Anime Aunties Visit Japan
Day 6: Otaku Shopping at Nakano Broadway, Harajuku, and Mandarake
by Lynzee Loveridge & Jacki Jing,
Lynzee: Hi guys! Apologies for the delay on our day six write-up. We had a really early morning for day seven, which left me less time to write and both of my feet are swollen. This a reminder that if you do a big trip, drink lots of water and make sure you have time to rest because my feet currently resembled pickled pigs' feet.
It was raining heavily in Tokyo following two very hot days. Our schedule was, fortunately, lighter, with only a planned appointment at Mandarake in the Nakano Broadway complex. Nakano Broadway itself is a labyrinth with multiple floors and twisting hallways with all sorts of interesting shops. Throughout the mall complex are several Mandarake shops, each specializing in different kinds of retro anime and manga merchandise.
One location carries old tokusatsu toys and figures, another is full of kaiju goods, and yet another is dedicated just to playing cards. The store PR person was kind enough to give us access to any of our requested locations; we saw everything from super expensive Blue Eyes White Dragon Yu Gi Oh! card to Shonen Jump magazines from the 1980s.
I was on the hunt for retro Sailor Moon goods and a gift for my husband. Fortunately, there was plenty of magical merch to be had--I even spotted Wedding Peach! Finding something for Matt was a little more difficult since his tastes are pretty specific and often geared toward more modern shows. I couldn't find anything Yuko from xxxHOLiC, but then a spotted a shop (unaffiliated with Mandarake) selling anime cels, and right there in front was a box full of art from Shuffle! If you've listened to the ANN After Show, you probably have heard me talk about Shuffle! The harem series had zero staying power in the general otaku consciousness, but it was the first anime we ever watched together, so I snatched up art of the series' best girl, Asa.
Jacki: Nakano Broadway reminded me of something out of Blade Runner or Cyberpunk: Edgerunners — a bustling market on the ground floor with wild variety, from conveyor belt sushi to pet cafes to bakeries serving taiyaki, fish-shaped pastries packed with custard.
Once you leave the ground floor, you ascend into darkness. Each floor is windowless with stale, fluorescent lights and crowded with dozens of small anime and manga-related shops.
Though that sounds like a frightening setting, each store is like a bright, shining treasure in the dark. You could get lost for hours in this Vegas for otaku, every shop unique and fascinating. We stumbled across archaic manga from the early 80s, anime posters, figurines, keychains, plushies, wands, hats — the list is endless.
Executive Editor Lynzee Loveridge (hehe, I just added her title again— inside joke) stumbled across the coolest spot that somehow sold animation cels from beloved anime, including Neon Genesis Evangelion, Sailor Moon, Captain Harlock, Utena— some of them selling for $2,000+ USD. There was a Mandarake with multiple torii gates leading to these plastic time capsules that contained toys and trinkets from the '50s, many of them in incredible condition. My favorite shop was one that seemed dedicated to magical girls merch, displaying retro toys for Sailor Moon, Wedding Peach, and Precure. I also got a kick out of the trading cards store that had Pokémon and Yu Gi Oh! cards selling for thousands of dollars, their jaw-dropping collection would shock anybody. I actually didn't buy anything at Nakano Broadway, but it's a window shopping experience you don't want to miss. The shops are all set up beautifully, and there are incredible products on sale— I was just saving up my money for Harajuku.
Lynzee: Okay, so, let me level with you guys. A handful of years ago, I took my mom to an "Oscar Party" thrown by the city council where we lived, and it included a limo, red carpet, and a screening of the awards. They even did red-carpet interviews with ticketholders and local celeb Seth Aaron Henderson and our city paper chatted me up. So was my mom. If you dig through the archives, I'm officially described as a "fashion diva."
So I splurged a little in Harajuku, the Tokyo district best known for its fashion subculture. The area has fallen off a little since I was here about 10 years ago. Shoppers looked trendy, but it didn't have streets full of eclectic fashionistas waltzing about the area. This might be due to the rain, but folks I talked to said that it's really not the same as its heyday. There are plenty of "Forever 21" adjacent shops on the street and cheap accessory shops, but I was keeping an eye out for something distinctly of the area. When I spotted a shop filled with black platform shoes and occult symbols, I went inside. Momon carries an eclectic line-up of secondhand clothes, and I fell in love with an oversized white cotton blouse with a hood and a baggie black button-up vest combo. It lit up my inner J-rocker. While pricey, I swore that it was the only thing I was going to get that day.
I was wrong.
Jacki: "Rainy Day Man" from Sailor Moon's 90s English dub soundtrack played in my head as the rain fell on our clear umbrellas as we walked through Harajuku.
Within seconds of entering the Takeshita shopping area, I found a store with Lolita-inspired, adorable bows and barrettes. I bought a giant lavender scrunchie with matching ribbon earrings, a big silky lavender bow clip, and a rainbow bow ponytail. I had to restrain myself, there were lamb ear headbands, maid headpieces, and so much more. If only I had an unlimited budget— I would've left that street with dozens of bags.
After that, we went in and out of clothing stores, from workplace fashion to punk rock to maid cosplay to kawaii to kawaii/violent metal.
Lynzee and I went a little ham. She bought some insanely cool pieces which cost her a pretty penny (I am sure she will detail at length), and I got an incredibly trendy, idiosyncratic, black silky shirt for my boyfriend from YELLOW HOUSE — with the smallest and loudest saleswoman I've ever met. She literally screamed at my BF and me for 30 minutes straight, shoving clothes on him, and then when we went to pay, she frantically ran around the shop, which was smaller than a closet, yelling for her calculator. Then she panicked when she realized her card machine wasn't plugged in, quickly plugged the end of it into a wall, and then almost tripped over the wire. She claimed to know a bunch of American rock stars from Steven Tyler to I can't even remember— and the store's wall was covered with photos from the '90s with various Japanese rockers. My bf thinks she might've been fabricating a lot, but she was entertaining. My bf also thought she charged us too much, but after the song and dance involved— she deserved every cent.
Lynzee: While Jacki and Dustin were bartering with the shop owner, I stepped out to give them some more breathing room. YELLOW HOUSE was a small shop, but it was very cool. The neighboring store was right outside, and the leather harness I was wearing that day caught the eye of Yuki, an equally passionate shopowner for Jim's Inn. Like YELLOW HOUSE, Jim's Inn featured tons of signatures and photos of rock stars. The first item she coerced me into was a long leather jacket with tails. It was very showman-like, which was a little too loud, even for me. What caught my eye in the shop originally was a distressed, white Oxford blouse made out of cotton. The fabric reminded me a bit of cheesecloth, and it came with a removable hood. Jacki and Dustin were still occupied, so only 30 minutes after declaring myself "done," I walked out with yet another bag.
Jacki: ACDC Rag was our final stop after we snacked on some crepes while watching videos of JPop idols on a nearby big screen. So… ACDC Rag is the best store, period. I wanted everything. All of it. My BF kindly bought me two pieces that we both adored — a turquoise and pink button-up with kimono-esque sleeves and a Gloomy Bear XXL tee that was checkered, pink, and bloody. Perfection. Harajuku and the maid cafe have been my two favorites— but tomorrow we are seeing the life-size Gundam…
Lynzee: OK, so, remember how I said I was done shopping? I'm a liar. ACDC Rag was amazing. The style ranged from pastel goth to goth-goth. One wall was covered in Cinnamaroll sweatshirts with straps and belts, and the other included dark prints of anatomy. Speaking of, I spotted a dress with a large, black sailor collar and a print covered in an eerie mix of objects, people, and inner organs. Unlike Jacki's items, I wasn't able to find my dress on the website, but I'll be showing it off in the near future.
We wrapped up our day with crepes and made it out of the rain as it was getting dark. Tomorrow, it's all Gundam!
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