This is a photo essay of Nakano Broadway by an anime fan, gamer, and maybe otaku. I also have an in-progress visual guide to Mandarake’s 27 shops.
It’s always easier to say you came to Japan because of the ‘culture’. Conveniently leave out the ‘pop’ part of culture and list out things like the temples, the food, the crafts. Maybe drop a few names in history. You’ll get bewildered, but respectful, nods. The truth is, I grew up on a staple anime diet since Sailor Moon and Dragon Ball Z in kindergarten. By the time I moved to Tokyo, I’d soaked myself in two decades of anime from Hikaru No Go up to the more recent Death Note, Code Geass, Durarara, Steins:Gate, Mushishi. It’s difficult to believe Baccano and Ghost in the Shell SAC are a decade old.
After arriving in Tokyo, I did a quick visit to Akihabara and wasn’t too impressed with the commercial and touristy vibe. Then, I discovered Nakano Broadway. Actually, I rediscovered it when I found Mandarake in the upper floors. Basically, I got pretty excited, and I want to show you why this place is so awesome and worth a visit.
Nakano Broadway, a shopping complex built in 1966, houses not only Mandarake’s 27 shops, but also the numerous collectible shops like Robot Robot, and specialty stores for doujinshi.
Give yourself a good half day to wander through! Directions at the bottom of this post.
If you take the escalator from the main entrance of the covered shopping arcade, you will be whisked up to the 3rd Floor, where the main bookstore is. This is fitting, as Mandarake began as a second-hand bookshop in Nakano back in the 80s. I’ve heard that the name comes from a combination manga and darake (random stuff). Since then, Mandarake has expanded to cover all things Japanese (and foreign) pop culture. Most people know their location in Akihabara, but I much prefer their home home base here, which is more spacious and has many other independent shops.
Of course, what caught my eye immediately was this awesome homage to steampunk. I love all the retro flyers, aliens, and neon lights that harken back to earlier decades in the 20th century.
I like the balance between casually stacked boxes, crammed glass displays and carefully selected features. The rows and rows of boxes for limited edition Final Fantasy figurines alongside individual figures such as the one above give a reassuring sense of collection and taste. Even if I can’t buy it, at least I can oogle!
How can one resist Pokemon and the Gameboy games we grew up with? Of course there are second-hand console games around here too!
Quality. I can’t believe the quality of the figures, and the shockingly reasonable prices. They were so much more expensive in Canada and rarely had such awesome poses.
This is in a small corner shop across from the Mandarake buying centre. It basically specialises in mini figures and keychains for select animes, and has figures from games I love…
This is within the red arches of Mandarake’s Henya-kan ,which houses all sorts of retro collectibles. I can’t quite trace how all the odd, usually individual, figures link up, but the collection feels oddly right. The photo below is the interior, which has everything from kids face masks to retro metal plates.
I’m superficial. The Gundam mechas are just gorgeous. Imagine seeing an entire wall of them, lovingly arranged.
Even if I have no space or inclination to get a full figure, there are still plenty of mini ones I could choose for life on the road.
There’s also a train shop too! Trainspotters come for your models, vintage tickets, signs, and whatever else train-related you can think of on the 4th floor. It includes subways.
Despite this building’s subculture popularity, it’s still got many quiet corners.
And after the recharge, I stumbled on this in what seemed like a quiet corner with shuttered shops! The tourney ladder was basically done. There was awesome buzz around this match and still there were other guys still playing on the side.
You’ll find these in the Mandarake Galaxy-kan on the 2nd Floor. There are also other shops in the building that sell video games.
My jaw dropped when I saw the demon bull at the Mandarake Anime-Kan. It was one of the saddest movies I watched and left a deep impression even though I’d only seen it once. This iconic demonic bull. This place helps me rediscover childhood nuggets I’d totally forgotten!
I ordered storyboard and art books from Ebay the moment I convinced my mom to let me use her credit card online. Seeing these cels taught me a lot about how they developed characters and put together the film strips!
This is definitely the place where no-one will judge you no matter what you love! It’s hard to believe the Sailor Moon things we discarded years ago can fetch such prices now! Find all these magical princess related things in the Mandarake Plastic section on the 4/F.
Of course, this is Japanese subculture. There’s plenty of other things yaoi, adult manga, and dolls. I’m not gonna lie. The dolls were well crafted, but seeing rows of their soulless eyes and bodies, then entire shops for their clothes and accessories was a bit awkward.
About the last trading card set I dabbled with after Magic and Pokemon. Good times!
So many characters I didn’t even like in the original anime look so cool.
One other thing I love about Broadway Nakano is that it doesn’t try to be that modern or flashy. The ground floor and basement are still daily-life shopping areas. Even many of the shops here don’t seen to mind their dated decor. On the contrary, it adds to their appeal.
Even if there are repeats, every display case is a new field for discovery. Each independent shop shows off their collections in unique ways. Sometimes, you’d think there’s even a logic to it – putting Death Note’s Death God with Berserk’s Black Swordsman.
Even better, there are plenty of specialty shops for other interests too. Mandarake’s Special 5 is for American collectibles. I saw a military shop, coin collectible store, and Sennheiser.
Those moments when you can zone in to an awesome figurine…
*Yoshi!* Every time I see this photo, Super Mario World’s sound effects play on loop.
I think I date myself when I recongise these boxes, and this is the best place to feel proudly ‘old’. What a shame the millennials grew up without these analogue things!
I also find this place an interesting destination to check out niche cultural interests. Baseball’s huge in Japan.
I can’t drive. I don’t have much of an interest in cars, but it was fun to look at all the mini models that have such detail. It’s a much faster way to look at the history of cars than walking through models at a museum for a lay-person like me!
Robot Robot is another collectible store in the mall. It also has two Akihabara stores. I never understood the price of Ghibli things – which range from ¥300 cute figures to ¥3,000 for ugly plushies. Robot Robot also sells Disney items (think Frozen) and Barbie collectibles.
Speaking of Studio Ghibli, I had to include another photo. These two figures from Princess Mononoke were found at Mandarake’s Micro-kan, which I found the most entertaining. A number of shops can be a bit random in their collectible pairings, but this one tops it with pro wrestling masks, tamagochi, digimon, and other collectibles from the 80s and 90s. In the next 3 photos, you’ll see some of the things I discovered in there.
And, even though I never became a FF Fan, I’ve always loved their art. I’m not sure I’d fork out this amount ever for a model, but the idea of having this set was pretty cool!
Even if you’re not up for ¥20,000 figures, there’s definitely something for you. Keychains, mini figures, and charms ¥150. Just look around!
Alright, here’s a sample close up from another store.
This was basically me, every 10 metres.
There are so many PVC styles. This place just made anime, manga, and doujinshi come alive.
I have to throw in these old prints. I’m also a bookworm, so any bound text is cool, even if I can’t read all of them!
This mid-century complex has its worn-down charm. Some of the stalls are shuttered and quiet. Admittedly, the Mandarake is the big draw that keeps this ecosystem of little specialty stores alive. Despite its success (check out its online store, which ships internationally), the Mandarake has stayed firmly in Nagano and made this a vibrant community and subculture hub. The above photo is of one of my favourite small stores sprinkled throughout Nakano Broadway. It sits right on a corner, across from the Mandarake Buy Centre.
After being mind blown all afternoon, I was pretty contentedly pooped out!
I also have photos of the Mandarake storefronts based off their handy English map.
|Address:||5-52-15 Nakano, Tokyo 164-0001
|Website:||http://www.nbw.jp/index_e.html (English Site)|
Varies by shop
|Generally 10:00 – 22:00
Mandarake: 12:00 – 20:00
If you liked this post, look out for my visual guide to Mandarake at Nakano Broadway.