Asagaya Anime Street, An Alternative to Akihabara?
posted on by Kim Morrissy
When it comes to anime hot spots in Tokyo, Akihabara and Ikebukuro would be at the top of most fans’ lists. But these meccas of anime fandom are not in the center of where anime is actually made and produced. The majority of anime studios in Tokyo are based west of Shinjuku in quieter suburban areas such as Nerima, Musashino, and Suginami. While these areas do get some anime-related tourism because of their proximity to popular hubs like the Ghibli Museum and Nakano Broadway, they tend to slip underneath fans’ radars for the most part.
Some recent government initiatives, however, have set out to change that—or at least add more places on the map for the anime-loving tourist. Asagaya Anime Street, which first opened in 2014, is dead bang in the middle of anime studio central, and is quite literally located beneath a set of train tracks. Asagaya is home to some of the big names in the anime industry, such as A-1 Pictures, Satelight, and MAPPA, and from there it's possible to get to most of the other studios in the west Tokyo area via a pushbike.
Given Asagaya's centrality in the anime industry, one might wonder why an anime-themed shopping district like Asagaya Anime Street hasn't existed sooner, but I imagine that it's more convenient for the studios to work in a discreet environment and let the fan consumerism happen elsewhere. Even Asagaya Anime Street itself is a low-key affair, consisting of a single dimly-lit street in a quiet neighborhood. Many of the shops have either closed or been replaced since the official opening three years ago, and there's none of the flashy advertisements and displays one would find in Akihabara.
In addition, the walls are lined with still images from the latest Satelight anime, and customers who order over 1000 yen worth of food from the collaboration menu will receive a copy of a key animation frame. Currently, the café is promoting What do you do at the end of the world? Are you busy? Will you save us? I bought a drink and the butter cake (a food item which is so central to this bittersweet show) and got this nice key frame from the first episode for my trouble.
Surprisingly enough, the other popular parts of Asagaya Anime Street have very little to do with anime. There's an interactive zombie-themed horror attraction, as well as a space for playing board games that also doubles as a live venue for comedians, among other things. Even if it's not “anime” per se, it appears that Asagaya Anime Street has found a niche for eclectic geeky pursuits, which anime fans may well appreciate.
Personally, however, I liked Asagaya Anime Street. I wasn't expecting another Akihabara or Nakano Broadway. After all, if I just wanted to buy anime goods, I would go to an Animate or Mandarake store somewhere. Asagaya Anime Street struck me as a small and cozy place, easily overlooked but with bright glimmers of activity here and there if you know where to look. While it's not the kind of place you could spend an entire day at, it's only a five minute walk from the Asagaya station, so it's worth dropping by for an hour or two if you're in the area.