Mandarake for Collectibles
It was anime that finally sold me on Shinjuku, a place I avoided like the plague for nearly a year after moving to Tokyo. The raindrops in Garden of Words got me to take the train across town to explore the area, and once I started, I began to see all the anime inspiration locations for 5 Centimeters per Second, Darker than Black, Terror in Resonance and Tokyo Godfathers. Shinjuku wasn’t just Tokyo’s busiest station, a tourist trap, shopping area, or a nostalgic set of romanticizations. As I spent more and more time at Shinjuku Gyoen, then taking friends around to the tourist attractions, then at a bouldering gym, I often stopped to marvel at how a new place seemed so familiar – because I had seen exactly the same frame on the screen.
Below are some of the places I managed to take with my fixed 35mm lense camera. Enjoy!
Japan’s 2016 hit movie doesn’t need further elaboration. Instead, what I noted while taking a photo of this intersection that evening was the type of cameras they must have used to scout locations. The shot they must have taken was not only done with a wide-angle lense, but probably from a car. Trying to follow in their footsteps as a pedestrian trying not get run over (or, in Japan, more likely just glared at) in the middle of the road, I began to appreciate how the animated frames generally distilled the quintessential parts that created the characters of places they captured only for brief seconds.
I hated the ending. I’ll just put it out there. But Garden of Words (Kotono ha no Niwa) blew me away with its rendition of tsuyu, rainy season. Makoto Shinkai‘s animation style appeals because it often conveys the romanticism that one can view otherwise cold or dreary settings. He gets the details down right to the swish of cars rushing over puddles.
Garden of Words is set mostly between Shinjuku Station, Shinjuku Gyoen, the Takashimaya Department Store and the school in between (just where the overpass is). If you liked the movie enough, then consider visiting Shinjuku Gyoen during a rainy day when there are fewer visitors. Just note that it has a small admission fee (which I think is entirely worth it for the upkeep) and that it closes usually around evening or sunset (time varies between winter and summer).
Shinjuku Gyoen was originally the residence of the Naito family, feudal lords of Edo Japan. The grounds later came under the ownership of the Imperial Family and were mostly destroyed during the Tokyo Fire Raids during World War II. After the war ended, the gardens were reconstructed and opened to the public in 1949.
5 Centimeters per Second is probably Makoto Shinkai’s first feature film that caught international attention. Takaki Tono, the boy in the movie, grows up and works in Tokyo. Shinkai uses the gigantic commercial hub of Shinjuku to accentuate the loneliness and isolation many urbanites now relate to.
Shinjuku Station is Tokyo’s busiest station and has an average of 3.6 million people transiting every day. The station has over 200 exits and 51 platforms. I never found it that confusing to navigate, but local Tokyo (expat?) wisdom seems to conclude that you never, never arrange to meet there. If you do, I suggest you specify exactly which subway line to take and which exit based on that line. An alternative is to just go to Shinjuku Sanchome on the Marunouchi Line, which is close to Shinjuku Gyoen.
If you do exit in Shinjuku Station, make sure you get out on the correct side (East or West) as the two are not connected and you will have to walk all the way around if you’re not careful. The scenes from above are on the West exit, as Takaki is wandering towards the Tokyo Metropolitan Government building area.
On a side note, Shinjuku has three interesting coffee shops. Verve Coffee is from the US and conveniently on top of the new coach bus terminal. 4/4 Seasons Cafe is in a quieter corner closer to Shinjuku Gyoen. My personal favourite for the ambience is Teijimaya Coffee Honten right at Omoiydeyokocho (Yakitori Alley).
Tokyo Godfathers is the brainchild of two anime legends: Satoshi Kon (director and writer of Perfect Blue, Millenium Actress, Paranoia Agent) and Keiko Nobumoto (creator of the Wolf’s Rain series and head scriptwriter for Cowboy Bebop). I didn’t know about them before I watched it, or what the movie was about. It just seemed to satisfy my craving at the time for Tokyo rendered in anime.
The feature film follows three homeless people as they try to take care of and return an abandoned baby during the Christmas holidays. Gin, Hana, and Miyuki make Shinjuku Chuo Park their squat and roam the chilly, neon-lit streets of Shinjuku and other districts, giving a glimpse into other communities that make Tokyo their home. Below is a view of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, an essential part of Shinjuku’s distinct skyline cluster.
I appreciate the film’s unflinching depiction of those living on the fringes — those in poverty, the elderly, the immigrants, and of course the thugs and gangs. As someone who irrationally seeks out ghettos and low-income areas when travelling, this film’s glimpse into the dark backstreets as both purgatory and havens was an insight into not only how another side of Japan lives, but how others view this underside.
Darker than Black is a two-volume manga and two-season anime series awarded Best Original Anime of The Year by GoGoplex. The series is an alternate reality where the stars have disappeared from modern-day Tokyo due to a mysterious “Hell’s Gate” event that also gave rise to “Contractors” with special powers. Shinjuku and Nakano are the focus of many face-offs and Hei, seems to live somewhere betwene the two. Even though many Nakano areas seemed familiar, I didn’t quite find the rooftops from which you can see the Shinjuku offices.
The white building on the right called the Sompo Japan Nipponkoa Headquarters Building is one of the many iconic buildings one notices when going out the Shinjuku Station West Exit.
Right across the north-end Shinjuku Station train tracks, viewers will find the Yunika Vision LED screen that popped up in Terror in Resonance (Zankyō no Terror), an anime mini-series about two young terrorists out to expose a state cover-up of an experimental project.
Trains are integral to the Japanese experience as every otaku would knows. Trains are the pulsing veins of the Tokyo landscape. Standing at an intersection on the northwest end of Shinjuku Station, one can look out for the JR Yamanote Line train that races by in a silver blur accented with green bands.
It took me 3 visits and about 20 back-and-forths during the green signal to get a frame I liked. It would have been much easier in a car, and it makes me wonder sometimes how the anime location scouts accessed some of the corners they did.
In addition to being known for its department stores and clothes shopping, Shinjuku also has large electronics department stores such as BIC Camera and LAOX, which is where visitors can get the Tokyo subway pass.
The Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building is the site of an extended scene in the first episode of Terror in Resonance. I looped the entire complex looking for the exact spots the explosions took place, but I’ve just kept the more impressive interior shots to give you an idea of what you would see if you went up.
Visitors can go to both the North and South towers, which have gift shops and a cafe in the top floor (access is free). The top floor observation deck offers a great view of the cityscape below, sunsets, and maybe even Mount Fuji on a clear day.
For otaku on an anime pilgrimage, I recommend giving yourself a full day to enjoy all the different parts of Shinjuku. If pressed for time, you can try to absorb the throbbing, frantic, nostalgic, and even romantic moments captured at these anime locations within an afternoon.
Thanks for checking this out! If you want to buy collectibles, check out my photo essay of Mandarake at Broadway Nakano!
A visual guide to Mandarake’s shops at Nakano Broadway, based off of the official store map. You can get a sense of the things you’ll find here in my photo essay.
Most people who are interested in anime, manga and gaming make Akihabara a top Tokyo destination. It’s a pretty interesting place to see, especially with all the lights at night. I personally prefer Nakano Broadway, the shopping mall from the 1960s that is the home of the first Mandarake. The complex is home to Mandarake’s 27 stores and a host of other independent specialty shops that range from coin collectibles and watches to video games and headphones.
For people who are visiting Tokyo for the first time, it might be difficult to imagine how Mandarake’s online shop manifests in real life. Below, I’m sharing quick and dirty visuals for what to expect when you go through this area. Give yourself at least half a day to explore!
The levels begin from the top (4th Floor) down to the ground level, where the entrance is. This is also to correspond with Mandarake’s map, which is ordered from #1 to #27.
Note: Linked items direct you to my Nakano Broadway photo essay which has close-ups.
It’s actually several store units, each specialising in their own dolls, teddy bears, and magical girls. Included some examples in my photo essay of Broadway Nakano.
It’s like a mini museum. There are story boards and cels from classic anime from the 80s right up to recent years.
I love this upper bookstore. Most of the stuff is in Japanese, but the art and design books are quite international. It’s even better than a lot of art book stores. For Japanese readers, I also found many interesting historical books (i.e. Edo Tokyo and Japan).
It’s difficult to explain what makes this shrine to vintage and tin toys so cool. Just walk through the torii.
The art books that you’re probably ordering online will be housed here! In addition to the gorgeous collections like CLAMP X and Angel Sanctuary, you’ll get the vintage comics and magazines as well.
Train models, goods and train parts, N-gauge, HO-gauge stuff here.
This is Mandarake’s Robot & Mecha store. Of course, there’s the Gundam, Macross, Evangelion, stuff. There are also many other shops within the building that sell these models!
English speaking staff available
Where you can sell your items to Mandarake.
I don’t quite get their collections here, as it’s quite random. However, you’ll find collectibles from many of the most popular anime and video games, Disney movies, and LEGO collections. Basically, it’s a good first stop to see what they have.
Shounen, shojo, seinen manga. Boys Love manga, CDs. Light novels
Goods from male idol groups (Japanese & Korean), Male seiyu & actors
Superhuman / Sentai Toys (Kamen Rider, Super Sentai, Metal Hero, Power Rangers)
Seinen manga, light novels, subculture, adult manga, hobby & anime magazines, artbooks
PVC & Trading Figures, capsulre toys, One Piece POP
Basically Ultraman, Transformers, Zoids, Votoms, Kaiju characters.
American toys and artist figures. I’m not sure why Lupin the Third is also thrown in, but it is!
Game cards, trading cards & stickers. Nostalgia incarnate.
Basically, pick up your entire Anime DVD and Bluray set here. You’ll also find the soundtracks and CDs.
Since I don’t own a console anymore, I didn’t tempt myself by sifting through every isle. However, I did see plenty of games I’d not seen before in Canada. I also saw tons of cartridges! I included some items in my photo essay of Broadway Nakano.
Baseball’s huge in Japan, so one side of this store includes jerseys, signed baseballs and other related items. The rest of the store includes lots of vintage posters and is good for retro inspiration!
Complete sets that are perfect if for last-minute anicon decisions.
Find your favourite rare models here. Have one shot in my photo essay of Broadway Nakano.
This one is a hilarious mash of items. There are tons of rubber figures, 80s & 90s Anime collectibles (digimon etc.), pro wrestling toys & masks, Studio Ghibli items, and tamagochi. Check my photo essay of Broadway Nakano to see some of the items.
New & Vintage plastic scale models
Special products & auction items are right at the entrance on the ground level. It’s actually more like a showcase wall rather than a shop, although there is someone inside to help you!
Map of the building: Mandarake has a handy English guide
Some of the things you’ll see: my random photo essay of figures, shops, and collectibles.
|Address:||5-52-15 Nakano, Tokyo 164-0001
|Closest Station:||Nakano (Metro Tozai Line, Chuo Line, Sobu Line)|
|Website:||http://www.nbw.jp/index_e.html (English Site)|
Varies by shop
|Generally 10:00 – 22:00
Mandarake: 12:00 – 20:00
Also join the Japan Forums Slack Community to ask questions and share info in real-time!
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.