Have you come across Japanese department stores, known as ‘Hyakkaten’ in Japanese before?
‘Hyakkaten’ literally means department store, and the Japanese loanword ‘Depart’ is also used to describe this kind of store, that stocks everything from clothing, small items, daily items, to foods, in a large shopping facility all under one roof. While it is one of those stores that if you go you’re bound to find anything that you are looking for, but it is a Japanese creation, a bit different to the kinds of shopping malls that can be found in other countries. One might even say that it is a ‘treasure house of Japanese culture’, with Japanese tradition and a spirit of hospitality at the core of these department stores. These stores offer a service and develop alongside the local community.
Isetan Mitsukoshi Group has a long history and is a major player in the department store industry. Here we will take a look at three stores in this group in the Tokyo area.
Our first stop is in Tokyo’s most famous shopping district, Ginza. Mitsukoshi Ginza has been in business for over 80 years in one of Japan’s most famous bustling streets area, Ginza. It is one of the many popular stores located here in Ginza where tradition and innovation live side by side. In the food area located on the underground floor, visitors can peruse over rows of bento (packed lunches), sweets, deli foods, and other fresh foods. The bento sold here are particularly popular with people who come here to get their lunch so they can take it with them to the ‘Kabukiza’ that is located just 5 minutes away by foot. The reason for this is because Kabuki, a traditional Japanese performance art has about a 30 minutes interval during which the audience can enjoy their meal as a reward for watching. Mitsukoshi released a ‘Theatre Bento’ which has now become the most popular takeout lunch item!
In this same store, tradition is maintained while also respecting innovation by creating new services targeted at the international visitors to Japan, whose numbers have been steadily increasing in recent years. Many people of other nationalities also avail of Mitsukoshi with great pleasure. Tokyo is a city on a scale that only a certain number of cities worldwide can compare to. Here at the ‘GINZA TERRACE’ located in the rooftop garden of Mitsukoshi Ginza, guests can enjoy the four seasons while also visiting Mimeguri Shrine located within the garden to see a Jizo statue that is said to have been carved over 150 years ago. This is particularly popular with tourists from overseas.
Japan Duty Free GINZA is located on the 8th floor of this department store, which was the first duty free store established outside of airports excluding Okinawa. And you can not only purchase famous international brands and select traditional Japanese items tax free, you can also have your purchases sent to be collected at Narita or Haneda airports.
Next up on our list of stores is ‘Mitsukoshi Nihonbashi’. This store is located in Nihonbashi, a part of Tokyo where the past meets the present. It has been a pivotal location for merchants who gathered and flourished here since the Edo period (1603-1868). This store is one of the establishments that continues to exist even today. Mitsukoshi Nihonbashi is famous for being the first department store established in Japan, making it not only an important place for Tokyo, but a historical heritage site for Japan as a whole.
Nihonbashi Mitsukoshi was established in 1673, originally a Kimono store ‘Echigoya’, changing its name at that time to Mitsukoshi. Since promotion as a department store in 1904, it has earned the name as Japan’s oldest department store. The Renaissance styled building was constructed in 1935 and has been selected as one of Tokyo’s Selected Historic Buildings. The line up of kimonos is said to be one of the best selections in Japan even today. The statue located in the central hall took an arduous ten years to complete, and not long is an attractive eye piece for the store, but is also symbolic of Mitsukoshi’s philosophy towards their customers is not only catching eyes not only in the store but also for Mitsukoshi customers. The store is also renowned for the use of its pipe organ for performances held in the store that boasts a large open ceiling space.
And for our final store, we will take a look at the Isetan Shinjuku Store. It is a long standing store located in Tokyo’s renowned Shinjuku area. The concept of a ‘Fashion Museum’ is key here, telling the story of fashion in Japan. It is popular with fashionistas in both Japan and overseas.
Shinjuku is the seat of political entities, with the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building located here. However, it is a place symbolic of “diversity”. Asia’s largest entertainment district, Shinjuku’s Kabukicho can also be found here. It has been an area where all cultures gathered and were accepted since long ago. Among the various aspects of culture that flourished here, Isetan Shinjuku Store has been an indispensable part of Japanese contemporary fashion culture. Currently, this shop boasts the best sales of clothing in Japan, and has been engraved in the consciousness of Japanese people as a one and only entity in the Japan’s fashion industry.
The Isetan Shinjuku Store was renovated in 2013 and is not aiming to become the top fashion museum in the world, offering clothing, food, living, and entertainment that makes guests really feel fashion.
We can see clearly that Japanese department stores not only operate alongside the changes and developments of a city but also take the fore by leading culture. The Isetan Mitsukoshi Group places great importance of the value of Japanese tradition, culture, and aesthetics, while offering a variety of services. Those services are sure to enrich the daily lives of those who visit the store. Make sure to put visiting department stores such as Isetan and Mitsukoshi on your list of places to go on your trip to Japan, so that you too can see this refined part of Japanese culture. You’re bound to experience something there that you simply cannot experience elsewhere!
4-6-16, Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo
1-4-1, Nihombashi , Muromachi, Chuo-ku, Tokyo
Isetan Shinjuku Store
3-14-1, Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo
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