Want to bring your wardrobe up to Tokyo fashion standards? Eager to escape the capital for a day? You can do both on a trip to the Gotemba Premium Outlets, located at the base of Mt Fuji in Shizuoka Prefecture.
There's no need to stress over train schedules or station transfers. A direct bus runs from just outside Shinagawa station, leaving daily at 8:10am and returning at 6:20pm. The bus stop is located a few minutes' walk from the Konan Exit (East Exit) of Shinagawa Station and is clearly marked in English. On the day I went, the bus pulled out promptly at 8:15am and, despite all of the Tokyo area traffic, returned exactly at 6:20pm as scheduled. While same-day seats are available on a first-come, first-served basis, it's advisable to book ahead to avoid disappointment. Tickets can be easily purchased and printed from the Premium Outlet's user-friendly, multilingual webpage. The price is an incredible bargain at ¥2880 for a round-trip ticket.
The bus deposits passengers at the edge of the West Zone. The Premium Outlets boast 210 individual stores, divided into two zones - West and East. The two areas are joined by a long pedestrian bridge that boasts stunning views of Mt Fuji. At the entrance to the East Zone, don't miss one of the most photogenic spots in the entire complex, where you can snap a photo of yourself with Japan's highest peak looming over your shoulder.
There's no shortage of familiar brands to tempt you into opening your wallet. Spruce up your seasonal wardrobe at BCBG Maxazria, Issey Miyake, Brooks Brothers and so forth. Accessorize at Ugg Australia, Jimmy Choo, Kate Spade or ck Calvin Kline watches. Stores like Miki House and Petit Bateau offer adorable options for the under-6 crowd, while outdoor enthusiasts will want to beeline for Adidas, Columbia Sportswear and The North Face. If price is no object, the far end of the East Zone hosts a collection of luxury brands, such as Dolce & Gabbana, Prada and Swarovski. And should all of this shopping leave you needing another suitcase, you can always add to your luggage collection at Samsonite.
Customers who book the direct bus to the Premium Outlets are handed a special coupon at the time of departure. The coupon offers discounts ranging from 5% to 12% and is valid for six months. A number of stores also offer tax-free shopping for qualified buyers.
Shopping is bound to work up an appetite, and the cuisine on offer at the main food hall (near the bridge at the entrance to the East Zone) doesn't disappoint. The cafeteria-style set-up features a range of plates - you can fill your stomach with spicy Singaporean curries, udon topped with shrimp tempura, hamburg steak and potato sets or Chinese stir-fries. For dessert, sink your teeth into a sweet crepe or hold out for the Haagen-daz stand just across the bridge in the West Zone.
The outlets open from 10am to 8pm (7pm from December to February).Onsite facilities include everything from first aid stations and baby changing and feeding facilities to live and phone interpreters for nearly a half dozen languages.
When it's time to return to Shinagawa, the bus departs from the same stop where it dropped of its passengers, at the edge of the West Zone. The bus leaves promptly at 4:30pm and you can expect to pull back into central Tokyo around 6:20pm, leaving plenty of time for a night on the town.