Shinkong Mitsukoshi is the largest of the upmarket department store chains in Taiwan. The company is a collaboration of the Japanese department store chain Mitsukoshi Ltd. and the Taiwan-based Shinkong Group.
The goal of this chain is to provide Taiwan with top name-brand shopping in a country that is otherwise an open-air Wal-Mart. They have 12 locations island-wide and two in Tainan City (both Taichung and Kaohsiung only have one).
It is a surprise that a small city like Tainan would have two branches. The New Life Square location of Shinkong Mitsukoshi is on Ximen Road, right next to the Tayih Landis Hotel. The store was built in 2002 as an update to the Zhongshan store that was built in 1996 and was already feeling its age. Although they sell much of the same stuff, The New Life Square location is a much more attractive building, especially on the outside. I would say that it is probably the nicest example of postmodern architecture in the city, while the Zhongshan Road location is probably the biggest eye-sore in the downtown skyline (no easy task). Both stores are busy, however, with the Zhongshan store remaining popular because of its location in the heart of the city’s central shopping district.
I wondered if the title “New Life Square” was meant to be poetic due to the fact that the department store stands on the same grounds as the former Tainan Prison. It turns out, Shinkong Mitsukoshi has used this title for a few of its stores, but it’s nonetheless an interesting title given its history. The Tainan Prison was a highly used political prison during the White Terror movement and saw its fair share of torture, dehumanization, and execution. This gives some stark contrast to the highly polished glamor and unabashed self-indulgence that goes on there now. Rumors of ghosts abound, and to this day my girlfriend is reluctant to go to cineplex inside the building for fear of running into the specters that reportedly haunt the bathrooms there.
Of course, history is history and that has little to do with shopping. New Life Square has nine floors including its two subterranean levels. From bottom to top, the floors break down like this:
* B2F – Food Emporium and Supermarket
* B1F – Home Collections
* GF – Cosmetics and Fashion Accessories
* 1F – International Boutiques
* 2F – Young Ladies and Men’s Wear
* 3F – Ladies’ Fashions & Children’s Wear
* 4F – Young Fashions & City Casual Wear
* 5F – Specialties & Sports & Casual Wear
* 6F – Cultural Hall & Event Space & Restaurant
The bottom floor is where you’ll find a nice boutique supermarket that offers a lot of imported foods you might not find elsewhere. The prices are sky-high, but if you absolutely need comfort food from home, this may be your only option. There’s also a food emporium, a food court, and specialty places like Cold Stone Creamery and Mister Donuts. The next floor up has housewares including linens, kitchenware, electronics, and full furnishings. There’s a very cool shop selling expensive Japanese furniture that’s worth checking out. Like most department stores, the ground floor is pretty much dedicated to cosmetics. The first floor (or second floor if you’re from North America) is solely for the rich, with shops like Armani, Anna Sui, and Bang & Olufsen. The second to the forth floors are mostly clothing. Here you’ll find Calvin Klein, Kenneth Cole, Lacoste, Esprit, etc. The fifth floor is more various with a book shop, music, DVDs, some electronics, clothing, etc. Here you’ll also find the chic everything store out of Japan called Muji. In addition to shopping and eating, there is also the aforementioned (haunted) cineplex.
Department Stores are often more expensive than other shops in Taiwan. It should be noted that, while they do have fixed prices, you can usually get at least a ten percent discount on most purchases just by showing interest and then humming and hawing about the price. These items are also subject to taxes that can be refunded if you’re just a visitor to the country.
Department Store Hours: Daily – 11:00AM ~ 10:00PM
Phone: (06) 3030999
Location: No. 658 Ximen Road (Simen Rd. 西門路) Section 1, West Central District, Tainan City