Stores and descriptions
You Me Town - Clothes, shoes and undergarments for all ages, housewares, trinkets, character items, school supplies/bags, toys, groceries (1st floor, of course), Baskin Robbins, a yummy Udon shop and a few other places. Across the street is a Church's Fried Chicken shop and at the corner to Rt. 188 is a Gyoza restaurant.
Fuji Grand - The 1st floor has groceries, then three floors of clothing, shoes, undergarments for all ages, Kimono shop, bicycle/sports area, bags, etc, another floor with a children's arcade and toys, and then the 6th floor has restaurants, deserts, toilets and a McDonalds.
Uniqlo - Clothing, socks, seasonal wear. See uniqlo.com for store's website and a look at what they are selling in Japan.
Nafco - 8 am to 8 pm - Similar to Home Depot, but on a much smaller scale. You will most likely find anything you need though for repairs or new projects. Nafco carries everything from wood, garden supplies, plumbing, etc. to office supplies, fish/pet food and supplies, carpet, kitchen tools/accessories and organization containers. They also have season garden plants and vegetables, dirt, containers and inside teh Home Plaza, they have a decent selection of indoor plants.
Yamada Denki - The Yellow Electronics store in downtown Iwakuni. Features a variety of electronics, computer/printer accessories and supplies, camera equipment, DVDs, CDs, paint guns, exercise 'bulls', refrigerators, etc. If you are in need of Electronics, this is the place to go.
Deo Deo - Another electronics store in Iwakuni, featuring most of what Yamada sells, but also carries pianos. Between Yamada Denki and Deo Deo, you will most likely find what you need.
Marutomi Toy Store - Two-story shop with the downstairs' floor consisting mostly of puzzles and models. Puzzles apparently are pretty popular in Japan. Upstairs has toys for young children and baby items, (from Sassy products to strollers, high chairs, tricycles, etc).
Bulldog - This uniquely Japanese store is a little similar to Spencers in the States, but not quite the same. However, Bulldog has many family items, gifts/gadgets and seasonal items/decorations. By the way, Spencers.com delivers to APO/FPO.
Dragonfly (in Japanese, Tonbo, pronounced toh-n-boh) - Resale shop, featuring odds and ends, dishes, cups, kitchen items, Japanese decor and furniture and many household items and tradional Japanese clothes.
Daiso (100 Yen shops) - There are three located in Iwakuni close to the Base. Each sells the typical dollar-store items, small snacks, dishes, household items, stationary/papers, pens, etc. However, depending on what you are looking for, one store may have more variety than another. Visit them all at least once, just to know which one you need to visit when you need a cheap item.
Most grocery stores in Iwakuni carry similar products and the same types of products. Whether large (by Japanese standards) or small, they all have fresh produce, fresh fish and meats, packaged products (snacks, dressings, soups, meals, etc), a dairy section and household. So below, I will point out what makes each store mentioned a little different from the other and the size (small, mid-sized and large), based on the typical Iwakuni grocery store.
Manso - The absolute best place to buy Salmon in Iwakuni. Store is mid-sized and has a small selection of fresh flowers. Manso regularly carries Iwakuni sushi too, in the prepared salad area by the sushi. Costs are cheaper than Vesta and Fresta.
Max Value - Small, but nice, flower section with fresh cut flowers and plants. On the opposite side of the store is a fresh bread section. Cost is cheaper than Vesta and Fresta.
Vesta - Mid- to large-sized grocery store featuring a nice selection of fruits, vegetables, meats, sauces, etc. I normally only shop here on Tuesdays. Tuesdays are 'sale' days in Japan grocery stores and many fresh item prices are reduced. At Vesta, also on Tuesday mornings, they have a local farmers market type area for fresh produce.
Fresta (not yet pictured) - Very nice large grocery store. Nice wine selection and large fruit and vegetable area with products from foreign countries (especially fruits). Many fresh packaged meals and side-dishes.
Most grocery stores in Iwakuni carry fresh sushi and deli-type salads which are popular in Japan. At the end of each day, all prepared foods are discounted until sold. Therefore, each day, all salads are fresh when purchased.
One thing I never expected when I moved to Japan was the quantity of bakeries. There are so many. Some specializing in breads, others in desserts, but most carry at least some of both. So, it's not all rice and sushi in the Land of the Rising Sun. You will get to experience some really great breads and desserts. And, you won't have to go too far to find them.
One of my favorites is a French bakery on Rt. 1, just past Kintai Bridge. I don't have a picture of it here yet, so, in the meanwhile, pictured below is Andersen Bakery. The one below is located on Rt.188 in downtown Iwakuni (with the JR Train Station just to left). Although Andersen is a Japanese chain bakery, don't let that fool you, it is Oishii (o-ee-shee). That means delicious or yummy, in Japanese.
Most pet stores in the area are geared toward small dogs. They are somewhat boutique-like (Japanese-style) and have supplies/foods for small dogs. You will most likely find a nice selection of clothes, collars and leashes... that is, if you have a small dog. Mr. Max and Nafco both carry a few toys and supplies for large dogs. However, Nafco appears to carry the widest selection of dog and cat foods, including a good assortment of the basics - treats, toys, bowls, litter, etc.
Wan-Wan Land - Located on the left side of Rt.188 just past the railroad tracks upon entering downtown Iwakuni. Below are pictures of the store sign (it's hard to miss) and inside the store.
Although located close to base in km, it can take 20 minutes to get here if there is traffic. I suggest traveling early in the day before lunch time for the trip to and definitely not returning during rush-hour.
Located off of Rt. 2, you can't miss You Me Town off to the right. Turn right at the light just past the store and travel to the back where the road dead ends and turn right to find Nishimura Joy. By parking in the back, you can enter both stores easily and return purchases to your car if you desire before entering the second store.
On the Rt. 2 side of You Me Town is a tasty Italian restaurant. Outside the restaurant are the typical plastic entrees with related pricing so you have an idea of what you want to order. Inside You Me Town is a McDonalds and other small restaurants.
Nishimura Joy - Similar to Nafco, except that this store has more garden items, a fish department, pet supplies and a better selection of furnishings for the home (curtains, cushions, flooring, wood).
You Me Town - same as above, but a little larger and more houshold items. Also, a few more eating places, including McDonalds.
Yanai is a nice little town for sightseeing, but for shopping, it has Mr. Max. Located a block or two off of Rt. 188, it can be tricky to find. However, just follow the signs on Rt. 188 and keep your eyes open. You will find it eventually. Located next to Mr. Max is a Daiso and a couple other stores to peruse.
Mr. Max - This store sells clothing, shoes, household items, organizational containers, etc. It even carries pet and fish supplies, and sells dogs, cats, hamsters, birds, bunnies, turtles, fish and other small pets. Mr. Max is about as close as you will get to a Walmart in the US.
Important... beware when buying a pet here. Pet stores in Japan are the same as in the US. Once the sale is done, they don't want to know about any problems with the pet. And, as with purebreds, usually it's best to report heredity issues so the same dogs are not re-bred. But, as I just said, Mr. Max isn't concerned. So, just keep this in mind when buying a furry little friend in Japan.
Hiroshima has two malls, both of which are located approximately an hour away whether driving or via the train. Alpark mall can be accessed by driving on Rt. 2 and not having to incur a toll road fee. If traveling to Aeon though and want to make it there in about an hour, then you will need to take the Sanyo.
Alpark - Tenmaya Department Store, Starbucks, Gap, Franc Franc (fun/modern kitchen/household furnishings store) and many other shops and eateries.
Aeon - Large Mall with Babies-R-Us, Sports Authority, Eddie Bauer, Lush, The Body Shop, Starbucks, a large department store, Cinema and many other nice shops and eateries.
By train to Alpark Mall or Aeon Mall
Go to Shin-Inokuchi Station for Alpark Mall and Tenjingawa Station for Aeon Mall (previously Diamond City).
At the local Iwakuni train station, you can buy your round-trip ticket at the window easily if you know the train station's name to which you are traveling. The window attendant will understand "Round Trip". This will make your return travel easier since you will not have to navigate a second ticket purchase for your return trip.
By car to Aeon Mall
You will need to take the Sanyo, which will require 3300 yen (round trip via Otake access). Exit Hiroshima-Higashi at Sanyo exit #28. After exiting the Sanyo and paying your toll, you will take Rt. 1, Hiroshima Expressway. Stay on this road until the Fuchu exit. Exit Fuchu, pay your toll fee (500 yen) and you will turn right at the streetlight. You will be able to see Aeon Mall on your right. A parking attendant will direct you where to park.
As you just read, driving on the Sanyo is pricey. A note of interest... if you are wanting to drive to the Aeon Mall, you can always take some friends and split the tolls. If you have four people sharing one car or van, your fare is already cheaper than going by train.
By car to Alpark Mall
You will not need to take the Sanyo for Alpark Mall. Basically, it is off of route 2, which is accessed easily by exiting the base and going north (turn right) on Rt. 188. Rt. 188 will run into Rt.2. Continue North (turn right) on Rt. 2 for quite awhile. It takes roughly one hour in total to get to Alpark Mall.
On the way (on Rt. 2), you will pass through Miya Jima, Hatsukaichi and other small towns. The road will widen and narrow at times, but stay on Rt. 2 the entire time until you see a sign for "Shoko Center". Take this exit and follow it around to the right. You will soon see the Mall on your left and right sides of the road (of Rt.2). After passing the Mall buildings, take a left at the street light and look for the indoor parking (basically, it is part of the mall building so don't drive too far). It is a fairly large parking facility so you should be able to find an available parking space.