While Akihabara gets most of the attention and press when talking about them-crazy-otaku here in Japan, it is by no means the end-all for getting your nerd shopping on in Tokyo. While Akihabara tends to be crowded with all manner of super dork (both domestic and imported), awash in moé fetishism and no longer having the redeeming quality of a closed down main street on Sundays for maximum pedestrian convenience (they stopped doing that after that jerk killed a bunch of people), Nakano Broadway presents a slightly more interesting alternative with the added benefit of being a place you can take your non-nerd friends and not be incredibly embarrassed.
Nakano Broadway is a five-story building located in the shopping side streets of Nakano. Known amongst fan circles for its selection of anime shops, it’s actually much more than that. An indoor shopping mall with a disorienting layout that makes efficient navigation almost impossible, Nakano Broadway houses a diverse number of shops that sell a varied, and often odd, selection of wares far beyond just anime. It’s a fascinating place to wander around. Not only will you get lost you’ll discover all sorts of bizarre shops as you’re forced to backtrack through the incredibly illogical floor layout.
When you first enter Nakano Broadway you’ll see an escalator, which isn’t very convenient unless you know exactly where you’re going because it goes directly to the third floor. I’ve been told that Yuji Hori got the idea for the dungeons in the original Dragon Quest from Nakano Broadway’s bizarre layout and I believe it. In addition to the escalator that skips a floor, you’ll often find yourself going down hallways that either loop around or abruptly end in a dead end, with little rhyme or reason. Trying to do a thorough walkthrough of each floor can be frustrating as you’ll be forced to backtrack. In short, it’s not very user friendly.
But ultimately that’s a big part of its charm. The other part would be the sheer variety of shops and restaurants housed within the five-story building. The basement is primarily women’s clothing and grocery stores, with some used CD shops and one or two ramen restaurants thrown in for good measure. The first floor houses slightly more unusual fare, like a shop that sells nothing but
Oddities aside, Nakano Broadway has a lot to offer to anime fans. While shops in Akihabara tend to focus more on new products, most of the shops in Nakano Broadway specialize used items; meaning that if you’re looking for older toys, books, CDs, posters or animation cels, Nakano Broadway is a good place to look. As I mentioned earlier, Mandarake, the king of used anime goods in Japan, operates at least eight different stores in Nakano Broadway. Each one specializing in a different area such as girls’ manga, boys’ manga, videogames, toys, magazines or animation cels.
Nakano Broadway’s appeal is far beyond that of just being a mecca of anime goods. It’s a shopping experience that you’re unlikely to find anywhere else in Japan. Every visit leads to new discoveries and it’s such a bizarre place that I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend visiting to non-anime fans. It’s just that cool. For anime fans, I won’t say that Nakano Broadway is better than Akihabara, but it certainly is different. While Akihabara is much larger, Nakano Broadway makes for a far more interesting shopping experience with just a hint of the surreal.