Saturday, February 27, 2016

Japan, A Shopping Overview: Akihabara Part Two

Continuing on from part one, my (relatively) comprehensive look at Akihabara.

Onwards from Aso Bit City, if you keep going to the end of the block and turn right, you’ll come across what is probably the nosiest store on the planet; Lammtarra (website NSFW). When you get past the wall of noise from the multiple CDs and anime Blu-ray they are blasting out at the same volume at the same time, you’ll discover a decent amount anime CDs, DVDs, Blu-ray and games around the ground floor. Most are discounted far more than other stores. Upper floors have porn, porn and nothing but porn, so if you’re not into that stuff, avoid at all costs. Another Lammtarra store (called Mulan) is located on the other side of the road about hundred metres up.

At the end of the block is Volks, which I have previously written about. Around the corner is Gamers and beyond that the newly build and opened Akihabara Radio Kaikan. The original was demolished after numerous cracks appeared in the structure after the devastating 2011 Tohoku earthquake. A temporary residence was set up during demolition and reconstruction in the building Volks now occupies. The new Radio Kaikan has nine floors of shops including a range figure, toy and rental box stores (Havikoro, Kaiyodo, Astop, RobotRobot, Uchusen, X aka Ekkusu, a couple of Volks shops and Jungle), a model kit shop (Yellow Submarine), tons of card shops, an omiyage (souvenir) shop, a doujin store (K-Books) a shop dedicated to idol merchandise (Trio) and a couple of electronic equipment stores. For more anime merchandise including omiyage, Gamers is right outside the building to your left about 20 metres down. For lunch you should probably go to GoGoCurry. The one near Book Off is far less crowded. The restaurant chain uses vending machine tickets, so figure out what meal you want in katakana/kanji before you go so you’re not bothering other patrons.

At midday I usually head over to Mandarake, mostly because it’s quieter than later in the day. I’ve written about Mandarake in a general sense before, but the Akihabara Complex is slightly larger than the average shop with eight floors. While there are stairs tom floors on the outside of the building, it pays to take the elevator inside the building the highest floor you want to go to and work your way down the stairs the lower floors. Backtracking a bit, you may want to head off to Trader which is located under the Sobu line overpass, opposite KFC. Trader is a second hand game and DVD/blu-ray shop. Sometimes you can get lucky here and find a few bargains. There a ton of shops hidden away in the backstreets around here; a figure shop called Toreka, the Cospa shop, Lashinbang, the second X (or “Ekkusu”) shop, Mellonbooks, Kotobukiya, and another well-hidden figure shop called Kashibako. North of all these shops is the Akiba Culture Zone complex. Like Radio Kaikan, this six floor building hosts a number of smaller shops such as Lashinbang, RobotRobot, Havikoro, Ganking, Astop and Trio. As you can see some chains have a number of smaller stores dotted throughout the area.

On the north side of Akiba Culture Zone, right across the street is Monkey Soft. This is another second had and new video shop. While it does contain mostly porn, there are some mainstream anime bargains to be found here, if you’re lucky. Next door on the left is Fetish World (website NSFW). Sure, it’s a porn store, but a really weird one. The best thing here is the specialised videos of women crushing miniature cities as if they were a giant monster. None of the models in these videos are nude and it’s not really arousing in any sense (to me anyway), but it is bloody funny. If you turn left out of the building and head towards the main road in Akihabara, you’ll see another Liberty figure shop on the right hand side of the road and doujin mini-chain Comic Zin on the corner of the main road.

It’s now time to tackle the main street of Akihabara with its duty free stores full of rude clerks who barely acknowledge you, the main Animate shop in the area, Toranoana, various Liberty stores with figures to idol merchandise and Sofmap amongst others. Around those shops are few more in the back streets; figure shop Toy Altria and Jungle’s main store. Beyond, that to the east is the UDX building and the Tokyo Anime Centre. Depending on what is on display (sometimes key artwork from an anime currently being broadcast), it may or may not be worthwhile. The gift store probably isn’t worth your while, but the Akiba map probably is. The shop is open from 11am, so probably going there first on the day before you tackle Akihabara is the best bet.

Further north up the main street near Suehirocho station are some interesting finds. Soft vinyl toy store Golden Age Toys has a lot of interesting stuff for sale. I’m not really into this stuff so I can’t really say much about the range on offer. In the same area is gatchapon heaven in the form of Akibagatcha and right next door a branch of Gee! Store. Diagonally across from Golden Age Toys is Hobby Shop Tam Tam. This a chain store which has several branches across Japan. Situated on the fourth and fifth floors of the building, they have model kits, figures and hobby supplies galore. Also around this area are a group of hobby shops which bear the name Leonardo. The shops have rare model kits, mostly military, airplanes and cars, but also a few sci-fi and anime kits. Leonardo LG has three shops in the area, Leonardo ET has one. Apparently the original Leonardo store closed a while back, but I’m not sure why there are two separately owned shops now baring its name.

For otakuish type businesses, you’ve come to the end of the line. There really isn’t anything more to explore beyond this area. There are a couple of family restaurants in the area (Jonathans and Gusto) as well as a few other more traditional options if you need a break and are a bit hungry (which by this time, you probably will be). Walking back to Akihabara station, you can knock off any shops you may have missed on the way. As I said in the first part, do your research. Japanese websites like Akiba Scope and Akihabara Online do have substantial lists, but a fair wack of that information is out of date and inaccurate. The best bet is to look up the shop’s website (luckily most have one) to check the address and opening times.

Next time I’ll be continuing on with the anime shopping theme with a trip to Nakano Broadway.

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