When I was researching the best places to shop in Tokyo, I was surprised to see a lot of mega-sized department stores listed but I’m just not a department store type of shopper so I needed a lot of convincing. It’s intimidating because they’re so large as well as being more on the expensive side. Japanese department stores average 7 to 9 stories which make American stores dwarf in size. A constant recommendation however, was to go to Isetan in its original location in Shinjuku. Not only does Isetan house some of the most coveted beauty brands but there’s also an entire floor devoted to natural beauty and a must-go impressive food hall for locals and tourists alike. While I didn’t really shop for clothing at Isetan, I looked at the beauty sections! Click on to see more and recommendations for Japan-only beauty brands.
3-14-1 Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku
Use exits B3, B4 or B5 from the Marunouchi or Shinjuku subway lines. If you’re walking from Shinjuku Station, use the East Exit.
Isetan is trendy, clean, and designed well with Instagram-worthy product displays. While I was there, I bumped into an exclusive opening of new Comme des Garçons products. I’m not crazy for $100 t-shirts so I skipped this but didn’t leave without snapping a few pictures. The department store house luxury brands and although I’m not the luxury shopper, this store is great for window shopping. I tried on some Balenciaga and Mulberry bags and mentally filed it away for a “lottery” prize purchase.
Isetan’s website isn’t very English friendly so I use Google Translate to browse the Beauty section and see brand names that I should look into more. I’m more willing to splurge on beauty products instead of on clothing so here’s what I’m personally interested in although I have not yet tried any of these yet:
- Uka scented cuticle and nail oils. I learned about these through Peach & Lily where mark-up is minimal (here’s my referral link for $10 off a $50 purchase)
- THREE luxury makeup brand (and some skincare). Their foaming cleanser and cleansing oil have been well-reviewed.
- Addiction, another luxury makeup brand.
- RMK. I’ve read that their translucent loose face powder is amazing and their creamy base foundation as well.
- Paul & Joe. For every cat-lover! Their Moisturizing Foundation Primers are the most popular sellers.
- Jill Stuart. Ultimate frilly and girly packaged cosmetics. Packaging comes with details like brush attachments to compacts so you’ll never lose it.
- SUQQU. Lauded as THE brand to buy your makeup brushes from (although it’s seriously like $300 for ONE face brush). I think Hakuhodo brushes are a happy medium in between luxury and affordable drug store.
- Ladurée. Not just a French confectionery shop but also a makeup brand. Formally written out as Les Merveilleuses Ladurée, this brand also embodies the inner girlie-girl with Parisian details like rose shaped blush petals, heart shaped handles, and cheek stains in vintage looking egg holders.
Isetan’s Natural Beauty Section – Beauty Apothecary
I’m not much of an organic or natural beauty user but Isetan has one of the best natural beauty curations that it even has its own floor and branding! Dubbed as Beauty Apothecary, it’s on B2 (the floor below the famous and fabulous Food Hall on B1). The Uka nail oils I mentioned above are located here and that’s the limit to my knowledge of natural brands in Japan. I only have a few photos to share.
Isetan’s Famous Food Hall
Make sure you have room in your stomach for lunch or dinner when you visit because you should visit Isetan’s internationally famed food hall for a meal (or at least take away a dessert for later). These basement level food halls are also nicknamed as “depachika” and they’re NOT what Americans know as the mall food court, very far from it. I made the mistake of passing by and not buying a thing because we already ate Ichiran Ramen and didn’t know what was good to get at the time. Well, to prepare you, here are some recommendations I pulled from the web in case you ever find yourself at Isetan’s Shinjuku’s location!
Insider Tip: Buy a bento box and head up to the roof top where they have a picnic area to relax and eat! The wagashi, Japanese confections made out of mochi, also make great gifts.
- Jean-Paul Hévin. French Chocolatier. Locations only in Paris, Japan, Taiwan and Shanghai.
- Pierre Hermé. Macaron king. Also not in the USA which makes it all the more covetable.
- Croquant Chou Zaku Zaku. Fresh baked crunchy cream puffs encrusted with baked almonds. Not filled with any cream but with Hokkaido cream! There’s a branch in Harujuku so don’t fret if you don’t have the stomach room eat these fresh. I actually had to refrigerate mine back in my hotel and it still tasted amazing!
- Omotenashi. Isetan is the best place to buy and sample whisky at the small bar in the spirits section; there are also sake and sake-friendly snacks.
- Toraya. For a tea room experience, Toraya is a prestigious sweets shop that was founded in Kyoto but the take-home mochi doesn’t look as gorgeous as some of the other wagashi you can find on display.