Attention all shopaholics: I have found your Promised Land! It is in Sendai, and it is glorious, and it is awaiting your discovery. It is the S-PAL Mall.
Directly connected to JR Sendai Station, this shopping mecca is more convenient than any other retail experience you are likely to find in Japan. One merely has to roll out of their train in order to land in the middle of one of the most stylish and user friendly malls in the country. It consists of over 240 stores, offering everything from jewelry to beauty products, fashion items to local souvenirs. For over two hours, I lost myself amidst flowing dresses, stylish purses, sparkling rings and sweet smelling lotions – I could easily have spent an entire day wandering those glossy aisles.
S-PAL is unique in that not only does it host the usual fashion outlets, but it also showcases some of Japan’s own up-and-coming businesses. Take, for example, Tokyu Hands, the sprawling department store that sells a range of locally-made goods, alongside other products. Keep your eyes open for some of their most special products, such as aged miso paste from Department Kou Valley, the famous and the much-loved Botchan soap, as well as the artisanal glassware from the Du City and Sendai Glass Project. Similarly, the shop Shimanuki is stocked to the brim with beautiful and locally-made goods. I was shown beautiful, locally-made cloths, bowls and knives in his store that would make wonderful gifts for friends back home – or even a special keepsake for myself! Even more souvenirs await you in the mall’s basement, and you will be spoilt for choice with all the traditional crafts of the Miyagi Region to choose from.
All this shopping would, of course, work up an appetite. In such an event, one only has to pop down to the mall’s basement section where an incredible food hall awaits. From gourmet salads to burgers to fresh sushi, everything and anything that you could possibly want to munch on can be found here. Also in this foodie heaven are patisseries that would make the French drool. Be sure to try the goodies at Mason de Gateau Tanabata, where each cake is made entirely from vegetables. A strange concept, perhaps, but once you have tried a chocolate and tomato tart, you will be totally sold to the idea.
The only negative aspect I could say about this amazing place is that, given its vicinity to the station, will probably mean you will never leave and see the real Sendai! – I hardly managed to leave the mall myself, but am far from sorry for it. Sometimes, one just needs to indulge in some retail therapy, and in a mall this lovely, there is no feeling guilty about it.