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Mitsukoshi in PH: ‘I count eight years for this dream to be a reality’

Alfred Ty recalls the establishment of Japan’s iconic store here—a first in the country, the ‘game changer’

Mitsukoshi facade at 36th Street (artist's rendering)

At the soft opening of Mitsukoshi last November 17,  Nomura Real Estate Development general manager of Overseas Business Unit Masaya Hirao, general manager of Mitsukoshi BGC Mitsunori Morohoshi, Isetan Mitsukoshi Holdings division manager of Overseas Real Estate Division  Akio Inuishi, Federal Land chairman Alfred Ty, Taguig City Mayor Lani Cayetano, Federal Land president  Thomas Mirasol and Nomura Real Estate Development executive office Yusuke Hirano.

There is a street garden somewhere in the podium level of a uniquely designed building that easily recalls a country three and a half hours away from Manila.  It is a piece of Japan recreated in the Bonifacio Global City with the soft opening of Mitsukoshi BGC.

“What began as a kimono fabric store in 1673 grew into Japan’s largest department store group,” says Alfred Ty, chairman of Federal Land Inc.

Today the almost 350-year-old icon is a lifestyle destination that brings together an experience of traditional and contemporary Japan, which is now possible here in the Philippines. The soft opening of the retail and dining facility in BGC less than a month before Christmas brings the pleasures of shopping for the body or skin care products of Waphayto or the natural and organic cosmetics of La Casta without the consumer having to board a plane.

The Japanese-inspired, four-tower, mixed-use development within the Seasons Residences is a tripartite undertaking of Federal land with Isetan Mitsukoshi Holdings Ltd., one of the leading department store groups and Nomura Real Estate Development Co. Ltd., a real estate giant in Japan. It was an alignment of business philosophies built on mutually beneficial association of many years. Isetan Mitsukoshi Holdings Division Manager of Overseas Real Estate Business Akio Inuishi says, “The GT Capital Group has already formed alliances with a number of Japanese companies represented by Toyota.” Chairman Ty is also the chairman of Toyota Motor Philippines.

Inuishi adds, “It is one point that they have already had joint business experience with Japanese companies. The team felt that the GT Group has a penchant for learning Japanese business practices and from Japanese companies. Federal Land has a history of 50 years in the Philippines; we are a company of 349 years in Japan but are newcomers in the Philippines.”

‘Mitsukoshi BGC is a creation of very strong and good business relationships’

He cites the synergy of their partnership in this collaboration. “We provide retail know-how and Federal Land has local real estate development know-how. We have the idea that both companies will demonstrate their strengths and continuously grow together.” Inuishi expresses confidence in the success of the project. “Mitsukoshi BGC is a creation of very strong and good business relationships.”

In his opening remarks during the soft opening Thursday November 17, 2022, Ty recalls, “Dating back to May 2017, we were on this site together with no less than Mayor Lani and Senator Alan, together with my late father, George SK Ty, to ground break on this exact location of the future development that we are celebrating today, of not just the oldest and most prestigious Japanese branded retail store. Mitsukoshi, dating its origin back in 1673, but this mall does not only signify our country’s readiness to accept an international brand of a mall that will introduce food and non-food products from Japan and other parts of the globe, it also made available an atmosphere that is well curated by major Japanese architectural firms and service that is trained by Mitsukoshi trainers to provide the true Omotenashi spirit for our deserving clientele.”

‘I tried to explain that this is the new Manila’

The Seasons Residences Skyline

He continues, “Today is memorable for me and at the same time, emotional, as I count eight years for this dream to be a reality. It took eight years to finally plant the flag of Mitsukoshi in our country. It started as a simple courtesy visit by the Nomura Real Estate executives back in 2014, that led to a dinner in BGC. A simple cigarette break from dinner made my guests stand up and step outside to take a drag of their Mild Seven… they inhaled and looked up to the sky and wondered if they were still in Manila… I tried to explain that this is the new Manila and that started the curiosity about the BGC, they never knew we have a new city that existed that would be comparable with the gentrified Tokyo.”

The lion is now in the Philippines.

In a separate chat with TheDiarist.ph, Ty spoke of how Mitsukoshi will be the game changer in the Philippine lifestyle scape, as it blends the Filipino experience and lifestyle with the revered Japanese brand.

Mitsukoshi BGC interiors (artist’s rendering)

Mitsukoshi BGC interiors (artist’s rendering)

Mitsukoshi BGC interiors (artist’s rendition)

Nipponophiles are being treated to a feel of Japan from the moment they walk through the entrance where the Mitsukoshi lion makes its very first appearance outside Japan— an honor for the Philippine partners to acknowledge that the premium brand’s emblematic statue now stands here, the symbol of Japanese tradition and innovation as well as the company’s enduring spirit of hospitality.

Ty is visibly buoyant over surmounting the challenges that the pandemic and the global disruption of supply chains brought over the last few years. He talks about the vibrant history of the international department store chain which is also a leading purveyor of culture through their art galleries. The Tokyo-based company is a subsidiary of Isetan Mitsukoshi Holdings, owners of Isetan, another department store chain. “Isetan is cutting edge and modern, with a pulse on the latest trends and fashions,” Ty says. “Their merger in 2008 was and continues to be a true collaboration of tradition and innovation.

“Together Isetan and Mitsukoshi target a wide-reaching market,” he continues. “Partnering with them for this mall, which is the first Mitsukoshi in the Philippines, enables us to reach out to both the more culturally-oriented and traditional generation and the evolving, spirited and youthful buyers we have in the Philippines.

“Aside from the exciting new lifestyle retail experience that Mitsukoshi provides, I believe our economy has reached a level that will allow us to introduce a different shopping experience that brings a Japanese flavor of products and customer experience to our local market.”

Inside the expansive space are distinctive Japanese aesthetics, from the Tori-niwa  and Sando and structures that harken to the land of the rising sun. A monument of “Joining Hands” stands by the entrance, a nod to the camaraderie between the Philippines and Japan.

Mitsukoshi Fresh (artist’s rendering)

While the pandemic has affected tenants from Japan who need to stabilize their operations in their home country, there is a varied array of international brands from Mitsukoshi Beauty, a good selection from Kinokuniya Bookstore and a space for Lexus merchandise for auto lovers of the luxury car. Culinary delights are spread out in the basement level following the tradition of “Depachika,” food markets traditionally found in Japanese department stores.  The supermarket Mitsukoshi Fresh carries authentic Japanese goods and delicacies flown in directly from Japan including frozen fish and sashimi.

‘We deserve to have this, too’

Food Hall (artist’s rendering)

Food Hall (artist’s rendering)

A hankering for Japanese-style beef curry, soup and Japanese mixed rice have recourse at Isetan Mitsukoshi The Food which serves up ready-to-eat-meals for folks on the go. The dining experience can be completed with a beverage of fermented rice in small porcelain cups with a 15 percent alcohol content at Sake & Sochu. The stronger distilled sochu with 25 percent alcohol is also available.

Come December, the in-house Bakery will offer Japanese staples as the deep-fried curry bread and the thick-sliced white bread along with more than a hundred different high-quality breads and pastries. Local brands join the roster of dining establishments, among which are Wildflour Cafe+Bakery. Other merchants are Mendokoro Ramenba, The Matcha Tokyo, Key Coffee, Ikinari Steakhouse and Putien.

Mitsukoshi BGC will continue to expand until the grand opening in March 2023. “In spite of the rubble caused by the pandemic, locally and in Japan, we want to give the Filipino people a taste of the Mitsukoshi shopping experience during this Christmas season,” Alfred Ty says. “We deserve to have this, too.”

About author

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"Our meaningful lives are the healing stories we need to tell a wounded world." - Anna Isabel C. Sobrepeña. She was recognized as one of Filipina Women Network Most Influential Thought Leader and Innovator in 2019 and received the Asia Leaders Award Editor of the Year in 2018. She was editor in chief of a lifestyle heritage brand publication for 11 years. A writer by passion, she dabbles in fine arts photography, has a taste for Yeats, Shakespeare, Neruda and Bach. She likes cerulean blue, unicorns and people who are comfortable with silence.

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