Wednesday, November 7, 2007

[LivefromTokyo!] Nakano, Koenji and Shibuya

Nakano killed me on Tuesday, so I skipped a day (disregard the below post) in favor of a mega-double post this morning. It's about 5:45 a.m., so I have a while before anything happens. I'm up early because I have no sleeping schedule; some people might have a crazy sleeping schedule, but I just do not have one at all. I sleep when I can.

NOTE: This was actually written post-trip... about a week afterward.

Nakano / Nakano Broadway:

Nakano is an easy district to navigate, provided that you are only looking for Nakano Broadway. Once you get outside the train station, the Sun Mall entrance is visible; just follow the enclosed pathway to the mouth of the beast.

There are restaurants and various shops along the way. I ate at the Katsuya shop (various fried Japanese things). Mildly recommended.

Right before you enter Broadway, take a left and you will be in front of the narrow entrance of Moja-Q. Unfortunately, it was closed on this day, and I did not take a picture. I saw a couple of 30-somethings looking forlornly at the entrance. Maybe they were actually looking at the real estate office next door. I like to pretend that normal people like the same things I do.

Once inside Broadway, there are also a number of random shops along the first floor. One that may be of interest is called "Boogie-Man." There were a few vintage and new vinyl pieces scattered throughout its cases; on the whole, they were overpriced in my opinion.

The majority of the stores of interest are scattered throughout the second and third floors. First, if you are a morning person, be warned: nothing here opens before 11:30 a.m. Get there any earlier and you will have a long few hours of staring at shuttered shop fronts. Second, my interests are primarily vintage mecha with a smattering of newer kaiju (the M1Go, Marmit, Bear Model, etc. stuff), so I may have failed to have been properly impressed by all of the vintage schwag to be had at Broadway. Finally, yes, everything you have heard about Broadway is true. There are things here to make you mouth water and your wallet melt.

On the second floor, you will probably want to check out Mandarake New Special first. This one has primarily vintage and newer kaiju, 12-inch stuff, and the robot stuff from the 70s and 80s (Microman, Transformers, Machine Robo, assorted sentai and tokusatsu stuff). Throughout your browsing experience,the store speakers blast a medley of anime themes in continuous loop- including a particularly shrill and insane version of the L-Gaim opening song. I caught a couple of guys humming along to the G Gundam theme. I'm not sure I could deal with the same 12 anime songs for 8 hours a day if I were one of the clerks.

The vinyl selection in this store is pretty good, and there were several pieces that I probably would have picked up, had space not been a concern (read: they were humongous). The robot wares were kind of pricey in my opinion, and there was nothing particularly rare to be found. As a note, this was probably the best-organized Mandarake store that I've seen; everything is neatly placed in long rows of glass cases. (On another note: I think I am becoming jaded.)

Also notable on the second floor: an antique store. I don't remember the name, but it was the largest 'general antique and vintage' store in the mall. The shelves are very closely placed together, making navigating the store a pain, but there are some very interesting things in several of the cases. I think I saw a vintage Thunder-gei in one of the lower shelves- neat!

After finishing up in Mandarake New Special, run up to the third floor to check out Mandarake Special 3. If you are wondering, there is no "Special 2," so do not waste your time trying to figure out where it is. To me, Special 3 was much more interesting than New Special. There is nothing mind-blowing (well, that depends on your perspective), but some of the stuff in there is straight-up amazing. I think I saw the 80s travel edition of Hungry Hungry Hippos stuffed down on a lower shelf. There was also a bunch of out-of-print MSiA Gundam for sale at bargain prices. Woo woo! Oh, and there are some neo kaiju in the back case. But who collects those? Dun dun dunnnn.

In terms of newer vinyl, And Toy and One-Up also have their stores on the third floor. One-up had more of the HK and western-style items, but there was a nice display of newer Blobpus in their case. I was disappointed not to see the Halloween Docross there. Perhaps it had been sold. Andtoy does not appear to be in the "Tokyo Underground" book, but it is on the corner next to one of the staircases. Of note were the several Shikaruna Koubo items in its case; I bought a Galmega (yes, the rare 2007 Wonderfestival version). You know what's not fun? Buying Galmega and carrying it around like a rock in your backpack for the rest of the day.

Finally, Robot Robot rounded out the vintage shops on the third floor. There were some really nice things in its cases (which I may return to purchase if time permits). Mostly vintage vinyl and robots. Near Robot Robot, there was a store that had a great selection of vintage vinyl- and a couple of Amapro test shots in flesh-colored vinyl. Yours for only $450.

To reiterate my earlier opinion, Nakano Broadway is a must, must see if you are into vintage toys. I was slightly disappointed, however, that the neo-kaiju stuff was few and far between. But, a minor gripe.

Koenji / Godzilla-ya & Ichibanboshi:

Long story short, both stores have hours that apparently do not include being open on Tuesdays. This was sort of a disappointing trip, but very interesting to see the neighborhood. Koenji is a beautiful, quiet neighborhood in the midst of Tokyo, which somehow maintains a small-town atmosphere. I have heard someone say that Koenji would be their choice of location should they ever move to Japan. I would say that I am inclined to agree.

Oh, and we had to help a motorcycle postal guy that hit/snagged a fence with his bike.

Sorry, I did not make the trek to Thrash-Out.

Shibuya / Mandarake:

As chaotic as the Nakano Mandarake was, this one made it seem downright tidy.

First, we got lost trying to find the Mandarake. Not to blame the book, but I think something is a bit off about Tokyo Underground, because we were shunted up a side street, and had to make a few turns before being plopped in front of the stairway to chaos.

I heard about the stairway down to Mandarake before, but it was really much less of an exaggeration than I had thought. I think it is literally about four flights of stairs, each with flashing strobe lights (hopefully at a frequency low enough to avoid seizures) and various porno-game/anime posters at each landing. There are toys down here- really.

Most of the items of interest are at the rear cavern of the store, although there is a patchi-kaiju case in the middle of the floor, past a few bookshelves upon entering. I think there was a clear Bemon and bunch of Hukkokudo stuff. All Mandarakes have also had numerous posters pumping the Blobpus and Longneck store exclusives that will be released at the end of this month- I wonder how many people will be willing to go out to Nagoya for this.

At the rear of the store is a wall of wood-and-glass display cases filled with vintage and not-so-vintage kaiju, die-cast, Transformers, Henshin, and other usual vintage store fare. These are the cases that are pictured in the Tokyo Underground photo of Shibuya Mandarake. However, equally if perhaps not more interesting are the 'random shit' shelves that run in aisles perpendicular to the display case wall. A whole row is devoted to mecha and 12-inch merchandise- nothing older than 10-15 years- but a very good way to find some obscure items at reasonable prices. I found a Cyborg99 2-pack, priced at JPY 6800, wedged in between some other dolls in the 12-inch section.

In the end, I bought an unpainted orange test-shot (?) Astromons from one of the glass cases. This particular piece was designed by Nakayoshi and produced by Dream Rocket and Shonen Kikaku, which makes a test-shot (if this is the case) an interesting facet to my Dream Rocket collection.

Next: Akihabara and the triumphant return to Nakano!

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