10 April 2010

Saturday special: Shopping at the Mitsukoshi Department Store:

What excites shoppers? The merchandise, the layout of a store, the service and the overall atmosphere all play a role. Gift & Home Today asked writer Louise Burton to share her thoughts of the Mitsukoshi Department Store in the EPCOT Center at Walt Disney World, Florida.

When I shop for home décor, one of the things I always look for is great Asian design. Because I have a difficult time finding stores that sell traditional Japanese crafts and décor, I was delighted to discover a branch of the Mitsukoshi Department Store in the EPCOT Center at Walt Disney World. The main store is located in Tokyo, and the WDW store is the only branch in North America.
Every year, my husband and I go to a trade show held in one of the Disney World hotels. Although we’re there to work, we find time to visit the theme parks. Visiting the EPCOT Center’s World Showcase is like walking around a huge bazaar with great international food and music. And one of the biggest draws is the shopping.
When we visited the Japan Pavilion in 2009, I discovered the Mitsukoshi Department Store’s tiny entrance inside a large, imposing replica from Japan’s Imperial Palace. When I walked inside, tables of Hello Kitty toys and lucky cat figurines greeted me. Further back, I saw rows and rows of stationery and other paper products, imprinted with elegant details from Japanese fans and woodblock prints. My favorite Japanese print, Hokusai’s Red Fuji, was reprinted on journal and notebook covers.
In the women’s department, there were exquisite wall hangings and purses made out of kimono fabric and colorful silk brocade. Several young Japanese women dressed in stunning kimonos stood behind glass cases of Mikimoto pearl jewelry, while others sat at a table writing calligraphy on fans.
I truly wanted everything I saw in the women’s department. I had so many choices, I didn’t know what or how to choose. My husband returned to warn me the EPCOT closing fireworks were about to begin. I let myself be dragged out without buying anything. What could I do? There was no way to choose when what I wanted was everything. I promised myself that one day I would return.
When we finally visit EPCOT again, I wondered, will the Mitsukoshi shopping experience be as I remembered it?
This year, I convinced my husband to return to EPCOT, despite his objections against “paying for admission just to go shopping.” In the Japan Pavilion, the front entrance of Mitsukoshi was the same: a gleaming metallic sign reading “Mitsukoshi: Since 1673”, and a few items in small windows. Not much to suggest what wonders lay within. When we walked in, the children’s department at the front of the store looked the same. But, further back, the shelves of exquisite stationery and paper products were gone! Instead, the area featured anime-inspired gifts (dolls, tote bags, etc.) that were more commercial and less appealing. I began to worry.
But the further back I went, the more things I remembered: a small black handbag with the image of a gold crane spreading its wings, silk brocade purses, teacups, jewelry. In particular, jewelry made out of kimono fabric. I was attracted to a sparkling Sakura (cherry blossom) pendant, as well as a red-and-black floral pendant shaped like a donut (see pictures).
Because I love all things Sakura, a set of Sakura hairpins caught my eye, but they were just the tiny tip of the iceberg. The hairpins were sitting on a glass case containing a wealth of traditional Japanese hair ornaments made from satin flowers and silk brocade. Unfortunately, most were designed for longer tresses than my businesslike bob!
I also discovered mini tote bags in one of my favorite Japanese patterns: waves of the sea, shown as formalized wavy lines with white splashes shooting up at intervals. This design was used as a sea god emblem in Japanese shrines. (See picture). I also saw teacups imprinted with another iconic image of the sea: Hokusai’s famous Great Wave off Kanagawa.
Unfortunately, my brief, tantalizing impression of Mitsukoshi in 2009 was not entirely confirmed this year. There didn’t seem to be as much merchandise on the floor, and what was there seemed picked over. The only category that retained its astonishing beauty and variety was the jewelry and hair ornaments. These were worth the price of admission alone.
I had been saving my money for months for this moment. I purchased two necklaces, a Sakura fabric ornament, the Sakura hairpins, and the mini tote bag. All together, this was the only splurge purchase I had allowed myself in months! And I’d do it again.

Louise Burton is a writer, editor and avid shopper who lives in Wilmette, IL. Louise previously wrote about a gift store in Evanston, IL. She currently writes Web content and designs Web sites, uniting her interests in both writing and design. She has written for a host of e-newsletters about marketing trends and techniques. One of her passions is good design, wherever it can be found: on the Web, at art fairs, or in home furnishings. She is constantly on the lookout for the finest products available in gift and home décor.

1 comment:

  1. Louise, you describe the shop such that I felt as if I were there with you. I too love Japanese and basically all things asian. I am not as much an expert on their meaning, but I do appreciate great pieces. Thanks for your insightful discovery and lovely description.



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