Game & Anime, Traditional & Culture

Tokyo Shopping | Nakano Broadway & Mandarake – Another Otaku Paradise

A shopping mall or a gathering place for Japan’s collectors? Nakano Broadway is a surprising hotspot for Tokyo’s otaku.

Nakano Broadway

Where in Japan can you find manga, anime, video games, and all the otaku merchandise of your dreams? Most people with a passing interest in Tokyo and otaku culture will tell you to go to Akihabara, and there’s no denying that Akihabara is popular for a reason, with its unique variety of electronics shops and stores selling famous anime merchandise. But on the other side of Tokyo, in an unobtrusive area called Nakano, nerds and fans of Japan’s tiniest subcultures gather in a little otaku oasis. Nakano Broadway is where you’ll find things that are a little less mainstream, and perhaps a little more retro, making it the perfect place for anyone with a deep love of Japan’s unique pop culture – or those on the lookout for some really niche items!

This is Nakano Station, a stop on the Chuo and Chuo-Sobu JR lines, along with the Tozai subway line. Even the mural along the tracks makes it feel a little different from most Tokyo train stations. Go out the north exit, and you’re on your way to a brand-new shopping experience.

Just outside the station is the Nakano Sun Mall, a busy shopping street that goes straight to Nakano Broadway. Along the way there are plenty of everyday shops and places to eat, plus some little hints of all the excitement to come.

Behold: the entrance to Nakano Broadway, a subculture mecca that has been attracting nerds and geeks of all stripes since its opening in 1966. The building’s upper floors actually house an apartment complex, but from the basement level to the 4th floor, it’s a unique mix of specialty stores and tiny establishments selling everything from rare old comics to the most premier limited-edition figures, alongside a surprising selection of businesses offering fashion, media, food, and more.

Start your shopping experience on the first floor, and you’ll be greeted by a life-size Maetel from Galaxy Express 999 – a late ’70s/early ’80s manga turned anime hit in Japan. Signs will point you towards Mandarake, a shop specializing in used manga, collectibles, and other nerdy merchandise of all kinds, which is the real heart of Nakano Broadway. Mandarake is now a small chain a dozen or so shops distributed around Japan, but the original location is here in Nakano, and it’s grown in size to dominate the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th floors with more merchandise than you can handle.

With so much space and so many products to fill the shelves, Mandarake’s Nakano Broadway location is separated into different sections with different specialties, and the selection is broad. There’s plenty of used manga, but also vintage records, huge Gundam figures and Gunpla, figures of characters from animes old and new, accessories, charms, bits and bobs of all shapes and sizes, stuffed toys, gashapon machines, and a whole lot of nostalgia in physical form.

And of course, Mandarake isn’t the only otaku-focused shop within Nakano Broadway. Clustered around this mammoth retailer, a number of smaller shops sell their own collections of nerdy merchandise and memorabilia. Some specialize in vintage shows you’ve never heard of, and others are all about big names like Godzilla. Some shops have big walls of stuffed toys, whereas other tiny shops appear to be selling precious original illustrations out of a broom closet. It’s a place like nowhere else, and it’s made for nerds.

A Luxurious (?) History

These days, with Mandarake at the heart of things, Nakano attracts geeks of all kinds, but it hasn’t always been such an otaku hotspot. In its early days, Nakano Broadway was famous for shops selling jewelry and watches, often dealing in used items. Look around, and you might be surprised that the mall still has a number of shops specializing in luxury items like bags, watches, and jewelry. Locals say that these shops essentially started as pawn shops targeting shoppers whose budgets didn’t quite match their shopping lists.

Akihabara vs. Nakano

Akihabara and Nakano are both must-see areas for anyone visiting Japan with a love of anime or nerdy hobbies, but as mentioned above, they’re definitely a little different. The shops in Nakano Broadway might offer products from this year’s biggest anime hits, but they’re just as likely to be stocked with old retro gems, and the kinds of products you’ll really find nowhere else. Akihabara is a great place to soak up Japanese pop culture, find the latest merchandise, and get some great deals. But if you want to see the real range of Japanese otaku culture, from old to new, and some seriously niche selections, Nakano is the place to go.

Every shop has its own personality, so it’s worth going just to look around. But Nakano Broadway is definitely a great place to pick up the kinds of souvenirs you seriously won’t find anywhere else, too! Your nerdy friends will love you.

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