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Gotemba April 3, 2012

Posted by Dru in Chubu, Japan, Kanto, Travel.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Gotemba” complete with photos.  http://wp.me/s2liAm-gotemba

Gotemba is a small city located at the foot of Mt. Fuji.  It is surrounded by the towns of Susono and Oyama but most people will consider that entire area to be Gotemba for simplicity.  Gotemba itself is located on the south-east corner of Mt. Fuji on the east side of Shizuoka and at the border of Kanagawa.  It is literally at the border between the Kanto and Chubu regions of Japan.  While Shizuoka is technically within the Chubu region, most consider everything to the east of Mt. Fuji to be part of Kanto and due to the geography, Gotemba falls on the east side of Mt. Fuji.  Gotemba itself has only one major attraction aside from Mt. Fuji, and that’s a large outlet shopping mall.  In the surrounding areas, to the north of Gotemba is the town of Oyama which is famous for Fuji Speedway.  Both of these are the only famous destinations for any travellers to the region, although there are a lot of natural places to visit.

The most famous and obvious attraction in Gotemba has to be Mt. Fuji.  Gotemba is the location for the entrance to the Gotemba hiking trail.  This is probably only for the real adventurists as it is considered the most difficult way to hike up Mt. Fuji as it is the longest trail.  Due to the proximity of Gotemba to Mt. Fuji, you can usually see Mt. Fuji on most clear days.  Mt. Fuji is a very fickle mountain.  I have heard many people complain about the problems of heading out to the foot of Mt. Fuji only to be greeted by clouds instead of the majestic mountain.  Due to its isolation from other mountain ranges and its height Mt. Fuji is often obscured by clouds.  In order to see Mt. Fuji, you need to go there on a perfectly clear day.  If there are any clouds in the sky, it is highly likely that they will slam into Mt. Fuji and hang out for a while leading to a huge disappointment.  Gotemba is one of the few places you can visit and not feel too bad if Mt. Fuji is obscured.  Most people visit Hakone, and I actually recommend visiting Hakone over Gotemba, but it can be harder to see Mt. Fuji as Hakone is located in the nearby mountains which can make seeing Mt. Fuji a little harder.  Kawaguchiko is the other famous place to see Mt. Fuji but aside from FujiQ Highlands, an amusement park, there is nothing to do there.  Gotemba can be better but only if you enjoy shopping.

Currently, Gotemba is well known for its shopping opportunities.  If you tell anyone in Tokyo that you are going to visit Gotemba, almost everyone will ask if you will be going there to go shopping.  The outlet mall in Gotemba is called Premium Outlets and it is an American brand of outlet malls run by the Simon Property Group.  In Japan, they set up a joint venture with Mitsubishi Estate who operates the Premium Outlet Mall chain in Japan.  The Gotemba branch is the flagship mall in Japan and well known among people in Tokyo.  It is a destination for people with long lines to get into the mall on weekends and holidays.  The easiest way into the mall is to purchase a ticket on one of the special direct buses.  These buses run from Shinjuku and Tokyo Station.  They leave in the morning and return by dinner.  All you have to do is show up at the station, board the bus and then board the same bus to return back to Tokyo.  Tickets for the weekend do sell out quickly so it is best to reserve seats ahead of time.  For those who can’t get tickets, you can still easily take a regular highway bus.  A highway bus is a long distance bus that uses highways to get from A to B, but on the way to Gotemba there are several bus stops on the Expressway itself.  There is also a train service but the best option for this is via Shinjuku but it is more expensive than the bus.  For most people, shopping at Gotemba will not be very different to shopping at any other outlet shop in the world.  Most of the shops are the same as in America, but there are several Japanese brands that you can’t find elsewhere.  Depending on your own fashion sense, you may or may not enjoy shopping in Gotemba but if you enjoy shopping anyways, you can always spend a day visiting Gotemba and attempting to see Mt. Fuji up close at the same time.

To the north of Gotemba is Oyama, the home of Fuji Speedway.  Fuji Speedway is the most famous race course in the Kanto region.  It was host to the F1 Japan Grand Prix in the past and considered the most beautiful race course in Japan.  This is mostly due to the fact that you can easily see Mt. Fuji from the track.  Today, the track is used mostly for local racing championships and Toyota sponsored events.  The track itself has undergone several changes over the decades.  Due to financial difficulties by its owner, Toyota, the track was discontinued as an F1 circuit but continues to be used for national races and local events.  Unfortunately, it appears that the racing course will not be used as an F1 circuit in the foreseeable future.  It is a bit of a shame but when compared to Suzuka’s greater history, Fuji Speedway will probably continue to suffer from the lack of attention.

As I mentioned in the beginning, Gotemba is not a place most people will ever visit, nor will they really want to.  It is a beautiful place to go but compared to the more popular areas such as Hakone, Gotemba will be overlooked a lot.  For nature, people will visit Hakone.  For Mt. Fuji hikes, people will go to Kawaguchiko.  For shopping, most tourists will stay in Tokyo or visit one of the outlet malls that are easier to visit such as the Mitsui chain in Makuhari.  For locals and people living in Tokyo, Gotemba will be a place to visit once in a while.  If you can justify a visit to the region, I recommend doing so, but unfortunately, I doubt most will want to spend the time to go there.

Note:  Unfortunately I have no photos of Gotemba Premium Outlets.  I almost never go there to take pictures, only to do shopping.  🙂

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Outlet Malls of Tokyo November 16, 2010

Posted by Dru in Japan, Kanto, Tokyo.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Outlet Malls of Tokyo” complete with photos.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-pk

Shopping is a major attraction of Tokyo, and the Outlet Malls are no exception.  While there is a lot of information out there on the different outlet malls, the information isn’t very detailed, and it’s difficult to understand the history of outlet shopping in Tokyo.  In Japan, shopping in large shopping malls, much less outlet malls, is a new concept.  Based on my short research, the first outlet mall is Outlet Mall RiSM located in Saitama.  This was opened in 1993.  It’s a fairly small outlet mall, from what others have said, and from their website, caters mostly to Japanese brands.  It isn’t too far from central Tokyo, but probably not worth a trip for the average person.  There are several other “independent” outlet malls with locations in Machida (western Tokyo) one on Chiba which is  east of Tokyo, and a new one that opened in Odaiba’s Venus Fort in December, 2009.  Do note that the Odaiba outlet mall is small but worth a short visit if you are in the area.

In general, there are only two companies that have outlet malls that are worth visiting.  Mitsui Outlet Parks are the largest chain of outlet malls in Japan.  They have 10 locations throughout Japan and 4 within the Tokyo area.  Depending on where you are staying or living, each one is convenient.  For those living on the east side of Tokyo, or in Chiba, the Makuhari branch is the best.  It is located next to Makuhari Messe and a lot of their business is from people visiting the convention centre and doing a little shopping at the same time.  This outlet mall is pretty good overall.  While it isn’t huge, nor is it the best, for those looking to go somewhere close by, and for only half a day, this is a good location.  Due to its relative close proximity to Tokyo, it can be very busy at times.  The other close mall would be the Tama Minami Osawa branch, located in Tama.  This one is best for those living on the west side of Tokyo.  From what I have heard, it isn’t that great, but very convenient and close enough to Tokyo to enjoy.  The last convenient branch would be the Yokohama Bayside.  This isn’t convenient for anyone in Tokyo, but for those in Yokohama, it’s a wonderful place to visit.  It’s large with many shops to see.  Unfortunately, it’s far from the station, about a 5-10 minute walk, and there is nothing else to do after you have finished.  It can take nearly one full day if you are travelling from Tokyo.  For those living in Saitama, or north western Tokyo, a trip to Iruma is also an option, but not convenient unless you have a car.  This is one of Mitsui’s largest outlet malls, and the newest one in the Tokyo region.  Unfortunately, it’s too far from the station making it tough for a regular tourist to visit.

Personally, and by many accounts on the internet, Gotemba Premium Outlets is the best outlet mall near Tokyo.  It is locate about 1.5 hours west of Tokyo and requires a bus to get there.  It’s located near the foot of Mt. Fuji creating a very picturesque scene for shopping.  Do note that Mt. Fuji is often obscured by clouds, and I have never really seen it when I have been to Gotemba.  Then again, I have been very unlucky and only visited Gotemba when it was raining.  This mall is huge, to say the least.  It can take several hours to get through all of the shops, but it can be worth it.  The food may be expensive, but thankfully, there are several places for children to have fun, including a small amusement park.  Do beware of the crowds on the weekend as it’s very popular.  Compared to the Mitsui outlet malls, Chelsea is more upscale with more foreign brands due to its foreign ownership.

For those looking for a cheap shopping experience near Tokyo, you can’t really go wrong with the outlet malls.  The only down sides are that they tend to be farther away from central Tokyo.  They also can’t compete well with the large sales that happen every few months at the department stores.  The amount you save on travel expenses may be more than enough to say home.  However, it’s still a great experience to see the other areas of Tokyo that few people experience.  If you are looking for a basic shopping mall, there are a few in eastern Tokyo, such as Lalaport Toyosu and Olinas Mall in Kinshicho.

Information:

Wikipedia index of Outlet Malls in Japan (Japanese):  http://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:日本のアウトレットモール
Wikipedia on Mitsui Outlet Malls (Japanese):  http://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/三井アウトレットパーク
Premium Outlets (English):  http://www.premiumoutlets.co.jp/en/
Premium Outlets (Japanese):  http://www.premiumoutlets.co.jp/
Gotemba Premium Outlets (English):  http://www.premiumoutlets.co.jp/en/gotemba/
Gotemba Premium Outlets (Japanese):  http://www.premiumoutlets.co.jp/gotemba/
Mitsui Outlet Park (English):  http://www.31op.com/english/index.html
Mitsui Outlet Park (Japanese):  http://www.31op.com/english/
Venus Fort (Japanese, but logos of the outlet shops):  http://www.venusfort.co.jp/index.html

このblogは英語のblog。もし私の英語は難しい、日本語のquestionは大丈夫。

Honolulu, Hawaii (Part II) December 30, 2008

Posted by Dru in Travel.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Honolulu, Hawaii (Part II)” complete with pictures.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-5e

This is Part II of a two part series.  Please see Part I for the beginning of this post.

The next day, I had to attend my friend’s wedding.  It was an all day affair.  I did wake up early and had a nice run along the beach.  Waikiki’s beach is very nice, but the path for runners is very short.  You are better to go elsewhere, but I wanted a beach that was close to my hotel.  The morning is also a nice time to visit as there aren’t too many people there.  By the afternoon, I’m sure it was busy.  The beach itself is also nice, but a little rocky compared to other natural beaches on Oahu.  I saw many people swimming and surfing in the area.  The wedding I attended was a beach wedding.  The wedding party was about 20 people and we all sat on the beach.  We went to Waimanalo Bay, which is about 1 hour from Waikiki.  It’s a wonderful place with very few people.  There were a few people who looked at us in envy, but it was generally our own private beach.  The women had a lot of problems as they wore heels.  Heels and sand do not mix.  Most of them changed to flip flops or just went barefoot.  The beach was beautiful with nearly white sand and a turquoise surf.  It wasn’t too windy either.  Just perfect.  We got lucky.  After the ceremony, we had a break time to relax before we had dinner.  Dinner that night was at Roy’s.  A very nice upscale restaurant, but not as good as Orchids.  The food wasn’t as good either, but there was a lot of choice.  We were all stuffed.

On my third day in Honolulu, I headed to the Premium Outlets.  It’s a major chain of outlet shops that has several outlets in Japan as well.  The only difference is that Honolulu’s Premium Outlets is very small, but they have better discounts.  Most shops had 20-50% off the lowest ticketed price.  Very good deals to be had.  I do recommend heading to this outlet shop if you have a car and the time.  For lunch, I headed to a famous Cheeseburger restaurant.  Cheeseburger in Paradise is relatively famous and they offer HUGE burgers.  They are so huge, that you don’t need fries.  However, who can eat a burger without fries?

The fourth, and essentially last, day in Honolulu, was not so fun.  I woke up to rain.  It was pouring out.  I cancelled my morning plans.  I was going to enjoy the beach, but obviously that was out of the question now.  Instead,  I headed to Wallmart with some friends and found some cheap things.  Nothing too special.  If you have time, it’s nice to go there.  After that, I headed to Ala Moana again for a final round of shopping.  Nothing bought, but I enjoyed browsing all of the shops.  After shopping, I headed back to the hotel to pack as I would have a very eventful evening.  After packing all of my things, I headed back to meet my friends for drinks.  We met up and started drinking in one of the rooms.  After, we headed out to a bar for more.  We ate and drank and had a great time.  By the end of it, we were kicked out as they place had closed and we moved the party to the beach.  In our drunken state, many people started to jump into the ocean for a night swim.  Nothing too dangerous.  Just up to the chest.  I might have gone in if asked, but I had no option.  My friends picked me up and tossed me into the ocean.  I was soaked from head to toe.  I jumped out of the water, stripped down to my jeans and jumped back in.  It was a fun night of swimming that lasted about an hour or so.  I couldn’t quite remember as I was quite drunk.

The next morning, I was awoken to the sound of a phone.  I had missed my first bus to the airport.  i had only 5 hours of sleep, my alarm was broken by the sea, and I had about 30 minutes to change, pack, and go.  I didn’t even have time to shower.  Thankfully, I finished packing the night before, so all I had to do was put a few things away and off I was to get picked up.  Needless to say, the flight back wasn’t so good, but I did make my flight and I did arrive in Tokyo as expected.  However, when rushing, it’s best to take a quick breather before heading through security.  I spent a lot of time there as I made mistake after mistake.

このblogは英語のblog。もし私の英語は難しい、日本語のquestionは大丈夫。

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