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Monday, February 4, 2019

Exploring Japan Vol. 15 - TOYS!!!!

This is one I know a lot of you have been waiting for.  If you like Japanese cartoons (anime), comics (manga), giant monster films (Kaiju) or classic Japanese TV (like Ultraman) and you're looking for toys, then Tokyo has got you covered! 

For starters, you'll want to visit Akihabara.  It's also known as Electric Town.  Initially it was the place to go in Tokyo if you wanted the latest and greatest in electronics.  Over the years, it has evolved into a place that celebrates Japanese pop culture.  You'll find a ton of small shops carrying mostly used toys.  You'll find figures from all of your favorite animes along with a number of other trinkets like pens, banners, stationery and more.

These shops are set up like indoor flea markets, with different booths or glass cases full of figures.  Don't go buying things willy nilly either.  Take your time and compare prices.  Sometimes you'll save $5.00 or $10.00 just by checking alternative stores.  

The streets of Akihabara are also filled with toys, in the form of gachapon machines.  The word is actually a combination that refers to the capsule toy and the sound of cranking the dial.  There are banks of these everywhere and in fact, there's even an entire store on a side street that is nothing but gachapon machines.

What's inside?  Well, these machines vary in price and contents.  You'll find everything from anime figures to stickers to miniature zen gardens. The trick is that chance is a factor.  You may get the same figure over and over, or you may get lucky and get all the pieces of your set completed quickly.  Some of our favorite finds have been:

An extremely rude pencil holder (we used it for Q-Tips while at the hotel).

A set of Beavis and Butthead on the couch.

And some extremely detailed Ultraman sets that you had to assemble.

In addition to the used toy stores in Akihabara, you'll definitely want to check out Yodobashi-Camera.  It's a gigantic, multi-storied department store that has all of the latest and greatest new toys.  Just take the escalator up to the toy floor and prepare to have your mind blown! 

You'll find anything and everything you could possibly want.  And if you're hungry, head to the top because their food court is beyond amazing.  The last time we visited, we found ourselves eating there multiple times.  

Say you don't have that much time though and you want to get the most out of your half day of toy shopping.  Well, there really is only one store to check out and that's Mandarake!  While they have a location in Akihabara, I'd recommend making the trip to Nakano Broadway.  This is an indoor mall that carries all of the usual stores and restaurants, however it also has a multistory Mandarake with some of the most amazing collections of toys you'll ever see.

The place is set up with different rooms divided by toy "types". For instance, there's a room with nothing but Godzilla, Ultraman and the like.  There's another whole room carrying nothing but capsule toy contents so you can complete a collection without leaving things to chance.  Another room is full of manga and anime.  You get the picture.  Some of the craziest stuff here is in the form of original vinyl toy creations.  Check out this killer monster with a cannon for a mouth!

And this Rat Fink character!

One of my favorite rooms here is the Robot Room. 

It's just as it sounds.  A room literally filled with nothing but robot and space toys.  All are for sale, but there are some very expensive items in here.

In fact, many are from the 1950's like the Moon Astronaut below.  If you're wondering how much 300,000 yen is in U.S. dollars, just take two zeroes off the end and you'll be in the ballpark.  

That's right.  You're looking at a $3,000 toy.

Aside from the places I've mentioned already, you'll still find individual toy stores that deal in new toys only.  They're easy to find while there.  You can google "toy store" and they'll pop up.  One, whose name I can't recall, had this killer electric car track on the top floor.  

It even had a leader board that kept your fastest time.  My daughter beat the pants off me.

And yes, if you're into Pokemon, then you are probably required to visit the Pokemon store in the Sunshine City mall.  While you're there, you can go to Namja Town, the indoor Japanese haunted house I wrote about a few posts ago!

For those who are upset I never mentioned Ghibli toys, don't worry.  There's a separate post coming about Ghibli, but yes, they have their own stores as well with items from almost all of their movies.

So yeah, Tokyo is full of amazing toys.  Even if you're not a collector, you could do worse than wandering through a Mandarake or Yodobashi store while in town.  

Next week, we'll switch things up and get some class by visiting the Edo Tokyo museum.  See you then!

1 comment: said...

Fantastic! I love the monster with a cannon for a mouth. Looking at a $3K toy made me feel like I just spent $300, so that was a little overwhelming, but worth it.