Before 2007, the neighborhood of Kamoi was convenient but nondescript — many apartments and housing complexes with just enough izakayas and restaurants to service the many people that live there, given its proximity from Yokohama, Shin-Yokohama, and Machida. The Tsurumi River, flanked by idyllic greenery, lazily meanders parallel to the train tracks of the JR Yokohama Line, separating the housing areas to the south from the factories and companies to the north. Aside from the jam-packed trains and buses during rush hour, Kamoi was quiet, peaceful, and "normal" during the day.
That all changed on March 15th, 2007, when the gigantic LaLaport Yokohama opened its doors as the largest shopping mall in Kanagawa Prefecture. Now, throngs of shoppers, from Kamoi and Yokohama locals to visitors from out of the prefecture, make their way to LaLaport and its 370 stores in all of its glory.
Just think about this: where can you shop for as much clothing as possible at world-famous brands such as Uniqlo, H&M, Forever 21, Old Navy, learn how to cook, check out some quirky souvenirs, eat perhaps the most famous yakisoba in Japan, buy some groceries as well, and catch a movie all in one place?
That insane itinerary is possible to realize at LaLaport Yokohama, believe it or not. And that's merely one of the many countless crazy plans you can come up with and actually achieve at this almighty shopping mall. As mentioned already (and about a billion times after this), LaLaport Yokohama has everything — EVERYTHING — and then some for families, couples, and solo visitors, from Diesel to Daiso 100 Yen Shop, from HAC Drugstore to HMV, from Swarovsky to Sony Plaza.
Fabulous Fashion & Food Court
So you've arrived at LaLaport at, say, 10 am, and you want to shop for some clothes. LaLaport's mind-boggling array of fashion outlets is apparent right upon entering the 1st floor entrance from the Kamoi Station side, where you're immediately surrounded by various top brands, with the relatively affordable Uniqlo, Hollister, and Old Navy to your right and splurge options Diesel and Ships to your left. Immediately above on the second floor are Tommy Hilfiger and Zara, while many more popular fashion stores for both genders are scattered throughout the mall — perhaps you've heard of Forever 21, H&M, and Gap? — surely causing you to experience happy headaches.
You already have both hands full with shopping bags by 12pm; now that you've satisfied your shopping impulses, it's time to satisfy your stomach. You go to the 2nd floor and find the FourSyun food court, where hungry shoppers can choose from 11 different restaurants to eat at, each with their own specialities. The most notable ones are Bairan, known for their unique yakisoba, and Asakusa Imahan, famous for their sukiyaki, though eating at any of the other restaurants is equally delicious.
Something for Everybody
After having an appetizing lunch, you ponder what to do next, and take a look at the floor plan — and immediately do a double-take, rubbing your eyes to make sure that what you see in front of you is actually true.
The 1st and 2nd floors are mainly fashion-based, although you can still also find a dentist, an eye doctor, three (!) clinics, a pet shop, a hair salon, Muji, and Afternoon Tea, among many others (now you have to believe me when I say this place has everything), while the 1st floor Central and South Courts often hold special events and exhibits.
The 3rd floor is a patchwork quilt of stores of every kind. If you want shoes, there's popular shoe outlet ABC Mart. If you want books of every kind and travel guides of every region, there's Kinokuniya Bookstore. If you play a sport or you're planning to go hiking, there's Xebio and The North Face. If you want to check out Japan's fine electronics, there's Nojima. The list just goes on and on, and you can find a solution for every desire imaginable — if you feel like learning cooking, there's a cooking studio; if you get the impulsive urge to go on a trip, there's an HIS branch; if you suddenly want to buy a guitar, there's Shimamura Instruments; and if you're getting married, there's a wedding service!
Keeping the Kids & Your Stomach Happy
So you spend the next hour or so browsing around, poking into stores that catch your interest. Now it's 2 pm, and if you have kids they're bound to get bored sooner or later. Instead of dragging them around while they sulk, it's time to let them have some fun too. The Central Garden is a nice open area perfect for when you need some fresh air, or if your kids want to run around a bit. Take them to the 2nd floor and watch their faces light up in front of the Disney Store, Sanrio Gift Gate, and Donguri Kyouwakoku (a shop selling Ghibli goods). And if that's not enough, there's also an arcade, candy shop, and Adventure Island (an indoor playground), while parents of infants will want to check out Akachan Honpo, Japan's largest retailer of baby products.
It's 3:30pm, and all that walking around has made you slightly hungry. You only want a bite to eat, but again you find yourself struggling to choose from the many options LaLaport has to offer. Auntie Anne's, Krispy Kreme, Baskin Robbins, and Tully's Coffee are all located around the Central Garden on the 1st floor, while the 3rd floor has a Starbucks and Mother Farm Cafe, where you can try an assortment of delicious desserts made from the farm's milk. And if you want more than just a little snack, Honolulu Coffee has some delicious coffee and pancakes.
If you're not hungry but still want to take a break, the Central Garden and the outdoor walkway encircling it on the 3rd floor is an ideal place to recharge your batteries, dotted with affectionate couples and excited children running around. There are also plenty of benches and seating areas indoors, where you can even find some tired dads and children dozing off.
The Main Attractions
You're re-energized and it's 4pm. You decide that you want to buy some souvenirs, both for yourself and for your relatives or friends. The obvious choice is Tokyu Hands on the 2nd floor, a DIY store that sells cooking appliances, toys, bags and suitcases, and about a million other things; though not as big as the one in Shibuya, there's still enough souvenir options there to keep you busy for hours. The North Curb Mall area on the 1st floor is home to a collection of unique stores that sell special products and souvenirs from different areas of Japan such as Okinawa and Karuizawa, allowing you to get a tiny glimpse of the culture of those regions without having to drive numerous hours or take a plane.
Now it's 6pm, not a bad time to get some dinner. You could go back to FourSyun and choose a different restaurant to eat at, but the area between the South Court and Central Garden on the 3rd floor is lined with many more dining options including pizza, sushi, steak, and a buffet.
After walking out of one of the restaurants, you catch a glimpse of a poster advertising the latest movie, and you realize that you want to see it tonight. Luckily for you, the nearest cinema is right on the 3rd floor; the Toho Cinemas at LaLaport Yokohama is Kanagawa's largest movie theater, boasting 13 screens.
Thoroughly enjoying the movie, you check your watch and it's 9pm; it's about time to head back. But then you realize that you don't have enough groceries at home. What do you do? You go to Ito Yokado, a department store which spans all three floors and has everything from groceries to clothing (as if there weren't enough fashion stores to choose from already), and even its own food court (as if there weren't enough dining options to choose from already as well). Then, nearing 10pm and feeling truly, truly satisfied, you decide to go home.
Where else can you accomplish all that in the same building?
How to Get There
This shopper's dream-come-true is a 7 minute walk from the north exit of JR Kamoi Station, and can also be reached via Routes 41 and 124 of the Yokohama Municipal Bus. A free shuttle bus from the south exit of Kamoi Station is also available. Although the parking garages can hold a total of close to 5,000 cars, you can still expect nearby roads to get pretty crowded on weekends and during special bargain sales.
LaLaport Yokohama has something for everyone (and even that might be an understatement), but you'll have to visit it in person to truly appreciate how this one-of-a-kind mall combines fun and convenience when it comes to shopping.