Tokyo's real Otaku Heaven01 March, 2012 by Chad
While Akihabara will probably be the first place in Japan that springs to mind when talking about all things geeky, Nakano Broadway is as important a landmark to the dedicated otaku. Located in the western outskirts of the city, Nakano is home to Tokyo’s true, less publicized Otaku Heaven.
Getting to Nakano
Nakano can be found three stops away from Shinjuku on the JR Sobu line. The trip is conveniently covered by the JR Tokunai Pass. At Nakano, exit the station from the North Exit (turn right when you leave the gantry) and you’ll see the Nakano Shopping Mall in broad daylight. Follow this opening air shopping arcade which will lead you straight to Nakano Broadway.
Note: Most of the shops at Nakano Broadway are pretty against photo-taking and unless it is obvious you are a foreigner some even get pretty unfriendly about it, thus the scarcity of pictures.
At Nakano Broadway
Due to their widespread portrayal in media or perhaps through their own perpetruation of the stereotype, otaku tend to be pictured as bespectacled anime, manga and figure collectors. But in its original form, the word otaku seems to carry the meaning of enthusiasts and otaku interests cover a far wider spectrum in practice. This is especially true in Japan, where people are provided the content necessary to become otaku for all sorts of interests, like train, vintage camera or Disney otaku. While Akihabara may satisfy the need for the stereotypical otaku, Nakano does the same for a wider audience. If someone is collecting it, you’ll find it in Nakano Broadway.
Nakano Broadway is most famous as a market of sorts for otaku to peddle items from their personal collections. This is mostly through capsule box stores that provide the chance to rent cases for the otaku to display their wares (more on this later) but in recent times Nakano Broadway seems to have been overtaken mostly by a certain chain called Mandarake and to a lesser extent TRIO.
Starting as a used manga shop in 1987, Mandarake has now expanded to own a total of 23 stores inside the 3 floors of Nakano Broadway alone. There are another 4 shops around Tokyo and more spread around the rest of Japan. Mandarake even calls themselves the “Rulers of Time” now.
Each of the Mandarake shops in Nakano specialize in a different sub-genre of second hand otaku products. Many of these shops still sell items related to anime or manga, such as one shop specializing in soundtracks or another solely dedicated to boys love and otome products. But with 23 shops, most of the other imaginable obsessions are covered. There are Mandarake’s for classic video games, vintage toys, cosplay and card games among others.
Patrons can trade in their old goods at the Mandarake Buy Back Stand on the 3rd floor. It’s a shop space larger than most stores in Nakano that is constantly filled with people pawning old toys and comics for money to purchase newer attractions. A somewhat depressing sight. However Mandarake is well known for offering reasonable prices for old items and the shop advertises a transparent list of items that they purchase and the prices popular items would fetch.
Next on the list is TRIO. Though it started as a second hand poster and magazine shop TRIO has evolved into the idol equivalent of Mandarake. Though not nearly as large a presence as Mandarake, TRIO carries a rather extensive collection of second hand idol goods spread over three shops in Nakano.
You’ll find the first TRIO branch on the third floor. This shop is dedicated entirely to male idols such as those from Johnny’s Entertainment. The first TRIO that you will likely run into though is TRIO 2, the largest branch.
Located just beside the main escalator into Nakano Broadway and along the same corridor as TRIO, TRIO 2 carries all of their magazines, photobooks, as well as movie and idol related posters. TRIO 2 also has an entire section dedicated to AKB48 goods and a rather large collection of collectible photos. TRIO 2 used to have the most affordable and popular place to get these photos and customers would come early each day to see what new items were being put up. Unfortunately, the prices aren’t as reasonable anymore and they display most of the stock at the new branch at Akiba Culture Zone now.
You’ll have to take the stairs down one floor for the third TRIO 3, which contains what little Hello! Project, Idoling!!! and SUPER☆GiRLS merchandise they have. About half of the shop holds the remainder of their Johnny’s goods.
Until recently, the biggest draw for Nakano Broadway comes from having more capsule box shops than anywhere else. One such example is Cube Style. For about 3000 yen a month, one can rent a display case here to put whatever items you would like to sell. The shop will then help take care of any money transfers and you can come back any time to collect your earnings or add and replace the items sold inside the rented case.
Capsule shops are rather popular at Nakano, since it allows one to eliminate the middle man, as unlike in Singapore the shops do not take a commission off your sales. The high traffic of otaku coming to Nakano Broadway for the explicit purpose of purchasing such goods also helps. The capsule boxes at Nakano are always fully booked.
The recent boom in demand for capsule boxes (largely due to the market for AKB48 photos) has prompted many other capsule shops to spawn in Akihabara too. Unfortunately, the supply now exceeds the demand and many of the boxes at the newer shops now remain empty. Also, if you’re looking for a bargain for AKB48 photos, you’ll be disappointed. Read more about there here.
Figure or toy collectors will benefit the most from capsule boxes. As the prices for those are already transparent, second half figures will almost always sell for less their original price (unless it is particularly rare, or the seller especially delusional). If you don’t mind getting your toys second hand, do spend some time looking around the shops here. I personally recommend checking out BOW WOW at the far corner on the second floor, as I have consistently managed to chance upon good finds there.
Many of the small shops around Nakano Broadway cover all manner of other interests, there are shops selling old enka records, ball jointed dolls, yo-yos, stamps, vintage books and expensive sound equipment and many more niched products. You can find a listing of shops at the Official Nakano Broadway website’s Floor Map.
Planning your holiday? We recommend visiting Agoda for a full list of hotels with early bird specials.