Remember Pokemon? Japan, with its entrancing anime, manga and cool toys, has long been the dream destination of many people, especially young kids and teenagers. Not all of us however, are lucky enough to get to visit this wondrous country in our teens. In a country where consumerism is law, there are lot of products targeted at adults who are still in touch with their inner child.
My purpose for this article is to tell you about some specific zones and particular establishments where you will feel like a child again. But this time, with acquisitive power or a credit card, you can make the dreams you once had as a child but could not fulfill due to economic constraints, come true easily.
There are two zones, one in the heart of Tokyo and another one far away (around 30 minutes via local train), where you’ll find almost any kind of products related with Japanese animation and manga. You’ll also find collectibles, and every unimaginable hobby-related products. The best of both locations is called Akihabara Electric Town. A long time ago, a technology and electronics center was created where a lot of establishments could sell home appliances and electronic parts (transistors, valves, etc.) in order to create or repair your own home-made machinery. Nowadays, big stores that sell photo cameras, high end televisions, cell phones, among others, have taken over. In addition, the anime subculture and related merchandise has found its place among other mass consumption products. Some of these stores are located in the same building but on different floors, while others are harder to find. The ones that are harder to find may offer fancier items or better prices.
Here are a few places that are worth visiting. If you are looking for cameras, Yodobashi Camera. If you are looking for old video games, or outdated consoles, Super Potato. For those of you interested in collectible figures or card games, be sure to check out Radio Kaikan. Those hunting for new or used magazines and manga, Book off is where you want to go. Another place I would recommend is a place called Hobby Off, where you’ll find used collectible figures in perfect condition, in its original packaging or in plastic bags, at prices far cheaper than the recommended retail price. Sometimes you’ll find rarities that you won’t find in other places while looking at the displays.
Something more recent is Nakano Broadway. It’s located very close from the train station of the same name as well, and it is a little bit more varied than Akihabara regarding the kind of stores that it offers to passersby (these open mall setups with a roof that protects pedestrians from rain are called Arcades). With a more relaxed energy, and certainly less tourists due to the time it takes them in order to get to their doors, this shopping zone offers different kinds of stores in comparison to those you can find in the aforementioned district. Among them, the most important: Antique Nakano Broadway, where you can find antique toys and collectible figures, HAL shop, which offers endless Gachapon (plastic balls vending machines with high end collectible figures inside), and the fabulous Mandarake and its 7 auxiliary shops, offering collectible cards, figurines, toys and antiques, remote control cars and even cosplay (a portmanteau of the word costume play, which is a representative kind of trend where participants use costumes and accessories to represent a specific subject or even an idea).
A franchise born in the 90’s but which has been expanding and extended until today is the famous Pokemon franchise, and what better place to find absolutely every product related with this animated series than visiting one of the many Pokemon Centers. Fanatics and sympathizers who visit the Japanese capital will find these establishments in two locations: Pokemon Center Mega Tokyo at the Sunshine City mall, and Pokemon Center Tokyo Bay close to the Funabashi station, east from the city.
Other popular places where you can keep spoiling yourself are Don Quixote, Tokyu Hands and Village Vanguard stores. The first one has many stores in Tokyo, and offers an 8% purchase tax refund (at the place) if you spend more than 10,000 yen. The second has a combination of more general products, but with a dedicated floor to DIY (Do It Yourself) experiments, mock-ups to assemble yourself, and unconventional souvenirs, just to name a few. In Village Vanguard you will find books, Japanese paraphernalia, items related to national and foreign movies; everything is organized in such a chaotic way that incites you to get lost in their aisles looking for the perfect purchase.
This country, with its large variety of options for toys and all things fun, is a paradise not just for children, but also those who remain a child at heart. I hope you enjoy your shopping, and let your instincts carry you along as you decide what to buy and what not to buy. I am sure it won’t be an easy task!