Uniqlo is a Japanese casual and affordable fashion brand for women, men and kids established in 1949 in Ube, Yamaguchi. Since 2005, Fast Retailing Co., Ltd. has been the parent company of Uniqlo, alongside with J Brand, Comptoir des Cotonniers, G.U., Princesse Tam-Tam, and Theory. Nowadays, there are more than 1400 stores worldwide, including in Indonesia since 2013 and I’ve become a fan ever since.
Thus, I’m so excited when I heard there’s a 12-storey Uniqlo flagship store in Ginza area, although I wasn’t sure I would have time to search for it on purpose. Anyways, there are a lot of Uniqlo stores in Jakarta, Indonesia, already and I initially didn’t see the point of visiting another one in Tokyo. Until I realized that Ginza Bay Hotel, the capsule hotel where I stayed, was just 10 minutes walking distance from that store.
Uniqlo flagship store in Ginza, on Chuo Dori St, is 9th branch and the largest Uniqlo store in the world opening since March 16, 2012. The 12-storey building stands impressively, especially at night time, with its see-through façade and vibrant lighting from top to toe. In fact, it’s the brightest building I saw of all in the area.
Not to mention the eye-catching visual merchandising with giant posters showing a glimpse of mood board of seasonal collections on the first 2 floors and rotating mannequins doing Uniqlo runaways starting from the 3rd floor and up.
The see-through concept continues inside, including the transparent elevator and its tube in the middle, as well as a group of mannequins placed inside a secluded glass room. The ceilings are covered with mirrors, whose reflections are able to “visually” widen the store interior. Each floor represents one type of collection only, e.g. Women’s Casual on the 5th floor or Kid’s and Baby’s on the 6th floor.
My favourite part is on the 11th floor, a special section for UT collections. I love the lighted glass cabinets covering both sides of the wall, displaying rows of hanged graphic t-shirts offering the latest themes for certain period of time, such as Disney, Star Wars, Lego, etc. LED boards placed above the cabinets remind me of those at Times Square New York that usually report stock market updates.
It felt like visiting a modern art museum in a dynamic atmosphere, representing past-paced and practical life of young people. Only that it offers quality clothing with value for money, not masterpieces only the rich and famous can afford.
Apart from the modern-edgy looking store, perhaps there’s one question here. Is it still worth to visit if there are already Uniqlo stores in your city (in my case, in Jakarta)? I admit, in terms of the collection availability, Uniqlo flagship stores in Jakarta are very complete, including sunglasses and accessories. The only thing Jakarta stores don’t have are appliqués for kid’s wear, from alphabets to Moomin. Though they are cute, I don’t really sweat about their absence.
Nonetheless, let’s take a look at the price tags. Remember that it does not include 8% VAT. I checked the price of the navy blue Eyelet Shorts, one of my favourite Uniqlo collections I’ve been spotting since its launch in Jakarta. I was waiting for the special offer that had not come yet until I left for Japan. It was ¥ 2,990 (approximately Rp. 360,000 or $ 30) before tax.
I couldn’t recall the price of the shorts in Jakarta, but I took a chance of buying one. I had a feeling that it wasn’t more expensive than that in Jakarta. After tax, I paid ¥ 3,225 ($ 29 or Rp. 390,000). Returning to Jakarta, I was very curious about how much my shorts sold in my hometown. It turned out that it cost Rp. 599,000 ($ 50). Wow!
I heard that Uniqlo stores in United Kingdom and Australia are more expensive than those in Jakarta. So, imagine how cheap they are in Japan! I wish I bought more Uniqlo stuffs there!
Moreover, if you spend over ¥ 10,000 ($ 90 or Rp. 1,200,000), you can claim for a tax refund. The forms are provided at the cashier and you can ask them for more information. As long as I remember, the staffs’ English proficiency is pretty good.
Another unique experience I got was the manner in the fitting room, where shoes and sandals are not allowed to use inside, just like entering any ryokans in the country. At first, it felt a bit troublesome as I needed to untie my shoestrings every time I wanted to try any clothes and tied them back when I left the room.
But soon, I started to feel comfortable. There was no trace of muds, soil, shoe sole prints whatsoever. To be honest, it was my first time not to worry about my trousers and some other belongings getting dirty after they drop on the floor. So, yeah. I truly appreciate this kind of particular culture and I wish fashion stores outside Japan do the same thing.
Finally, the answer is a big YES to the question, “Is Uniqlo Ginza still worth to visit if there are already Uniqlo stores in your city?”
Not only do the collections cost less compared to those in Jakarta (and probably in your city), but it also proves that modern and casual fashion can look very tempting and more upscale (without breaking your bank account) when displayed attractively, maintaining excellence cleanliness inside and out, including the shoes-free fitting rooms.
Last but not least, visit GU flagship store as well if you have time, situated a few blocks from Uniqlo Ginza, on 5-7-7 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo. GU is a one of the subsidiaries of Fast Retailing Co., Ltd., whose collections are also available in Uniqlo stores. However, GU collections at GU store are not exactly the same as those at Uniqlo. Still maintaining quality fashion in affordable price, about ¥ 1500 ($ 15), the ladies’ collections on the first floor are superb, more stylish and feminine than the Uniqlo’s GU. That’s my first impression.
Unfortunately I didn’t have much time to explore all the 5-storey building because I arrived 15 minutes before 9 pm, which is the closing time for all stores in Japan, something I didn’t know at first. I promise I’ll make more time to that store next time I’m back to Japan.