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From the maze of shops outside Osan Air Base, South Korea, to the crowded stores of Tokyo’s trendy Harajuku district, lots of shopping alternatives are available to Pacific troops and their families this holiday season.

The selection is wide, satisfying almost every taste and price range for those who dare to venture beyond base gates.

Here’s a look at some of the best places to shop in the Pacific:


Harajuku offers convenience for those who don’t want to spend days searching for the perfect gift. It’s about a 20-minute train ride from Shinagawa and only 10 minutes from Shinjuku station.

The fashionable faddish district features luxurious brand shops such as Gucci and Louis Vuitton on Omotesando Street, but there’s also a two-story 100-yen store on Takeshita-dori within walking distance of Harajuku Station.

On Omotesando, which extends west from Harajuku Station, the Oriental Bazaar carries several floors of Japanese ceramics and gifts.

“Our wide selection is our store’s selling point,” said sales manager Yukiyoshi Ide, adding that items such as Japanese tea-cup sets packaged in baskets, bonsai sets and woodblock paintings are among the store’s most popular items.

Shops with unique but smaller items can be found on Takeshita-dori, which emerges from Harajuku Station’s Takeshita exit and runs parallel to Omotesando. It’s popular among teenagers looking for fashionable but less expensive goods. Pet Paradise specializes in gifts for dogs. In addition to collars and leashes, it sells items such as Santa Claus costumes and knitted hats with earholes for pooches.

Shibuya, a popular and busy shopping district, is about a 15-minute stroll south of Harajuku. Along with various department stores, Shibuya is home to Tokyo Hands, a seven-story structure with two basement floors that carries everything from outdoor goods and calendars to cooking ware and toys.

South Korea

Songtan, known for its shops, street vendors and open-air markets, is a favorite for U.S. servicemembers at Osan Air Base and Camp Humphreys. Every weekend, the Osan parking area next to the main gate is filled with military and charter buses from bases throughout the peninsula.

Songtan merchants cater to the young military crowd and their families with tailored and ready-made clothing, shoes and sportswear.

Choi Jae-hyun owns “Lucky Sanghye” in Songtan, a store selling jackets, jumpers, hats, sportswear, gym suits and other trendy fashions. “Most customers in stores in Songtan shopping area are American soldiers and their families. I’ve got many American shoppers who want to buy some sports clothes on weekends,” he said. “I try to provide them with good quality products with reasonable and cheap prices.”

Songtan also features stores that specialize in military coins given as souvenirs. Organizational emblems, flags and other unique military-related items also are available.

Ceramics are available in both traditional Korean and modern styles. Many shops offer large ceramic dioramas with running water and animated objects.

Faux mink blankets and suitcases (large and small, with and without wheels) are other popular items in Songtan.

The Itaewon section of Seoul also attracts foreign customers, said Kim Tae-young, the head of a circulation business department in Hamilton Shopping Center in Seoul.

On an average day, he said, “about 200 customers visit the center for shopping.” Jewelry and pottery are among favorite items. “On weekends, the numbers of shoppers are growing higher. We say 60 percent of shoppers are Japanese and 30 percent or more are American servicemembers and their families.”

Namdaemun Market, in the heart of Seoul, traditionally has been the largest outlet in South Korea, selling clothes, kitchenware and local and imported products. Most shops have their own factories and offer both wholesale and retail prices.

Since 1905, Dongdaemun Market has been among the peninsula’s major shopping destinations. Specializing in wholesale clothing, the market has more than 20 shopping malls. It’s constantly packed with retailers, customers and tourists.

The massive Yongsan Electronics Market, near the Yongsan railroad station, specializes in gadgetry and computers. It’s spread across 21 buildings with more than 5,000 shops. Prices of domestic goods are 10 percent to 20 percent lower than in regular stores, while imported products can be 40 percent to 50 percent less.

In Central Sangga, stores in the C-Dong shopping district have sold imported goods such as clothing, food, cosmetics, electronics, accessories, bags, furs and golf outfits for more than 30 years.

In Pusan, consumers typically hit the Lotte Department Store, Seomyeun Underground Shopping Mall and Aram Mart, an outlet with inexpensive prices on potential holiday gifts like toys, clothes, cosmetics, electronics, stationery, books, music, furniture and jewelry.

The Taegu Medicine Market, meanwhile, is a major herbal outlet specializing in traditional Korean remedies. It features about 50 herbal medicine stores, 25 herbal clinics, 85 herbal doctors and 20 ginseng stores. It was the country’s first medicine wholesale market.

Taegu also boasts about 80 percent of the wood crafts made in South Korea. The Bullodong Wood Artifacts complex, featuring about 70 shops, sells wood blocks, beads and other Buddhist items, tea tables, telephone tables, vessels and other daily commodities.


On Okinawa, shopping districts and malls are conveniently located in the island’s central and southern areas, near major military installations. They are often smaller than U.S. malls but are gold mines of exotic local goods and rare products.

That’s exactly what D.J. King, the wife of Navy Lt. Cmdr. Kevin King, looks for.

“People in the U.S. will be delighted with the kinds of things I can find here,” she said while shopping recently at Hamby Town near Camp Foster.

At off-base stores, she’s lured mostly by the novelty of it all.

“For instance,” King said, “even gift-wrapping paper is different.”

She says Japanese goods are “colorful, cheerful and delightful,” and praises the quality customer service at Japanese stores.

Hamby Town in Chatan is across from Camp Foster. The San-A mall offers daily necessities, clothes, accessories, footwear and miscellaneous goods.

“We have quite a large number of American customers here,” said San-A Hamby Town store manager Yoshiaki Yamazato. “Our variety and a 100-yen section are the most popular to our American customers.”

A currency exchange was installed in September near the mall’s information counter to try to expand the U.S. customer base, he added. All San-A stores on the island accept U.S. dollars (paper money only).

Senior Airman Matthew Owens and his wife, Stephanie, began their holiday shopping at about Thanksgiving at Hamby Town with their 2-week-old daughter, Keala.

“We look for something that cannot be found in the States for our family and friends,” Owens said, adding that they spend roughly $300 on holiday shopping.

The family also frequents the JUSCO malls in Chatan and Gushikawa, which are highly popular with American shoppers.

“We have many American customers, especially on weekends,” said Tamotsu Kinjo, store manager of the Chatan Jusco. “At this time of the year, they buy mostly Christmas decorations and children’s toys.”

Here’s a quick guide to some of the most popular shopping areas near U.S. bases:

¶ Mihama American Village in Chatan, across from Camp Lester, a restaurant and retail store complex with a Ferris wheel, multi-screen movie theater, JUSCO supermarket, large home improvement store and other local dining and shopping establishments.

¶ Kokusai Street in Naha, the biggest and oldest shopping district on Okinawa. The one-mile shopping strip is lined with about 600 shops.

¶ Shin-toshin is a former U.S. military housing area that’s blossomed into a bustling new town in Naha. Check out San-A Main Place, Okinawa’s largest shopping mall; Sports Depot; Toys “R” Us; and a variety of stores, stylish restaurants and coffee shops.

¶ Plaza House Shopping Center, a popular tourist haunt offering refined Okinawan souvenirs such as Ryukyu lacquerware, Ryukyu glassware, Okinawan dyed and woven textiles and Okinawan health foods. A three-story mall offers clothing, compact discs, jewelry and Japanese folk crafts.

¶ Gate 2 Street and Park Avenue shopping areas in Okinawa City are a short hike from Kadena Air Base’s Gate 2. Rows of small retail shops sell ethnic items, gifts, china and jewelry.

¶ Other shopping malls within a 30-minute drive from most military bases include San-A Main City in Gushikawa, Naval Kadena and Shoppers Awase, which features a Toys “R” Us store on the second floor.

¶ The numerous 100-yen stores are also popular. From Japanese handcrafts to Christmas ornaments, toys and stationery to kitchen goods and cosmetics, 100-yen stores offer a huge variety of items, all for 100 yen. The island’s largest 100-yen store is in Haninsu Ginowan, near Camp Foster. Another called Daiso Miyazato, with an expansive showroom, is in Okinawa City’s Miyazato district.

Hana Kusumoto, Hwang Hae-rym and Chiyomi Sumida contributed to this report.


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