When Mitsukoshi BGC had its soft opening back in November 2022, I couldn’t pass on the opportunity to check it out primarily because of one thing: Books Kinokuniya which was opening its first-ever branch in the Philippines. Being a bookworm, I had a pleasant experience of wandering around Books Kinokuniya in Singapore which had a vast selection of titles that are not just from Japan like manga and magazines but also in English and even other languages like French, Spanish, and Mandarin. It was a literal book heaven reminiscent of the old Powerbooks (RIP) or Fully Booked before it was neutered to hell.
When I learned that Books Kinokuniya here will be a joint venture with Fully Booked, I felt a sense of apprehension that the Kinokuniya experience I had in Singapore will not be the same as I feared it will be diluted no thanks to the “influence” of neutered Fully Booked. But at the same time, I hoped that the Kinokuniya collaboration would at least help Fully Booked go back to its more hardcore book selection roots that I appreciated before. Unfortunately, my fears were not allayed when I visited, which led me to make this post that has garnered quite a reaction.
Needless to say, the disappointment soured my whole experience with Mitsukoshi BGC that I did not bother making an article here about it back then. But as the months and the new year passed, I realized I may have been unfair with my treatment of the mall at least. So with a more nuanced mindset, I decided to revisit Mitsukoshi BGC and see how it fares as one of the newer malls in the metropolis.
How it came to be
First things first, a little background about the mall is needed. Firstly, Mitsukoshi BGC is just part of a larger development within that approximately 17,000 sqm land area being developed by Federal Land in partnership with Japanese property developer Nomura Real Estate Development Co., Ltd. and the prominent Japanese real estate firm Isetan Mitsukoshi Holdings, Ltd. As such, Mitsukoshi Mall would serve as the podium for the four tower residential towers of The Seasons Residences, whose heights would range from 41 to 51 storeys.
Mitsukoshi BGC is Mitsukoshi’s first venture in the Philippines after having successfully established a presence in Taiwan’s shopping landscape, not to mention operating.a branch right inside Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida in the US. Mitsukoshi BGC has four levels of retail space, including the basement which houses the supermarket and the foodcourt area. At this time of writing however, the uppermost level of the mall is not yet open to the public.
Mitsukoshi BGC’s facade sports a geometric design which is said to be inspired by the Japanese hemp leaf. The design is the Japanese firm Torafu Architects with collaboration with artist Asao Tokolo.
The main entrance on 8th Avenue features a sculpture of a seated lion. This is the Mitsukoshi lion, the symbol of sorts for the retailer since it was installed in its original department store location in 1914. This also marks the first time the Mitsukoshi lion is seen outside Japan, so yes even the Taiwan and US Mitsukoshi outlets do not have the lion.
Inside, the mall is set up in an open layout, so open that many of the tenant stores there do not have storefronts and instead set up like booths on an exhibition floor which makes them more “welcoming” to the public.
Interiors and space
First things first, Mitsukoshi BGC is not that big of a mall especially compared to Uptown Mall which is just a few blocks away. Nevertheless, it has a number of things going for it with its Japanese and minimalist interiors on top. The space is not as cluttered and really made use of the open-concept layout. So you don’t feel congested or suffocated as you go around the mall.
The Japanese touches such as the faux cherry blossoms, the wood-like panels, and other elements also are a nice touch. And that is saying something considering that there is the fine line that if not observed can make these Japanese elements feel too forced or tacked on, thus evoking a feeling of fakery.
But while I appreciate the open space of the interiors, the same cannot be said in particular to the mall’s basement level where the supermarket Mitsukoshi Fresh, food stalls and Mitsukoshi’s own Itadaki Foodcourt are located, Needless to say, the floor is just too cramped for this roamer’s liking. But that’s just me.
And after another visit at Fully Booked Kinokuniya…yup, I still hate it.
Save for those two major sore spots, Mitsukoshi BGC is not a bad mall and definitely adds character to this part of the metropolis, or the entire metropolis as a whole. If anything, it would have benefitted having a much larger retail area. It would have been nice to see more stores there and see them adapt to the open space layout that the mall has set in place.
Having a larger retail area will also benefit stores like Books Kinokuniya which has been seriously hampered by its small space which in part resulted in such a small selection that it currently has. Books Kinokuniya is one Japanese store that deserves to have a larger space, if not in this mall then somewhere. Plus get away from its partnership from Fully Booked for good measure.