Where to shop at Kansai International ….
Airports don’t get much more expensive to build than Kansai International. The total construction cost came to an eye-watering $20 billion ($12.54 billion). Three entire mountains needed to be excavated to create enough landfill to create an artificial island for the new airport to sit on. That feat of engineering required 80 ships, 10,000 workers and took three years to complete.Was all the money well spent? Well, the finished airport, which opened for business back in 1994, is undeniably impressive, and receives rave reviews from travellers. Its single four-storey terminal is one of the longest buildings in the world, measuring in at a crazy 1.7 kilometres. Thankfully, a speedy automated passenger mover means weary passengers don’t have to traipse from one end of the building to the other.The key question, which continues to trouble Kansai International’s owners, is whether the airport is busy enough to justify all that expense. While the airport handled over 14 million passengers last year and is host to 40 different airlines, it undoubtedly suffers from competition from two smaller, but more conveniently located airports: Kobe and Itemi (Osaka International).
Nonetheless, many of those travellers, who do pass through Kansai, love its light, airy design and clean facilities. They say airport staff are friendly and that the check-in, immigration and baggage reclaim are quick and efficient. There are also some excellent services and facilities such as free Wi-Fi, a Business Center (on the fourth floor) a handy Kids Room with baby changing-facilities (also on the fourth floor), and the stunning Sky View Observation Hall, where you can watch planes take off and land.
As for the shopping, well we are pleased to say it is top-notch. However, for those with a long time to wait for their flight, it also worth noting that a short, ten-minute bus ride away over on the mainland is the Rinku Premium Outlets development, which features over 150 shops and restaurants. Open from 10.00 hours to 20.00 hours each day, the line up of shops there includes Adidas, an Armani Factory Store, Bally, Coach, Gap, Katherine Hamnett, Petit Bateau, Samsonite, Timberland and Wedgwood. For a full run down of what’s there, see the company’s excellent website: http://www.premiumoutlets.co.jp/en/rinku/.Back at the airport we will start our shopping tour in the international gate area of the third floor, where you will find the bulk of the airport’s shopping offer. The stores here offer a number of high-end Western designer brands, which continue to be hugely popular with Japanese travellers such as Omega, Bally, Hermes, Cartier, Bvlgari, Coach, Dunhill, Swarovski, Tiffany, Montblanc and Burberry.Travellers will also find several duty-free stores in this part of the airport. For instance, Blanc de Blancs specialises in cosmetics and fragrances, and also sells designer bags and over 150 different sunglasses brands. There are dedicated counters for brands such as Givenchy, La Prairie, Origins, Anna Sui, Estée Lauder, Clinique and Aramis. For a complete guide to what you fill find in-store, log on to http://www.blancdeblancs.com/English/welcome/.
Rival operator Duty Free Shop Kansai Airport will never win awards for its unimaginative name, but it does stock a good range of duty-free items. Expensive blended Scotch whiskies and French Cognacs are clearly very popular here, but if you are a whisky lover, do consider one of the superb Japanese whiskies stocked such as Hibiki 17 Year Old at ¥6,500 (£53.50) and Yamazaki 12 Year Old at ¥4,500 (£37).
The store also stocks some exclusive and beautifully packaged Japanese sakés, which can’t be found on the Japanese domestic market. Choya’s excellent Honey Plum liqueur is another local tipple well worth a try. Other local buys in the store include electric rice cookers (yes, you read that right!), dried foods and of course, ginseng.
Japan is one of Asia’s largest markets for tobacco consumption so unsurprisingly Duty Free Shop Kansai Airport stocks a big range. Domestic tobacco prices are low by Western standards (around £3.40 for a standard pack of 20), but there are still savings to be had in duty-free. A carton of 200 Mild Seven, for instance, is priced at ¥2,500 (£20.60), giving a 64% saving on the domestic market. A same-sized carton of Marlboro is priced at ¥2,800 (£23), giving buyers a whopping saving of over 85%.
For a complete guide to what Duty Free Shop Kansai Airport sells, including details of special promotions and a handy pre-order service, see the retailer’s website at https://duty-free-japan.jp/kansai/en/index.html.
If you are hunting for a local souvenir or gift for friends and family, it is worth noting that many of the airport’s gift shops are located pre-security on the second and third floors. A couple of the brand names such as casual fashion wear chain Uniqlo and stationery and homeware brand Muji will be familiar to Western travellers.
The quality of Japanese souvenirs tends to be high and prices are not as high as you might think for such a generally expensive country. Popular choices include green teas, dried seafood, Japanese slippers and kimonos, beautifully decorated fans, teacups and chopsticks. One of these souvenir shops at Kansai airport tends to look very much like another, but two of the larger retailers worth browsing are Amita and Satsumaya.
If you can’t stomach airline food and are feeling peckish, most of the least expensive restaurants are on the second and third floors of the passenger terminal building. The airside offer is more limited and expensive. For a full guide to the choice of eating establishments plus an interactive map showing the locations of shops in different parts of the airport, see Kansai International’s excellent website: http://www.kansai-airport.or.jp/en/index.asp.
See the Tax Free Travel guide ……