightly stale bread we had to put up with.
What I also found out that on the outdoor stage next to the fountain area the Tokyo Police Orchestra was giving a free concert between the hours of 12pm- 1pm on a Wednesday. I was planning to go back the following week to see if this was a regular event, but missed out on it. So if you are there, please go and check and let me know if it is definitely a weekly programme. The stage is quite big and I expect that there is a lot of good programmes organised here for free.Enjoy the cultural experience and the blending in with the locals!
The best spot in the park together with the heart shape cut out on the tree trunk that only noticeable from a certain angle.
For the couples and the romantic hearts out there…
My last item is going to be on a rather personal and sloppy topic, though I feel the need to tell you this, if I had already shared so much about Tokyo. Let me explain… I was in Tokyo in May 2015 with Antoine, and we spent the day separately. Not sure what Antoine was doing, I was probably doing some shop hopping. Either way, I fully support the idea of some ‘me time’ even on our holidays together. Plus it is also nice to return home aka to the hotel room in a different country and knowing that someone is waiting for you. Well, this time, Antoine just did that, but with a huge pot of beautiful blue hydrangea. It is really my favourite flower and was very surprised to see a live plant on the bedside table in the hotel room as I entered. Although the issue of what we were going to do with the plant arose quickly, as we could not take live plants to our next destination.
So Antoine suggested that he would plant it. He walked forever, but finally found a great spot in the middle of Tokyo. He used a spoon and dag a new home to our plant. And this is how we ended up with a little part of us living now in Tokyo.
I was actually shocked to see how busy the spot was that Antoine had found! Even to take picture with our plant I feel sometimes embarrassed about, and Antoine was kneeling there and digging with a spoon probably for hours! So really, all my respect goes to him. He may not get an A for practicality, but for being a romantic soul, definitely. Every time we return to Tokyo, we visit our plant. We were glad to see that it survived the winter, and the park attendants did not remove it either. In fact it has turned into a big and happy plant by now, as Antoine says, it represents our love!
I am not saying that you should all plant things on your holiday; I am purely sharing our story with you and how new traditions, even if fairly unconventional ones may develop, in the name of love and travelling.
2015 and then in 2016. The beautiful blue has turned into beautiful lilac due to the soil composition.
So what is next you may rightly ask? Well, I have more on Japan, but before you cry out loud, let me just say that only a couple of short entries on Osaka and Kyoto. After that, I am planning Thailand and Bali, and the rest is surprise for now, but luckily my travel schedule is looking busy! So plenty of exciting destinations are coming up not to mention a birthday special. Hence I hope to see you back here!