Friday, April 1, 2016

Japan, A Shopping Overview: Osaka

Contrary to popular belief, there are other anime/otaku shopping hotspots outside of metropolitan Tokyo. Most large cities do have their own “Akihabrara”, even if it only consists of a couple of chain stores such as Animate or Toranoana located in the same street or a complex shared by a number of stores. Outside of the Kanto area the biggest of these is Nipponbashi (or Den Den Town), an electronics area which partly evolved into a Akihabara-like otaku shopping paradise, albeit much smaller. There are a couple of Mandarake stores in the city as well, but not within walking distance of Nipponbashi (well, it’s a 20 minute walk to the nearest Mandarake). In addition there are a couple of smaller shops outside Nipponbashi I thought would be worth mentioning. And as per with other areas in this series of posts, there really isn’t anything useful in English about Nipponbashi/Osaka anime shopping and the Japanese guides/lists are a little spotty in terms of accurateness. I have deliberately ignored some of the additional stores that Toranoana and Animate have in Umeda and have concentrated on the main areas and stores.

First up, let’s go to Nipponbashi. The best way to tackle the area is to start at the end of Sakai-suji avenue. To get there from Osaka, go to Umeda station (station number M16) and take the Midosuji line towards Tennoji station. Get off at Dobutsuen-mae station (M22) and transfer to the Sakaisuji line (K16) towards Ebisucho. Get off at Ebisucho station (K18) and use exit 1A. You’re on Sakai-suji avenue at the southern end of Nipponbashi (Den Den Town). Go north (opposite direction, away from Tsutenkaku, Osaka’s infamous tower landmark) and stay on the right hand side of the street. In the next block you’ll find the Nipponbashi Information shop. Open from 11am, they have general information about the area including the Pombashi Map which comes out every so often. Though it’s entirely in Japanese, it does list every hobby and electronics store in Nipponbashi as well as the dozens of Maid Cafes dotted around the area (at times it feels there are more Maid Cafes here than in Akihabara). They also have a dual language map in Korean and English (or more accurately “Engrish”), but it’s not up to date as the Pombashi Map. The store also includes promotional material for upcoming festivals in the area, flyers for the local Maid Cafes and original merchandise for the area’s mascot character, Neon and her offsider Hikari, created by Noizi Ito of “Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya” fame.

In the next block on the same side of the street as Nipponbashi Information shop is Disc Pier, which is part of the Joshin chain of electronics discount shops. I’m not 100% sure but I think Joshin is a Kansai based chain. Open from 10am, you’ll find anime and idol related CDs, DVDs, blu-rays and some anime merchandise on the sixth floor. In the same block (around the back, not 100% sure because I’ve not been to the shop since it moved) is the first Disc J.J. Open from 11am, this is a record store that has used CDs, DVDs, blu-rays and laserdiscs. There are some used and new (well, unopened since the 1990’s) anime laserdiscs, but most are near their original retail price or dearer. All along the opposite side of the street are various porn and manga stores (not separate, together). Enter at your own risk. Your eyeballs may not be the same afterwards. A couple of smaller second hand record and DVD stores can be found on that side of the street as well.

In the next block on the left hand side of the road is the main store of Super Kids Land. Part of the Joshin chain it has five floors of hobby goods  Open from 10am, it mostly has plastic model kits and hobby supplies, remote control cars and model trains. The next block on the right hand side of the road is another Disc J.J. store. This one is larger three floors of vinyl records, DVDs, blu-rays and laserdiscs. Like their other shop it is open from 11am. On the other side of the street a little way up the block is a-Too. Open from 11am, this thin building has five floors of used DVDs, blu-rays, games, figures and other merchandise. The first floor has games and cards. The second floor has manga, photo books, CDs, DVDs and blu-rays. The third floor has anime and tokusatsu DVDs, blu-rays and CDs, plus seiyu CDs and light novels. The fourth has figures, anime porn, adult PC games and magazine. The fifth floor has live action porn DVDs and idol DVDs.

On the corner of the next block across the road you’ll a massive sign with picture of Go Nagai robots and characters. This is the entrance to Mazingo Jungle, an offshoot of second hand anime and pop culture store Jungle. This shop is fairly new and contains nothing but Go Nagai related merchandise and figures. The shop is a partnership between Jungle and Go Nagai’s Dynamic Planning production house. It is in fact Dynamic Planning’s official store. The shop is open from 12pm. Down the side street, two doors down from Mazingo Jungle is Gakiranger. Open from 11am, they sell second hand and new Gundam model kits, Maschinen Krieger model kits, anime figures and other merchandise.

Continuing back on to Sakai-suji avenue, on the right hand side of the road you’ll find Volks right at the end of the block. Open from 11am, there’s character goods and figures on the first and second floors, sci-fi and robot plastic model kits on the third floor, military model kits and accessories on the fourth, naval, car and aircraft kits on the fifth, train models on the sixth floor and Dollfie stuff on the seventh floor. Around the corner from Volks is Hero Gangu who stock second hand figures, soft vinyl toys and other anime and tokusatsu merchandise. They open 12pm and are closed on Wednesday. Directly opposite Volks on the other side of the road is K-Books with three floors of doujin related merchandise.

On the same side of the street right at the end of the block is Super Kids Land character store. You might have seen pictures of this store’s giant billboard which used to read “Osaka Gundams” with a picture of a Gundam on one side, and a picture of a Zaku on the other. It’s possibly the most famous landmark in Nipponbashi. The store has model kits and hobby supplies and anime figures on the first floor and Gundam model kits (of course) on the second floor. It opens from 10am. In the very next block on the same side of the road is Toranoana (doujin and related merchandise) with Super Position Recycle Shop (second hand figures, toys and gatchapon etc.) right next door. On the opposite of the road from those shops is Jungle’s main store. Probably the biggest second hand otaku-type shop in the Kansai region, they have tons of figures, soft vinyl toys and figures, DVDs, blu-rays, gatchapon and just about everything else you can imagine. Last time I went they had a display of “Mad Max” memorabilia, none of which was for sale unfortunately.

That’s about it for Sakai-suji avenue. In the next block on the right hand side you’ll see a rather grand building which is the Takashimaya Archives. Follow the building down to the end of the block, cross the road and turn left. About 20 metres up the road will be Sofmap and a few other discount electronics stores. In the next block, half way up on the right hand side of the road will be the main Gee! Store in the area. This shop mostly has cosplay stuff, but has some anime t-shirts and merchandise. If you’re standing outside Gee! Store, walk across to the other side of the street and turn left and take the next street to your right. This is street is colloquially called “Ota Road” and is home to dozens of otaku-like shops and Maid Cafes (hence the name). Keep walking to the next side street and to your right you will see the Yellow Submarine card shop. On the left is another Sofmap store is Naniwa Dengyosha which sells a lot gatchapon as well as figures. Across the road is Sound Pak records. They mostly have a lot western prog rock, but you never know your luck. At the very next intersection there are a couple of more card shops, another Yellow Submarine and Card Pal.

Half way up the next block on the left is the second a-Too shop. This branch has games and used anime DVDs, blu-rays, figures and CDs on the second and third floors of the building. Right next door is a branch of retro games chain Super Potato and another Toranoana shop as well as the local Gamers shop. Another store down is a second Super Position Recycle Shop.  In the next block along we have the Gee! Store Annex, Super Position G-1 (figures and gatchapon), a second Gakiranger shop and Kotobukiya. A car park is on the right and after that a monolithic building which houses Animate on the first and second floors, Lashinbang on the third floor, Mellonbooks on the fourth 4th, and a branch of cards chain C-Labo on the fifth floor. Opposite this building is a second branch of K-Books. Keep going up Ota Road a few tens of metres on left a couple of stores up is White Canvas. They sell doujin merchandise.

Really, that’s it for Ota Road. There’s nothing else of real interest except for a few maid cafes, if you’re into that stuff. Next we’ll head to Mandarake Grand Chaos which is about a 20 minute walk from Nipponbashi. The other option is to take the train. Walk back to Namba station (M20) to take Midosuji subway line to Shinsaibashi station (M19), a two minute trip in total. Use exit 7, walk towards OPA retail outlet at end of block and turn left then right at next intersection walking past the Big Step complex. Three blocks later, turn left at end of block. You’re roughly in the Americamura area of Osaka which is their trendy youth fashion district, kind of like a combination of Harajuku and Shibuya. Keep walking south, past the cement park in the middle of Americamura and the police box on the right. There will be a small post office on the left and finally King Kong CD & Record a little further past that also on the left. Right next door should be Mandarake Grand Chaos. This branch has four floors; the buyback counter, shonen manga and figures are on the first floor, games, CDs, blu-rays, DVDs, older manga and art books are on the second floor, male idols merchandise, doujin for women and cosplay merchandise are on the third floor and fourth floor has manga and doujin for men.

There are a couple of other weird little anime shops full of slightly obscure out of print things not far from Nagahoribashi subway station. To get there, go back to Shinsaibashi station (N15), get on the Nagahori Tsurumi-ryokuchi line and take the one minute trip to Nagahoribashi station (N16). Take exit 7, head east, which should be straight ahead out of the stairs. Three blocks down on the right, next door to language school is a shop called TSK. There is no name on the shop, and I really have no idea what hours it is meant to be open (see picture to the right for what it looks from on the street). While the store mostly seems to be storage area for online sales at Rakuten, the people who run the shop seem to have no trouble with people coming into the shop. They sell tons of anime and general laserdiscs and box sets, VHS tapes, DVDs, CDs and records. The shop is a dog’s breakfast with stuff everywhere and no prices on anything. Best bet is look through the listings at Rakuten, print off the listings of the items what you want and go into the store.

Another anime shop exists not too far from TSK. To get there keep going east one block away until just before the Hanshin Expressway Route 1 overpass. Do not go underneath or cross the canal. Instead turn left, walk about 7 blocks down following the Hanshin Expressway Route 1 overpass. On the right should be Tokage no Shippo (or X-Saab as they’re known online) On ground floor is a restaurant (used to be an Italian one, not sure if they’re moved out). Tokage no Shippo is on the second floor. Use stairs down the right hand side of building to get to the shop, not the elevator. Again I have no idea what hours the store keeps. They have a wide range of used anime merchandise from CDs, DVDs, blu-rays, some laserdiscs, figures and posters. The shop is small but they have a pretty good range of vintage 1980’s and 1990’s stuff. Again see the picture above for what the outside of the store looks like (nicked from one of their flyers, because I forgot to take a photo of the shop…). To be honest both stores are pretty hard to find, so I have created a map here to help you.

Finally on to the main Mandarake store in Umeda. To get there back track beside the Hanshin Expressway Route 1 overpass and cross the canal to get to Matsuyamachi station (N17). Take the Nagahori Tsurumi-ryokuchi subway line to Tanimachi Rokuchome station (N18), transfer to the Tanimachi line (T24) to get to Higashi-Umeda station (T20). The trip should take no more than 15 minutes. Try and exit out of the Whity Mall and use exit M6 or M2. On that side of the road you should see a giant Big Echo karaoke advertisement sign. Head down the covered mall next to the karaoke advert. The Umeda branch of Mandarake will be 170 metres on left. A second entrance can be found a further 10 or so metres on. Last time I visited in late November 2015, I seem to recall that the shop had been renovated. Note that I was suffering a really bad head cold at the time and may be wrong... Anyway this branch is pretty much like the one in Americamura except it seems to have more of an emphasis on cosplay merchandise. The covered mall also houses some really interesting restaurants with eye-catching and sometimes bizarre store fronts.

That's it for Osaka. Next time I will be having a look at AruAru City near Kokura station in Kitakyushu plus a few other shops in the Fukuoka Prefecture.

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