Friday, April 22, 2016

Japan, A Shopping Overview: Jinbocho

I’ve pretty much done over the major anime shopping centres in Japan (maybe I could have done one on Ikebukuro, but I haven’t done that area over properly), as well as mentioning some of the record shops I like going to. The other thing I like shopping for is books and magazines. While there are hundreds of book stores dotted across Tokyo, Jinbocho (sometimes Romanised as “Jimbocho”) in Chiyoda is literally called booktown for a very good reason. There are over 150 book stores and most of Japan’s major publishers have their headquarters there. Many of these stores sell second hand books which (some a bit on the scholarly side of things) and also period novels and classics, however a number of shops sell Japanese (and some western) pop culture stuff such as movie merchandise, popular and niche hobby magazines, rock music merchandise, manga, tokusatsu and anime items and even gravure idol books and videos and porn. A lot of this material can be fairly recent or as far back as the early Showa era. Naturally the pop culture stuff is what I’m most interested and what I’ll be focusing on the most in this post.

To get there from Shinjuku station, go to the Toei Subway and take the Shinjuku line (green coloured, Shinjuku is station number S-01). Generally it’ll take less than 10 minutes to get to Jinbocho (station S-06). Take exit A1 and you’re on Yasukuni Avenue, the main thoroughfare in Jinbocho. Turn right, and the fourth shop down will be @Wonder (open from 11am, 12pm on a Sunday). This shop has an amazing selection of Japanese movie memorabilia including theatrical posters, movie programmes, flyers, lobby cards and promotional stills and related magazines and books. While it’s got some amazing stuff, it has been raked over by collectors, so be aware. There are quite a fair few anime posters on the first floor at the back of the shop on the left hand side. Just up from @Wonder is Vintage (open from 11am, 12pm on a Sunday), who have a wide range period magazines, from the 1950’s right up to present day including popular stuff right down to various subculture oddities. First floor has general stuff, cinema and whole heap of rock magazines related to western artists. Second floor has male and female idol stuff, more pop and rock music magazines and men’s magazines. There are some anime related books here (on the first floor), but are pretty expensive when compared with places like Mandarake.

In the next block is Bunken Shoin (open from 10:30am, 11am on the weekends). They used to have separate rock music and general pop culture stores, but now I think it’s the one shop. They mostly stock J-pop, rock and various other genres of music magazines, books and various bits of merchandise including some anime, manga and tokusatsu magazines and books, concert programmes and idol books and assorted merchandise. There’s a lot of western pop, rock, prog rock and metal books and magazines here as well (mostly Japanese stuff). Just next door in the Kanda Used Book Centre on the second floor is the Nakano Shoten Mangabu (open from 10am, 11am on the weekends). Not 100% sure why it has Nakano in the store’s name as it’s nowhere near Nakano. This shop made the rounds of western collectors in the last five years or so and as a result it’s been picked over. They still have a lot of rare first edition manga sets, a ton of weekly shonen and shoujo manga magazines dating back decades and some movie programmes and theatrical anime movie posters.

Keep heading east along Yasukuni Avenue to the end of the block, then cross Hakusan Avenue, and you’ll come across Comic Takaoka (open from 11am, 12pm on the weekends) in the next block. Certainly this two floor shop (first floor and basement) isn’t as well stocked as many of the shops elsewhere in the city, but they do stock a fairly wide range of manga, some doujin, some magazines and some artbooks. It’s time to get off the main road and do some exploring of some shops in the backstreets. Track back to the crossing and walk across to the other side of Yasukuni Avenue and begin to walk up Hakusan Avenue on the right hand side. Walk past the pharmacy and two blocks later you should come to a side street just before a Hertz/Toyota car rental shop.  Turn right into that side street and walk approximately three blocks. On the far corner of the third block should be a coffee shop with a sort of European façade. Turn left around that corner and the very next building next to the coffee shop should be a thin red brick building. On the second floor will be Kanke Shobo (open 11am). This small shop has an amazing range of rare and obscure manga, manga magazines, Showa era children’s books and magazines and other obscure Japanese pop culture oddities. Most of the stuff dates back from the 1950’s (some even older) to the late 1970’s. Once you’re done there, walk out of the shop and turn to your left slightly as you exit the building. You’ll see a thin grey bricked building with a florist on the ground floor with a blue awning. To the left of that building is a slightly larger brown brick building with a garage on the ground floor and the entrance next to it. On the third floor of this building is Kudan Shobo (open from 11am, closed Sunday). Like Kanke Shobo they have an amazing selection of rare and obscure manga including some original artwork, period children’s magazines and manga magazines, period doujin, merchandise, anime scripts, animation setting and design sheets and other related material. And as with Kanke Shobo, it’s mostly 1950’s to 1970’s material.

When you’re done there, turn left as you exit the building and keep waking to you hit Yasukuni Avenue. On the other side of the road should be Shosen Grande (open from 10am) which has idol and manga stuff on the first and third floors respectively. Next door in the block on the right is Komiyama Shoten (open from 11am) which has an amazing selection of modern and classic art books and prints. I really liked the Jamie Reid “God Save the Queen” Sex Pistols prints, but they were way out of my price range (and how the hell would I get one home anyway?). Duck down the alley way next to Shosen Grande and Komiyama Shoten and turn left at the next street. A hundred or so metres on your left will be a shop with a maroon coloured awning called Aratama (open from 11am). They have a couple of other shops which are filled with vintage porn/idol magazines and photobooks from what I can gather. This particular shop is interesting though. The first floor is a bloody dog’s breakfast with old VHS tapes of gravure idols and nude models on one side in unorganised piles and old and newish idol, gravure idol and junior idol photobooks. This is the first and only time I have seen a shop with junior idol stuff in it. To be honest it sort of shocked me when I realised what the books were. A small spiral staircase leads to the second floor with more idol merchandise than you could poke a stick at. Most of it ranges from the late 1970’s up to modern times.

Exit Aratama and turn left. Cross the road and walk to the next block. Almost at the end of that block should be Rock on King (third floor, open from 1pm, closed Wednesdays and Sundays). As the name suggests they have a massive array of rock and pop memorabilia including photo books, concert programmes, fan club bulletins, posters, some CDs and DVDs, merchandise sold only at concerts, and books on the history of various music genres. Just about every genre is covered in the range of merchandise on offer; Japanese rock, metal, a lot of prog rock, some J-pop and idol stuff and some indie stuff, both western bands and Japanese. Of course most of the material is of Japanese origin. Not much stuff in English. To get to the final shop in our jaunt around Jinbocho, exit Rock on King to your right. Duck down the next side street to your right. In the next block on the right is Book Dash (open from 11am). Yes, you can tell from the books outside the shop that the main product being sold here is gravure idol photobooks as well as idol photobooks. Inside they also have men’s magazines and nude photobooks dating back to the 1980’s as well as VHS tapes and DVDs of gravure idols and even a ton of obscure race queen stuff. They also have a surprisingly wide range of vintage manga and anime items. Certainly it’s no Mandarake, but there is some interesting stuff here.

That’s it for Jinbocho and my series on shopping in Japan. Next up I’ll be taking a look around Shinjuku, the area I always stay in when I go to Tokyo.

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