Tokyo Winter 2012 Day 3

Shopping for novelties, obsessions and necessities

14 January, 2012 by

We would alternate between sightseeing and shopping for most of the trip and having already visited Hakone yesterday, decided to stay in Tokyo with hopes that the shops would begin to reopen today. Woke up fairly late before making our way down to the nearby Ueno station for Ameyoko Market.

Not too many pictures today as we would mostly be running from one shopping area after another. In fact, I ended up taking far less photos this trip and especially on the days spent shopping or at concerts.


Ueno Station was just one stop off. Though our hotel was technically in walking distance, with the knowledge that we were going to be bouncing back and forth we purchased Tokunai Passes (that for 730 yen gave us unlimited travel on JR lines for a day).

Really sad toy.

Had fun browsing through the new toys and novelty goods for sale at the Yamashiroya Toy Shop, located at the entrance to the shopping streets. There were lots of new amusing stuff, while some like this electronic ping pong paddle that made the sound of a ball being hit when swung, was plain sad.

Was pretty tight with my wallet this trip but still spotted something that I would possibly want to buy. Noted it down first as was still uncertain and there was a need to return to the market at a later point anyways to grab some snacks I had promised Wilson.

Emoticon cellphone straps.

It was our third day here and we had yet to get any doughnuts, so it was time to fix that. Breakfast at Mister Donut it was.


As we would later learn, the market was a lot more functional than elsewhere in Tokyo. Oddly, most of the shops were open here this morning so we spent quite some time window shopping. Was rather tempted to grab a pair of Adidas shoes that were exclusive to Japaneses stores but couldn’t decide what color to get them in or if I really needed another pair of shoes.

Tokyo Sky Tree in the distance.

The main Tokyo Sky Tree tower was completed just a couple of weeks after my visit last year. For a while now, it has been towering over Tokyo and can be spotted from any point that isn’t obstructed by buildings. At about twice the height of the already impressive Tokyo Tower, I’m sure our distance from it obscures how impressive it must be up close. Can’t wait to take a trip up the tree when it publicly opens later this year.

Spotted this outside the okamachi station.

Next up was to Nakano Broadway which is well known for its otaku-centric second hand shops the most famous being Mandarake which sells various anime, manga and video game related items and TRIO which dabbles with idol goods. In recent years, Mandarake seems to have run most of the other smaller shops here out of business and now owns a great many stores at Nakano each specializing in a different vice.


It’s always fun to look around Nakano Broadway and the capsule shops here. Unlike in Singapore, capsule boxes are available for rent each month for as low as $50 and shops do not charge a commission on items. This gives individuals the chance to fill up their boxes with all sorts of interesting collectibles as opposed to the more retail centric (and yet unprofitable) capsule shops in Singapore.

There’s also the heavy traffic of people who flock to Nakano for the dedicated reason of quenching their favorite obsessions. The capsule boxes cut out the middleman, so if you look hard enough, great deals are always to be found.

Sadly though, few capsule shops were open today at Nakano. From notices pasted outside, most shops would remain closed until the 5th.

Quite a bit of crowds here today, but most of the shops were closed.

Even at the TRIOs, not much of interest could be found. It seems the success of AKB48 resale merchandise had prompted a new TRIO to open up somewhere in Akihabara at the end of last year. As such, whatever goods they carried were distributed between the two stores, with the Akiba branch taking priority to Nakano’s TRIO2.

But goods certainly weren’t spread thin, in fact there were an abundance of items such as the AKB48 bonus photographs for sale, more so than last year. There was little variety in the items sold though, as most of it consisted of unwanted and plentiful photos from last year’s flood of AKB48.

This was further worsened by the fact that the prices of items had been inflated to ridiculous levels. Would had grabbed some posters myself if they hadn’t doubled in price. You could get one shipped to you and still have it cost less. No one else was buying anything either.

Except the bigger chains like Mandarake and Trio.

My suspicions were mirrored with the capsule boxes too. While finding AKB48 stuff for display was previously quite rare, a great many were filled to the brim with goods for sale. All at ridiculous prices of course, thanks to most fan’s skewed sense of value.

Whether this meant a sudden “me too” approach at capitalizing in AKB48’s success, or that simple fans had grown cynical of the group’s cashing in remains unknown. But neither meant anything good for the future of the idol group.

Nothing much else to see at Nakano this afternoon, so we made a mental note to return again when more of the stores reopened later in the week. Did have fun looking around the Mandarakes though, one of which sold goods manufactured to look like they antique toys (complete with damaged boxes and all) but if you looked carefully featured more recent pop culture icons.

Another Mandarake sold classic console systems and used video game cartridges. Rare games cost a premium but there were a ton of NES and SNES games missing their packing available for as low as $5 a pop. This would had been like a candy store for 1990s me and was still something really cool but it’s funny how things don’t seem as appealing when plentiful.

Dinner at Tengu.

Rest of afternoon was spent at Shinjuku. We visited the Tokyu Hands at the Takashimaya Times Square building to pick up some glow sticks for the SUPERGiRLS concert. Gage got a battery operated pen light in white (they didn’t have many colors left) while I snagged a couple of high intensity OmniGlow Ultra Pinks, always wanted to see how well those worked.

Gage was also interesting in stopping by Takashimaya’s basement to see what sort of snacks and pastries were available here. When we realized that we had yet to have lunch and how cruel looking through the food here on an empty stomach was we headed off to get something to eat.

Old faves and a few new items.

So dinner was at Tengu Izakaya, which is a place worth visiting. I hit it up at least once each visit for its inexpensive and delectable treats. Had the usual diced steak and parma ham pizza but also tried their triple cheese this time. It was pretty good and helped soften the incredibly salty ham one.

We also ordered some sort of takikomi rice with the intention of sharing one serving but since I neglected to specify the number, the waitress ended up giving us two. It was left to cook with a weak fuel flame at our table, which needless to say in this cold weather, did not turn out very well even after waiting it out.

Electric Town.

Then it was off to Akihabara where most of the stores were closing for the evening. Went to Donki building here to stock up on supplies for the next few days. A few people were collecting their AKB48 Fukubukuros tickets at the shop on the 5th floor but apart from that it was empty as there was a ban on people trading or hanging around the shop (which I am told was for the holiday season only). The theater was also closed.

On every other night there was a large congregation of people outside.

We passed by the AKB48 Cafe and Shop Akihabara on the way back to the station but decided to give it a miss today on account of all the stuff that we were carrying and the crazy cold winds blowing outside. Couldn’t wait to get back to the comfort of our hotel room.

Stocking up.

Just some of the stuff picked up today. Neglected to mention that I had somehow lost my camera’s viewfinder cap even before leaving Changi Airport. While I did feel a strange tug when my camera got stuck in something, by the time I had noticed the cap missing we were already getting ready to board the plane. For some strange reason, each trip overseas always begins or ends with some sort of gadget accident and this time was no exception (in fact another would occur later).

Thankfully it was minor this time. But I did have trouble finding a replacement cap for the old model. After having visited half a dozen electronic shops over the past 3 days, a small Yodobashi Camera outlet in Shinjuku had it in stock. Also a USB cable, since I had forgotten to bring one.

Some things for the camera.

It’s been a long while, but I never actually got around to trying Kagome’s Yasai Ichi Nichi Kore Ippon that was advertised by AKB48 both this year and last. Hadn’t had nearly as much veges as I’d like in the past two nights so bought a pack from the supermarket downstairs to try too. It tasted like ketchup.


Planning your holiday? We recommend visiting Agoda for a full list of hotels with early bird specials.

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Supermerlion's Webmaster and Editor-in-Chief. Singaporean Nikkeijin with over 12 years of experience in the media industry. Producer at a Japanese entertainment company. Former Web Developer, Graphic Designer, Multimedia Programmer, Manager and Consultant. Shoots with a Canon 5Dmk2 and Sony RX100-2.