Shopping at the Gotemba Outlets
Great shopping with the backdrop of Hakone and Mt. Fuji
The Gotemba Outlets are a part of the Premium Outlets chain that can be found worldwide. It hosts a wide selection of high-end shops with reasonable prices. There is also a nice range of shops - from designer wear such as Jimmy Choo to more midrange chains like Gap and Banana Republic.
The Gotemba location is particularly stunning because of its proximity to Mt. Fuji. On a clear day, Mt. Fuji sets the backdrop of the shopping area, which is a largely outdoor facility. The closeness to Mt. Fuji and nearby Hakone adds a relaxing outdoor feel. It is a nice change of pace from the large, indoor mega-complexes that seem to dominate most of the shopping in Japan.
The shopping area is also very family and pet friendly - I saw many people walking their dogs (large and small) and there are also several play areas for children. The food court is also much nicer than a normal shopping center; one of my favorites was a great little beer bar that serves draft beer.
There are several large sales throughout the year, which can be viewed on the website. There are occasionally special offers for overseas visitors, so checking the website before going can be pretty beneficial. Individual stores do not post their specific sales though, so it isn't very easy to know in advance what stores will have the best deals. Additionally, most of the western brands seemed to only stock women's sizes up through US 6 or 8.
Driving to the Gotemba Outlets is one of the best ways to get there. However, parking is somewhat limited and overflow parking is quite far away from the actual outlets themselves. There is usually a bus that runs from the outlets to the overflow parking, but it can be quite a hassle. If driving, getting there before opening time is essential if you want to cut down on walking time.
There are also several highway buses that depart from the Tokyo area and arrive directly at the Gotemba Outlets.
For those using the public transport, there is a free shuttle from the JR Gotemba Station to the Gotemba Outlets. This site gives a great breakdown on different ways to access the outlets.