Saturday, April 12, 2008

Mitsui Outlet Park Iruma

**Although it's no longer new, this post continues to draw a lot of interest. I have therefore updated it slightly to remove some of the information that is no longer relevant. Updated July 7th, 2011.

A new outlet shopping center, Mitsui Outlet Park Iruma (三井アウトレットパーク 入間) opened in Saitama this week, and we paid the place a visit yesterday afternoon. It's big.

We found some good "opening" sales, but not every shop was providing shocking discounts.

I counted no less than 204 outlets in my facilities map. Important details that I discovered during my wanderings through the enormous two-floor mall: expensive coffee can be purchased at a few different places including the Tully's coffee shop on the second floor near the bus terminal exit, cheap coffee can be found near the register at the Family Mart convenience store on the first floor; in terms of sportswear, Puma had the coolest shoes and Nike the best prices; there's a food court on the second floor called "Forest Kitchen" if you're in search of slightly cheaper fare--bento (boxed lunches) and onigiri (rice balls) can, of course, be found in the Family Mart; kids with just a little too much energy can be brought to Club Yu Kids on the second floor next to Family Mart.

Transportation

The closest train station is Iruma-shi on the Seibu-Ikebukuro line. But then it's a 20 minute bus ride from the station to the outlets (map in Japanese).

Or at least it would be on a normal weekend. As you can see from the picture to the right, there were lines to get into some of the shops, and the place was packed even though it was a weekday. The free shuttle bus from Musashino-fujisawa station was supposed to take only 15-20 minutes, but it ended up being about a one-hour-trip because of the traffic (shuttle bus service will cease after Golden Week 2008). Mitsui Outlet Park is equipped with six separate parking areas, so they're prepared for the onslaught, but the poor roads surrounding the place aren't. The shuttle bus approaches the outlets from a right turn lane on route 16 that doesn't have a protected green light, so a vehicle is able to squeeze through oncoming traffic about once every two to four minutes. It's ridiculous.

I recommend paying for a bus ticket from Iruma-shi station instead. It should cost between 190 and 300 yen per person (there are several buses that head toward Mitsui Outlet Park including the number 30 and 31), and the buses won't get as bogged down in traffic because they don't try to turn into the poorly governed entrance. Actually, I can't swear that the number 30 doesn't turn into the parking lot as it's a new line set up specifically for the shops and we didn't take it. We did, however, take the 31 back from the shops, and that took 20 minutes on the nose. That bus goes to Iruma-shi station as well. It cost 190 yen per person. The bus stop is across the street from the outlets to the left of the Eneos gas station.

Mitsui Outlet Park and Costco

This is Mitsui's fourth, and largest, outlet mall in the Kanto region. They also have shops in western Tokyo, Chiba and Kanagawa. While not the easiest to get to on busy days, the Iruma outlets carry the added bonus of sitting directly adjacent to a Costco wholesale market. For those who aren't familiar with the many wonders available at the giant wholesaler (membership required to shop there), you're missing out! Membership cards work at all 500+ Costco's worldwide, and the range of items sold there is shocking. Additionally, Costco's little dining area provides a cheap, albeit not very healthy, alternative to the pricier food in the restaurants in the outlet mall. Remember those huge slices of pizza and bottomless cups of cola? Yup, Costco in Japan is pretty much the same as back home. Membership for one person/family costs 4,200 yen (per year).

Anyway, the place is worth a visit, but I recommend waiting a week or two, or maybe until after Golden Week. There's something for everyone--from LEGO Clickbrick to Coach accessories, from Fred Perry to Bose, and from BCBGMAXAZRIA to Franc franc.


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