Nakano

26Jul06

After spending the early part of the day in Akihabara, Jess, Tomo, and I headed to Nakano, another node for Tokyo subculture. The center of Nakano’s subculture is the Broadway(ブロードウェイ)building, which contains a stunning array of shops that specialize in used/collectible manga, figurines, limited edition and handmade items (especially t-shirts), and counterculture matériel. Most of the shops are on the 2nd and 3rd floors of the building, but there may be some on the 4th floor as well (there are also plenty of restaurants to choose from for lunch).

The store that dominates in Nakano is an enormous Mandarake (an outlet for new and used manga) that is so large that it is divided among several storefronts, each of which specializes in a different type of manga (vintage, shojo, yaoi, limited edition, ero manga, etc.). I could spend hours browsing Mandarake, especially because the prices are so amazing — the idea that comics are “collectibles,” rather than books for reading, still hasn’t caught on in Japan to the extent that it has in the U.S. Especially appealing to me are the ‘bound’ editions where you can buy an entire series at once for dirt nothing.

Also great are the vintage and specialty toy stores, mostly stuffed full with giant robot models and Godzilla or Ultraman figurines. Some of the original run Godzilla figures can run a mint, but they clearly tap into a nostalgic vein in the same way that vintage Star Wars figures can for people of my generation. Many was the time that Tomo stared longingly into a case and said, “I had one of those when I was a kid.” Godzilla and Ultraman monsters are some of the coolest and strangest creatures ever created by the human imagination (my favorite from Ultraman is Dada). What is especially cool about them, as Jess pointed out, is the fact that they have to work within the limitations of the ‘man in a monster suit’ genre. The point of many of these monsters seems to have been to see how unhuman a creature could be made to look that was actually animated from inside by a human core.

There was also a shop dedicated to gaming that was selling several really nice limited edition t-shirts, including one that Jess bought with some sort of game-demon creature on it that said something like “New Gaming Culture Life Forms,” or something like that. I picked up a t-shirt with a picture of a Tofu Head toy on it that says “I like toys and tofu,” which couldn’t be more true.

My favorite store in Nakano, however, is definitely Taco Ché (タコツェ). I think the name is a combination of “tako” (octopus) and something else — perhaps Ché as in Che Guevara, although I’m sure I’m imagining that last part. Tako Ché specializes in Japanese underground comics and books, as well as experimental/improvisational music, counterculture artifacts, and the like. Many of the items for sale remind me of the limited-run and DIY creations that you can find at the Alternative Press Expo. The store is tiny, but massively great. I came away with a couple of underground comics anthologies, and a matchbox-sized tome of photocopy art.

Nakano also has a ton of great back alleys that are lined with restaurants and music shops. We wanted to eat ramen at the shop pictured above, but the line stretched halfway down the block. These are the people waiting in the inside-the-store line.

Eventually we found another ramen shop just up the street, where Tomo waited patiently for his bowl of warm deliciousness.



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