Day 15: Nakano and Akihabara

Current manga collection after today's shopping trip
Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Continues from Day 14: Yamanouchi and Saitama

Just as was forecast yesterday we awoke this morning to a miserably rainy day. Fortunately though it wasn’t predicted to continue and our final three days in Japan were forecast to be clear.

Since our planned day trips to Kamakura and Yokohama would be much better on a sunny day we decided that today would be a perfect day to complete all the shopping I wanted to do.

While we'd so far already paid a visit to Otome Road in Ikebukuro, I hadn't yet been to Nakano or had a good look at Akihabara so those places were our objectives for today.

Although we awoke pretty early we spent a bit of the morning lounging around the hotel as shops in Japan usually don't open until very late at 10:00am.

The shops in Nakano opened even later than that at 12 noon, which puts them in the open mind bogglingly late territory. It turns out you can’t lounge around too much in 9 square meters though and we left our hotel at around 8:30am.

Nakano is one of the 23 special wards of Tokyo and is located near Shinjuku on the other side of the city. While not a huge city centre like Ikebukuro or Shinjuku it is still a significant shopping destination with the 225 meter long Nakano Sunmall which houses a wide variety of shops such at jewellers, fashion boutiques, pharmacies, game centres, book shops, watch dealers and restaurants. The streets around the shopping strip contain more restaurants including a large amount of Izakaya (Japanese pub). What brought us to Nakano though was Nakano Broadway which is a large collection of shops catering not just for anime and manga fans but all manner of nerdy hobbies.

The reason we went to Nakano first, even though some shops in Akihabara opened earlier, was that since I thought I'd be able to get goods cheaper in Nakano, I wanted to check there first. That way if I saw something I wanted in Akihabara, I wouldn't have to worry about the possibility of getting it cheaper in Nakano.

While Kate had eaten cereal for breakfast in the hotel I had yet to eat anything so I ducked into a convenience store and bought some little pre-cooked boiled eggs and an ume boshi (pickled plum) rice ball.

Once we arrived at Hatchōbori Station we found it was absolutely, well and truly super dooper packed. There were hordes and hordes of people streaming out and around everywhere. The place was literally figuratively a solid wall of humanity. We managed to get down to our platform though and caught the Hibiya subway line to Kayabacho. After getting off  and transferring to the Tozai line platform we found the literal wall of people- they were on our next train. They even had workers on duty with little white gloves who helped to jam everyone in to the trains.


Manga collection again, as we didn't take any photos today
The people in the trains that we could see near the windows were so jammed in that their faces were squished and squashed up against the windows. Apart from when the doors opened those were the only people could really see as the windows and air were all fogged up due to the amount of heat all the people created. Kate said she thought it looked like the miasma.

I used my phone to look up some information on Tokyo rush hours and found that the line we wanted was one of those infamous for its insane congestion. Since we were certainly in no particular hurry and we not keen at all about being compressed into one of those trains, we decided to just wait it out at the platform until rush hour was over.

I hadn't actually eaten my breakfast yet and we found some seats in the middle of the platform, unused due to the high flux of people, and settled in to wait until the conditions improved.

There were trains coming and leaving constantly. As soon as one train left on one side of the platform another would arrive on the other side, explode with people, and then rapidly fill with those waiting to get on.

In Brisbane the rush hour starts around 6am continues way past nine and starts up again at around 3pm before finally clearing around 6:30pm.

In Tokyo the morning rush hour is much more compact and concentrated and truly is an hour starting at 8am and continuing until 9am. What really amazed me was that once it was after 9am how quickly everyone simply evaporated. I guess it due to the fact everyone (apart from retail works apparently) starts at 9am. I think that the reason the congestion doesn’t start until 8am and is so concentrated is because, despite the crowds, it doesn’t actually take much longer to get to where you’re going, so it’s not a case of lots of people leaving earlier to try and beat the rush and therefore spreading out the congestion.

Anyway, at about 9:05am we caught a train and even managed to get a seat!


Once we reached Nakano about half an hour later we found that it was absolutely pouring, cats and dogs it was. Thankfully, like practically all shopping centres in Japan, the Nakano Sunmall (more like Rainmall) was covered and we only got a little wet crossing the road to get there from the station. Unfortunately, since it was still only 9:30am everything was shut and apart from a few business people scurrying around it was otherwise deserted. We walked down to the end of the Sunmall to Nakano Broadway, which we found was just as shut. Perhaps even more shut.

So we had around 2.5 hours to kill. We wandered around the surrounding streets a bit, although since the rain was really coming down our umbrellas were a little ineffective and we ended up just sheltering under an awning near a supermarket. As the supermarket opened at 10:00am, we decided to just wait it out and then spend some time looking inside once it opened.

Near the supermarket there was a post office and while it was not actually open the ATM was available. Although we had only used 7-11 ATMs so far we were aware that we could use post office ATMs and since we were running a bit low on cash we thought we'd give it a shot. The post office ATM was a pretty intense machine and we discovered that while we could not do a balance enquiry, we were able to take out as little as 1 000yen rather than the 10 000yen minimum available at 7-11. Apparently the maximum withdrawal limit is 100 of each type of note, which equates to 1 100 000yen! (Something like $11 000!).

Once the supermarket opened we went in and killed some time having a good look around. To my delight we discovered that they had not only had sugar free Aqueous but sugar free Calpis as well!

These are two Japanese non carbonated soft drinks that I like, but have had a lot of trouble finding in low/zero kJ form. While I also enjoy the sugary versions it really sucks to waste a meal on a drink when I could have had more delicious Japanese food instead.

I had actually never seen sugar free calpis before and the last time I'd encountered sugar free aqurious was back in Sendai. Since I was worried I might not see them again I decided to stock up and bought two 500ml bottles of each liquid. While the drinks may have been good for my waist, things were not looking good for my back with my backpack already weighing over 3kg before I had even bought one book!

In the supermarket Kate had also found something that she was interested in and bought a strip of some Disney flavoured shaped biscuits. There were about five small packets joined together in a row and each packet was a different flavour. I ended up helping Kate eat the biscuits- they were pretty yummy!

It's funny that we've seen so many supermarkets this trip as last time we really wanted to look in some but for whatever reason we could not find one anywhere. We even concluded that perhaps they don't exist in big cities. Now we were finding them everywhere!

Once we were done with the supermarket we went up a set of escalators to the second floor and found a bookshop!

While there was a manga section it was pretty small and expensive so we mainly looked at the other books and spent quite a while looking through the travel section. We found Australia and in one of the books we even found Brisbane.

Eventually we decided that we'd had enough of the books and thought we'd go to the nearby Starbucks to have a hot drink and an early lunch. After battling the rain we arrived and I was glad to see there was plenty (5) of the blue berry scones I enjoyed available! As ordering in Japanese to still really freaked me out, I let a lady go in front of me while I prepared myself and build up my courage.

Once it was our turn I was informed that all the blue berry scones were sold out! I couldn't believe it and had to look in the cabinet to double check. They were all gone! It turned out that the lady in front of me had bought the lot!

Out of all the treats available she had taken the one that I wanted!

And not just some of them! She completely cleaned them out!



Anyway the hot chocolate was good and we hung out in the shop for a while and chatted. Eventually it was time to finally head back down to Nakano Broadway as it was 12:00. On the way out of Starbucks I had a look in the cabinet and saw that the scones had been restocked!

Nakano Broadway was amazing, there were heaps and heaps of shops dedicated to all variety of stuff such that an obsessive fan of any genre would likely be able to find a shop that served their needs. Apart from the anime and manga goods there were shops with old western cartoons and toys, model cars, military/weapon type stuff, idol related merchandise, games, trains, old enka records, yo-yos, stamps and many other things I didn't even recognise.

The Mandarake store’s home location is Nakano and it had a huge presence there with over twenty (!) stores in the complex. While many of the Mandarake and other shops are dedicated to different aspects of otaku culture the plurality do focus on anime and manga. The style in the centre was such that rather than having a few big general stores, there were instead heaps of tiny shops, each dedicated to a distinct type of product. Looking around we found shops specialising in used manga, cosplay, anime DVD/Blu-ray/VHS, figurines, games, cards, doujinshi, collectables, art books, key chains and much more.

Today's haul from both Nakano and Akihabara
There was even a reverse Mandarake shop where you could bring stuff that you thought might be valuable or that you no longer wanted and the store would buy it off you.

Since it was still pretty early when we were looking around there were not too many people in this section although I've heard that it can get really crowded with people bringing along suitcases full of their old obsession which they’d use to fund their new fixation.

One thing to note is that there is certain focus on older and classic material so if you want the latest brand new items, Nakano is probably not the place you want to be.

What I was most interested in was the second hand manga as the volumes were in really good condition, there was a massive variety and, best of all, they were all really cheap!

In general the prices were about 15-30% of what it would cost to buy the book new (so 70-85% off) and I ended up buying a massive stack!

While much of the manga was a couple of years old there was still a large amount that was relatively new, although it was not nearly as heavily discounted as the slightly older stuff. .

I think I bought about 22 volumes of manga from the Mandarake in Nakano before I was done and my backpack had become extremely heavy and full

Our next shopping destination, Akihabara, was located back on the other side of Tokyo and only a few stops from Hatchōbori. Since there was no way I could continue to carry around my bulging bag, let alone stuff still more items in it, we stopped in at our hotel to drop of all the books I had bought.

When we got to our hotel we found that the elevator was not working!

We actually knew this would be the case as we'd seen a sign in the elevator early in the morning and the sign now said to please use the stairs until the maintenance was finished. I had no idea where the stairs were actually located though and had to ask someone at the front desk. They led us out though a side door and over to some external fire escape stairs. Good thing we asked as otherwise we never would've found them!

It was a quite a work out slogging our way up to hotel room which was located on the 9th floor.

After I dropped my books off and we had a bit of a rest we went back down the stairs and caught a train to Akihabara. As it was our first day off the JR pass we had been enjoying being finally able to use the Tokyo city subway as it was much more convenient than the JR lines. While we had the pass we felt like we had to use JR lines.

Once we arrived in Akiba Kate declared that after following me around all morning she'd like another coffee, so we went to another one of those sun money coffee shops. This time I was able to get a scone to go with my hot chocolate and Kate also got some yogurt.

Once we'd refuelled we set out to explore Akihabara!

Our first stop was gamers and we went up some escalators to the second floor and caught an elevator to the top floor and made our way back down.

The very top floor is used for events and was currently closed but we were able to look at the character goods and Doujin available on the underlying 7th floor. The next floor was filled with trading cards and games and while I wasn't interested in the cards I did have a quick look at some of the games available.

The next floor was some sort of exhibition floor and we found it was currently dedicated to Yuru Yuri which was a anime/manga franchise popular at the time. The floor had the character’s uniforms and dog/cat/panda/tomato pyjama cosplay on display, TV screens playing Yuru Yuri concerts that the seiyū performed in as well as other paraphernalia from the show.

Ichigo Mashimaro #5-6, ¥550/each
The next floor was the AV or "Audio and Visual" section which meant it was full of Anime Blu-Rays, DVDs as well as music and drama CDs. I can't quite remember what the next floor was although the store’s website informs me that it's currently providing information and special material from the Kadokawa publishing group.

The second last floor was the book floor and after having a look around I discovered the 5th and 6th volumes of Ichigo Mashimaro. I had volumes 1-4 in English from back before I could read anything in Japanese, I had quickly finished them and wanted more but unfortunately at the time nothing further was available in English.

Yuru Yuri #1, ¥875
On the final floor at ground level we found a large variety of souvenirs, heaps of magazines as well as the latest releases of current manga and anime. In with the magazines there were also many huge fat anthology books that were collections of the latest manga chapters as well as one shot stories written by resident mangaka. Many of these books were over 10cm thick! I really wanted to buy one as I thought it might be a good way to be introduced to a lot of different series I hadn't yet encountered although I decided against it as it looked way too heavy to bring back.

Once we were done with Gamers we had a look at the other shops, unfortunately I can't quite remember where we went exactly, although at some point I managed to pick up volume one of Yuru Yuri. I think it might have been at K-Books, which is the first (and only) anime shop I went in during our trip to Japan in 2011.

One destination I clearly remember though was the Akiba Mandarake. Rather than the many small shops in Nakano the Mandarake in Akihabara was consolidated into single imposing big black tall building. As per usual I started at the top and made my way back down all the floors.

The top two floors had figurines, toys and cards while the sixth floor had CD's, Blu-Ray and computer games. The fifth and forth floors had women oriented and male oriented doujinshi, respectively. The following third floor was where I spent most of my time on as it contained the manga. I bought a few more volumes here. The second floor was the final floor I looked in as the first floor just contained the trade in counters. On the second floor there was a collection of a few different things including cosplay, cels, galleries and dolls.

Since I wasn't sure what manga I bought at which Mandarake I've waited until now to go over what I bought. Below is a breakdown of what volumes I bought as well as how much each book cost.

Lucky Star #1-4,  ¥262
K-On! High School #1, ¥630
Nichijou #1-4, ¥441
Hidamari Sketch #3,  ¥525
Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei #1
(Goodbye Mr. Dispair), ¥105
K-on! #2-3, ¥315
Hayate the Combat butler #1-7, ¥105
Welcome to the NHK #1-3,  ¥157
A Certain Scientific Railgun #2-3, ¥262
Minami-ke #1-2,  ¥157 

The last place we looked in was the shops above K-Books in the Akiba culture zone. These shops were interesting as they were set up kind of like how markets would be with a slightly open plan sort of layout with different stalls set up around the place. Apart from the anime and manga themed shops there were also a few other niche stalls and one I remember in particular was military style shops decked out in camouflage

As far as food goes I think we both got some sushi from an area set up like the basement level of a department store, I'm a bit hazy on the details but I do remember that a couple of mine had hidden layer of wasabi which took me by surprise.

Once we got back to the hotel and I stacked up all the books I had bought, I got a bit worried that I had bought so many that I wouldn’t be able to get them all home on the plane!

We still had a few more days left for me to think about options such as sending them by post or deciding that I don’t need to take home all the clothes I had bought with me from Australia.
As we were both really exhausted from the shopping we made sure to have an early night so we could get up early for tomorrow's day trip to Yokohama!


  1. おはようございます^^
    Great blog. I'm impressed. I hope you can enjoy next Japan tour too.
    ではまた(* ̄▽ ̄*)ノ"

  2. Thank you very much!

    I'm sure I'll have a great time! I can't wait!

  3. Finding room in the suitcase to fit all the new treasures...This is how I feel when we visit Australia!

    I'm amused by the Disney flavored biscuits; and yesterday there was Winnie-the-Pooh flavored cereal. LOL.

    As for the rush hour crowds...probably better to experience as a spectator than a participant. I don't blame you for waiting it out. I'd want to do the same!

    1. Haha, apart from maybe the snacks I can't think of anything worth bring back to the USA from Australia??

      You could buy overpriced clothing, soft drinks and software I guess :)

      Yeah we still havn't actually been to disney land- maybe we should.

      It was amazing how quickly it cleared up at 0900, went from absolute insanity to the lone salaryman frantically running off the train in the space of 5 minutes