After finally getting to ditch our luggage at the Yaesu Fujiya hotel a couple blocks from Tokyo station, we once again had time against us as we rushed out to Gotemba, home to the Premium Outlets mall and the last day of “Golden Week”, a nation wide sale which only happens a couple times a year.

It’s a bit of a hike – made longer with the wait and change to local trains then a (free) shuttle bus before you actually get there.

Travel tip: budget about 2 hours (door to door) to be safe (should be less if you get the right connections) from Tokyo station. Once you get to Gotemba station, walk down the stairs and out to the car park, you’ll see a big sign for Premium Outlets with times for the shuttle bus, which runs about twice an hour. Remember to plan your return trip so you aren’t left stranded out in the sticks!

Travel tip: kill a bit of time at the small store which sold a bit of everything. Cool vintage cameras adorn the windows.


The mall is very unassuming amongst the trees and mountains on the small roads leading to it. The complex is split across two sections divided by a scenic bridge and river (see first image). Two reasons why we chose to come out here, first, the Golden week sales – which were sadly disappointing, most stores had sales but nothing even close the the fire sale that’s hyped about online. The second reason was sadly also a little disappointing – to see Mt Fuji without having to go to it but thanks to the ever present haze it was completely invisible until just after sunset when its looming prescence was revealed as a silhouette.


Travel tip: Mt Fuji is viewable from many spots around the mall and from the shinkansen travelling between Osaka and Tokyo, however its most likely to be shrowded in cloud and haze, but if you’re lucky, you might get it on a good day as seen here, photoed from the shinkansen by one of our friends, thanks Troy!

So, back to the shopping. First stop is the information booth to grab your travellers discount booklet which sports coupons for percent off or after purchase bonuses. Most excellently, these worked on top of the already reduced items. Golden Week may have let us down but these made up for it in a small way, especially at the Nike Outlet store, which was definitely a highlight and some of the best bargains we came across on the whole trip. However, being the first day we were reluctant to fill the suitcases so early on. Turns out that helped A LOT but let’s just say, next time we’re just going to bring an extra one πŸ˜‰


The rest of the stores are what you’d expect from the Premiun Outlet chain(and very similar to other branches around the world (re: Hawaii 2012)). Stand outs for us included Adidas (nice variety of stock and generously discounts); G Shock (a couple items were slightly reduced but nothing you couldn’t get online for a lot less); Bandai (all full RRP but the coupon helps a bit with the decision making, although we found quite a few items were cheaper outside of Tokyo – most noteably Den Den Town in Osaka); Lego and Sanrio are always fun to stop in, the former requiring just that bit longer with all their displays πŸ˜‰ (see bonus photos below); Nikon– prices were like the G Shocks – cheaper online but it was nice to venture into a mothership, Reebok, Puma and The North Face are worthy of a quick look in as well.

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There’s also the swanky labels that put the premium in to “Premium Outlets” like Armani, Anna Sui, Burberry, Bvlgari, Dior, Dolce and Gabbana, Gucci, Harrods, Hugo Boss, Jimmy Choo, Prada and Ralph Lauren but far out of reach for our modest wallets and tastes!

Finally, the foodcourt offers a nice variety of western and eastern eats and desserts covered mostly by local brands.
Note: it closes before the shops do so you may want to eat first if its coming towards the end of the day, but of course you can always count on Macca’s (off to the side of the complex) if you miss out!

Next we catch the Catbus to the Studio Ghibli museum!


If you have any questions on our travels, where to buy, what to do or just want to share your own stories, hit us up on the Soulbridge media facebook page.

Japan 2013 part #1 – Arrival
Japan 2013 part #2 – Tokyo International Toy Expo
Japan 2013 part #3 – Gotemba – Premium Outlets mall
Japan 2013 part #4 – Tokyo – Studio Ghibli Museum
Japan 2013 part #5 – Tokyo – Kichijoji and Nakano
Japan 2013 part #6 – Tokyo – Akihabara
Japan 2013 part #7 – Tokyo – Tamiya HQ, Diver City
Japan 2013 part #8 – Yokohama – Zoorasia
Japan 2013 part #9 – Yokohama – Ramen Museum
Japan 2013 part #10 – Nissan HQ and Yokohama
Japan 2013 part #11 – Osaka – Nanba Shopping
Japan 2013 part #12 – Kyoto
Japan 2013 part #13 – Tokyo – Harajuku, Shibuya
Japan 2013 part #14 – Osaka castle, Umeda Sky building
Japan 2013 part #15 – Osaka Aquarium and Tempozan wheel
Japan 2013 part #16 – Osaka Universal Studios

Ala Moana Shopping Centre

If shopping is low on your list of priorities but you still want to venture out then Ala Moana is the one stop you should make, if you’re a shopaholic then it’s a good first stop to gauge prices and what’s available. Even better, it opens early and closes late.

The short of it, the place is huge. A mostly open aired multi-storey arrangement is home to nearly 300 stores so you’ll need a good couple hours even if you are moving at a moderate pace. In list form our picks of the bunch would be:

Animation Addict
– A good place to start if you’re after Hello Kitty, Tokidoki or Angry Birds. They also have a good selection of Domo and the more popular items like Pop! Vinyl collectibles and Marvel merch. While most items are readily available just about everywhere, there were a few gems like a limited edtion Hello Kitty x Wish Come True collab bag. You know its scarce when even the staff at the Sanrio store have never seen one before!

Animation Addict

Animation Addict

Animation Addict

Animation Addict

Animation Magic – An alterntive to Animation Addict quite possibly own by the same mob as the stock was very similar

Pac Sun – Local surf and skate store. Generous mix of designer and run of the mill wear with a few things on sale.

Crazy shirts
– A Hawaii staple for tees. Its where you go if you want a souvenir shirt that isn’t from an ABC store. Shirts are good quality with a variety of themes, mostly surf/native based however the bump in price ($15-40) may have you heading back to the markets for a 5 for $20 deal.

Lego store – Doesn’t matter where we are in the world, if there’s a Lego store close by, we’re stopping in! This one had a nice bunch of dioramas built around different themes, the half size R2D2 and very large Star Wars star destroyer in the window were quite impressive. An instant souvenir was the minifig’ and Lego tag “I <3 Hawaii" keyring, shame these weren't available in other cities we've been to. [caption id="attachment_2882" align="alignnone" width="550"]Lego Store Lego Store[/caption]


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And of course you cant go past the American shopping mall staples – Champs, Footlocker, Hot Topic, Lids, Vans, Journeys, local surf/ski store Local Motion and cutesy overload is never too far away with Sanrio which seems to have signed a deal with the whole state as it and its associated local related merchandise is everywhere, they’re even in ABC stores! Just try to hold back a “nawwww” when you see a brown Hello Kitty in a grass skirt, its impossible! @~@

Pit stop time, roll out the pretzels! Unfortunately without a Wetzel‘s in sight we had to settle for Pretzelmaker. Not quite the same but tasty nonetheless (and still a damn sight better than anything on the streets of NYC! Yes, I realise using anything “from the streets of NYC” as a benchmark is a lazy and bias comparison :p)

One of the best things about Ala Moana is, it is central to a lot of other shops and eating spots, even better if you’re on foot, they’re all near each other and all buses lead to “Rome”.

Head out towards Nordstrom and you’ll come across three of Hawaii’s premium streetwear and sneaker boutique stores Kicks Hawaii, Noteworthy and Fitted all within a short distance of each other.

Kicks Hawaii (or KICKS HI – I know, sounds like a chorus line in Can can mode) – Is your one stop shop for sneakers and streetwear, very much in the vein of Kicks Tokyo, Undefeated and Dave’s Quality Meats. Prices are what you’d expect from such places but with limited edition prints and stock that wasn’t available on the website its a worthy tax for the “souvenir for someone who hates souvenirs”. I even spotted an unreleased ACG sneaker behind the counter which looked like a Terra Humara with “Powerlines”. Speaking to the owner it turns out we were both fans of rugged ACG’s but being a sample he quickly rejected my request to buy it :p Not being released for at least another six months didn’t help my case either!

They also regularly come by plenty of Quickstrikes so if you’re in the area for more than a week, it might be worth a return visit. You can keep up to date with their blog here.

Noteworthy – Is quite the illusive store if you’re on the same block as the store. It’s actually on the second level with access up an old flight of stairs behind the shop fronts, which you can only really see if you’re on the other side of the road. These guys are more along the lines of higher end street fashion. If you’ve ever had a penchant for $100 flannies, pants with the bottoms rolled past your ankles or have ever been referred to as a hipster then this is the place for you. Prices were well in the “you’re kiddin’ right?” range but they did have plenty of items heavily reduced on sale to help minimise that instant buyers’ remorse feeling.



– Very much like Lids but swap the run of the mill colours and teams for limited edition colours and exclusive branded designs along with their in house branding. Staff were very friendly and helpful, they even went to the extent of cracking open new, yet to be released stock a couple months early for me. Easy decision then πŸ˜‰


Crooks and Castles is also in the area, a couple doors down from Noteworthy in all of its clinic white glory but very same-same stock. We recommend sticking to online dealers like Karmaloop where this brand is always on sale.

A couple other mentions in the area are Walmart – come on, you’re in the ‘States, its pretty much a tourist attraction even if its just for “The people of Walmart“. It’s also a good stop if you’re after some cheap clothing/beach wear basics.

Morning glory
is just across the road, yep, the one and the same that used to be in almost every shopping centre around Brisbane and the original cutesy Asian toy and knick knack chain. If you’re after plushes or stationary along these lines then it doesn’t disappoint – a huge range of items from little phone trinkets right up to bean bag sized Totoros.

Morning Glory

Morning Glory

..And with that, we’ll hit the pause button on this epic day of deep tissue retail therapy and insert a day volcano hunting at the biggest island in Hawaii’s chain of island, aptly called… The Big Island.

Hawaii 2012 part #1 – Arrival
Hawaii 2012 part #2 – Waikiki
Hawaii 2012 part #3 – Honolulu shopping – Part A
Hawaii 2012 part #4 – The Big Island – Volcano tour
Hawaii 2012 part #5 – Shopping Honolulu – part B
Hawaii 2012 part #6 – Tattoo Honolulu / Boardshorts: A Perfect Fit art exhibits
Hawaii 2012 part #7 – Pearl City area
Hawaii 2012 part #8 – Swap meets and Made in Hawaii festival
Hawaii 2012 part #9 – Cook offs and Car shows
Hawaii 2012 part #10 – North shore
Hawaii 2012 part #11 – Windward shore and Sealife Park
Hawaii 2012 part #12 – Chief’s Luau at Sealife Park
Hawaii 2012 part #13 – South shore – Diamondhead crater, Hanauma bay

Hammersmith is not really a common stop for London tourists, in fact the locals will probably tell you to stay away from it! Possibly in part its because it feels like it’s the old shopping center that went downhill when the new mega shopping mall came to town. BUT, the reason I decided to head out this way again was because of a recommendation and subsequent successful trip out the last time I was in London, the two main draw cards being, TK Maxx and Primark.

TK Maxx is very similar to the big brand items clearance items at shopping centres like DFO or Harbourtown but all in one store. Womenswear takes a fair chunk and the whole lower level, handily arranged by clothing type on racks. Upstairs there’s menswear, footwear and household items. Brands vary but it all depends on when you go, this time there seemed to be a fresh shipment of Britian’s popular activewear, Bench. Sneakers were sadly lacking this time, unlike my last visit where Adidas Muppet or Mr Men collabs were being thrown away for ~50BP, a year later appearing on sneaker sites for $200+AU! They do however have a good range of hiking shoes, boots and technical runners which go well with a large selection of out of season jackets, parkas, windbreakers etc.

Primark is probably just as avoidable for Londanites as Lowes or Valleygirl is to most Aussies but their range and prices are unmistakably good value. If you’re looking for general business/office basics then this is definitely the place to go. Plain colours, simple, clean designs with a modern touch and best of all original enough to still look just a little bit different back home in Australia.

While both these spots were disappointing this time, a third reason has appeared in the last few years one tube stop away at the newly built Wood Lane or upgraded Shephard’s Bush stations, Westfield London.

Westfield London

I know what you’re thinking, ANOTHER Westfiled, but this thing is something else. It’s the only one in London and being only a few years old, the place looks super modern and is huge with 300+ stores and an open air feel thanks to the high glass ceilings. The centre boasts 319 stores, (search the whole list here) some of the staples are Onitsuka, Vans, Adidas, Puma and Nike, which are all on par for their respective names. Nike had a second story but again all regular fare. For variety in sneakers and clothing and sale items Sole, Foot Asylum, JD Sports and Sports Direct were worthy stop-ins.

Lego Deathstar

Lego Tower Bridge

One other must see is the Lego store, the (fully operational) Death Star or detailed model of the London Tower bridge will draw you in but the wall of coloured bricks sold by the soda cupful will make you want to stay! Only the basic bricks were available in this manner but they were in every colour ever made. In hindsight even one kg of bricks could’ve easily fit sprinkled through out my luggage. There are also stations to test build your own creations or customise your own Lego man. They of course, also have a good range of Lego merchandise.

Wall o' Lego

Lastly if you’re looking for the Wetzels Pretzels stand, sadly it is no longer there. Those poms don’t know what they’re missing!

Covent Garden and Soho are next on the shopping list.

London 2011 part #1 – Arrival, Soho Shopping
London 2011 part #2 – Central London sight seeing
London 2011 part #3 – Chelsea Flower show
London 2011 part #5 – Shopping – Covent Garden and Soho
London 2011 part #6 – Shopping – Camden
London 2011 part #7 – Shopping – Shoreditch
London 2011 part #8 – Hyde park, Piccadilly Circus

London photo gallery here
Chelsea flower show photo gallery here

The best thing about seeing the sights in central London is their close proximity, barely a couple km’s separates the majority of them so a few hours and footpower is all you’ll need. The trade off is of course having to compete with thousands of other tourists.

Trafalgar Square

Getting the Tube to Charing Cross will pop you up at fountains galore, Trafalgar sq. Like with alot of popular tourist spots there are always scammers, pick pockets and crazy bums accusing you of stealing their sandals so keep your wits about you and know where or how to contact police/security. Security here patrol the area and are easily visible.

Buckingham Palace

Fountain at Buckingham Palace

From here we took a short walk down to Buckingham palace where less than a month before Prince Willy and Cath tied the official knot. If you time it right you’ll also get to witness the famous “changing of the guard”. You can then cut through the gardens to the back of Cavalry Museum where you find guards on foot and on horse back ready to be demeaned with peace symbols and cheesy grins in a photo.

Mounted guard at Cavalry Museum

Big Ben

Westminster Abbey

A couple blocks from here are 2 unintentionally gloomy buildings thanks to period architecture and a typically overcast London day, Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament featuring Big Ben. There always seems to be road or building works in this area so you may need to cross the road a few times to get a good spot. On the plus side, with the tower being a lot taller than the adjacent buildings you can get a photo of it from just about anywhere.

London Eye

From here its another short walk across Westminster Bridge to the London Eye. Even with the typical London haze and boring skies it’s a great way to see a broad view of the city and if you time it right you might even score some sweet sunset photos.

Tower Bridge - Lego version ;)

Tower Bridge - Lego version πŸ˜‰

If you have time to spare, continue along Southbank. There’s usually artists and small market stalls set up along the way and the rug store closing down sale style of the “Under croft”, London’s longest running central skatepark dating back to the 70s. Further along there’s the Tate modern museum, Millennium bridge, London bridge and then the Tower bridge (what people think is London bridge).

Travel tip: If you’re catching the Tube back from this end of town, try not to get stuck at Monument or Bank stations during peak hour. This is a major business area and center for multiple interchanges. If you’re new to Tubing, its definitely not for the faint hearted (or short of patience/fitness). Also note, even though on the map the interchanges look close together there are some considerably long tunnel/escalator runs so it may actually be quicker to spend longer on a train than running through tunnels, especially if you have luggage.

London 2011 part #1 – Arrival, Soho Shopping
London 2011 part #3 – Chelsea Flower show
London 2011 part #4 – Shopping – Hammersmith
London 2011 part #5 – Shopping – Covent Garden and Soho
London 2011 part #6 – Shopping – Camden
London 2011 part #7 – Shopping – Shoreditch
London 2011 part #8 – Hyde park, Piccadilly Circus

London photo gallery here
Chelsea flower show photo gallery here