Thursday, 8 May 2014

The Wordiest and Most Biased Guide to Tokyo Ever (Part 2 of 2)

See here for part 1 of this ridiculous guide or my general guide to useful things to know in Japan.

The west side is shopping heaven.  There are some great cultural and tourist-friendly sights as well, but the shopping, oh, the shopping.  Most of the districts that I'll cover are pretty much in a straight line running from Ikebukuro in the north, down through Shibuya in the south.  Both JR Yamanote line and the brown Metro Fukutoshin line run right through this sequence of metropolitan madness.  

The order goes:
Ikebukuro
Shinjuku (JR)/Shinjuku-Sanchome (Metro)
Harajuku (JR)/Meiji-Jingu Mae (Metro)
Shibuya

Lastly, Nakano Broadway, the hidden geek wonderland of resale stores, is located just west of the string between Ikebukuro and Shinjuku.

Topics Covered: Ikebukuro, Shinjuku, Harajuku, Shibuya, Nakano


That was all in one morning (though admittedly, it was from New Years Day sales).  No regrets.


West Side

Ikebukuro

Starting with the top of the western tokyo areas that I'll review, Ikebukuro is on the northwest side of town, accessible by a number of different trains, though I always seem to wind up getting there via the brown Metro Fukutoshin line (take this south for Shinjuku, Harajuku and Shibuya), the red Metro Marunouchi line or the JR Yamanote line.  Ikebukuro Stn is the busiest train station in the world.  If you come here during morning rush hour, be well prepared.  It may be a huge station and rush hour can feel like the entire population of New York is crammed inside it.



This is one of my favourite areas in town to wander around.  It's got a little of everything that I love, 2nd hand anime stores, gaming arcades, plenty of good food, a cat cafe, a Closet Child (or THE Closet Child if you're in the market for some 2nd hand dolls) and plenty of other fun stuff.  There's a street leading to Sunshine City that's often known as Otome Road.  It's put out there as shopping heaven for women otaku, but it's really just a few shops that sells goods popular with fandoms with mainly female followings (aka a lot of yaoi or series with yaoi undertones).  It's nothing to write home about, but definitely worth a visit on your way to Sunshine City.  There's actually a fair bit of other merchandise mixed in there.  K-Books and Lashing Bang are my long time favourites.  Not all of their wares are cheap, but I love looking through the clearance bins in front and sometimes inside the stores.  So many great things for a buck or two!

Sunshine City is an epic mall that is practically a whole city in a single building.  There are government offices, a huge shopping center, a food amusement park, a planetarium and even an aquarium contained within.


The food amusement park, Namjatown, is cute, but not really worth going out of your way to visit.  Instead, you'll probably get the biggest bang for your buck to just pick up a flyer as you pass by as a cute souvenir.  They have a lot of themed food, but the actual items are not quite as beautiful and exciting as they look on the flyer.  The fact that it's a food court set up instead of a cafe set up also take away from the experience.

There is also a Seiyu (grocery superstore) located here, although the entrance is actually across the street from Sunshine City.  If you're living in the area, the Seiyu's useful, but there's also plenty of other cheap places to eat here.

Other stores worth noting:


There's a large Animate just off the main strip (just off from the massive gaming arcades).


Cafe Nekorobi (a cat cafe) is also nearby.  Nekorobi charges a higher hourly rate, but drinks, some basic snacks as well as cat treats are included.  I really enjoyed visiting it.  It helps that the cats are all rescued cats (adopted by the owner, who is totally a crazy cat person), which is a cause that I'm glad to support.  During the weekdays, the number of visitors is very low, so you get pretty good attention from the cats even without treats.  If you've been to a cat cafe overseas, Japan might have a treat for you.  I recently visited the Cat Emporium that just opened in London, England and the cat experience was very different.  The key difference was the amount of open space and how furniture was oriented.  My experience at the Cat Emporium contained very few actual cat sightings since most of the cat furniture was along the outside of the room or areas where you could not easily find them and any plans to watch them from your seat?  Forget about it.  In Japan, most cat cafe have seating for people around the outside of the room with most cat furniture (ie. cat trees) in the center of the room, so even if they're just napping, you can still watch them nap in all their furry glory.  Nekorobi just had cats everywhere.  Purin (white cat above) attempted to escape as we came in the door (apparently he does this ALL. THE. TIME.) and one of their main coons (Sugar, as pictured above) greeted us atop the slipper rack while their other main coon was waiting on the bathroom counter to lick customers' hands dry as they washed up.  When the staff went to enter our info into the laptop they use to keep track of customers coming in...


Cat (Doraemon, the silver tabby) was sleeping on the staff laptop.


And when I went to sit down, my seat was immediately taken (by Anko, a British Shorthair).

Cat cafe visit is a must if you ask me, and it's a perfect way to take a break from walking and catch your breath from the Japanese summer heat or a sudden storm (or if you need an emergency recharge on your cell phone as most cat cafes in Japan will have recharge stations for customer electronics).  Nekorobi might be slightly more expensive by the hour compared to some other cat cafes, but cat treats and unlimited beverages (both hot and cold from a massive and awesome drink machine) come as part of the package.  There's also Nekobukuro just around the corner, another cat cafe.

Area Summary

  • Home to Sunshine City (massive mall) and Otome Road (2nd hand anime stores...lots of stuff targeting mostly women)
  • Seibu and Tobu department stores have massive food markets in the basement level (most are ready-to-eat).  Many are fancy, specialty foods.  More expensive than super market or convenience store meals, but still affordable (~$10-15 per meal would cover most people).  Many offer end of day discount sales (usually 10-30% off) after 7pm.
  • Easy going cat cafes.
  • Indisputably the easiest UFO catchers in town (still not crazy easy, but generally more win-able than other areas).
  • Sunshine City has a Seiyu (that giant super market again) just across from it.
Drawbacks
  • Busiest train station in the world (seriously).  Rush hour can be soul (and body) crushing if you're unprepared.


Shinjuku

Shinjuku is my favourite area of Tokyo that I have stayed in and one of my favourite areas overall.  It has a bit of everything plus some sights that you wouldn't be able to easily find in other areas.  The main hub of this district is east of Shinjuku STN, although there are sights worth noting in every direction.

For the tourist, go west for the Metropolitan government building.  Its observation deck is one of the best views in Tokyo and it's totally free!

In the southwest, you'll find the Shinjuku West Yodobashi, which is actually several small buildings spread over 2 small blocks as opposed to the standard singular massive building that Yodobashi more often occupies.  My favourite part of Yodobashi is the entire floor of gachapon (capsule toys).  They dispense some fun collectibles and is a great one stop source of souvenirs. (Update: The gachapon floor has been repurposed for TCG machines.  The gachapon machines have been relocated right across the street from the entrance of the building to their own dedicated mini-location which has a tiny storefront with a few machines at street level and the build of the machines in the basement.)


If you're in a bind and not sure what sort of wacky souvenirs to buy for your friends, gachapons are a convenient and thrifty way to go.

You'll also find the district's main post office south of the station, just on your way to Yodobashi.  It has extended hours compared to the other smaller post offices and it also offers a full range services and products.


North to exit D5 of Shinjuku Stn is the place to go if you're a fan of Japanese street fashion.  This will lead you right across from the Shinjuku Closet Child.  If you hang a right from this exit and continue up the street until you come across a 7-11 in the middle of an odd K shaped split across the street.  Behind the 7-11 you'll find Pure Sound, which is primarily a 2nd hand J-rock CD and music memorabilia, but they also have a nice little selection of various J-fashion, most of which is more on the punk/visual kei side of the spectrum, but a couple of solid racks of lolita can also be found.  Finally, if you continue down this little street, you'll find Closet Child Men's in it's new home on the ground floor of a small building.


Lastly, east of the station is the central hub of the partying, shopping and sightseeing in this area.  You'll have to cross under the train tracks before you come to the center of the fun.  Immediately left once you've passed the train tracks, you'll find Pepe, which has a 100 yen store, CanDo, on its top levels.  Continuing along the main street, you'll find a 24 hr Don Quixote (recognizable by their mascot, a round blue penguin, lit up in lights on the top floor) on the north side (on your left) and a Taito Game Station on the south side (on your right).  Shinjuku is one of my favourite places for UFO catchers.  They're some of the easiest arcades around this area, quite possible because it's a big tourist attraction and they need the games to be reasonable to keep the tourists excited and happy.  At one of the smaller arcades in the area, a staffer saw me win a big hand full of prizes from one machine and came over to ask me to wait while he piled the remaining prizes up so I'd be sure to win many more with my remaining plays.  It's no wonder I love Shinjuku so much...


I walked away from the arcades after winning 3 Prince Ar Pacassos and 4 Alpaca Evolution plushies...all in one day.


If you hang a right at Taito and continue down to almost the end of the short pedestrian shopping street, you'll find Okadaya, a favourite of local costumers and crafters.  It occupies two buildings side by side which are linked on the upper floors by narrow hallways.  One side sells fiber goods (fabric, thread, yarn, etc) and the other side sells all kinds of crafting goods (everything from feathers to sequins to millinery flowers).  Continue past this and you'll find yourself facing Lumine Est (a fashion mall) further south or if you hang an immediate left at the end of the pedestrian street, you'll find ALTA, which is sometimes viewed as Shinjuku's answer to Shibuya 109, the mecha of Gyaru fashion.


Not interested in Gyaru fashion?  Stop by anyway and grab a snack from the booth outside selling croissant taiyaki with a sugar glaze, a modern fusion twist on a classic Japanese pastry.  It's one of my favourite guilty pleasures.  Mmm...

If you go back to the Don Quixote, in the nearby buildings along the main stretch alongside the discount store, you'll find a number of fun cafes including a building containing LockUp (a jail/dungeon themed ikazaya, Japanese style bar/restaurant), Mysterious (a futuristic/space age izakaya) and Arabian Rock (an Aladdin-esque take on an Arabian themed izakaya).  If you look upward at the 6th floor of the neighbouring doorway, you'll see the Calico Cat Cafe, a sizable lounge of a cafe filled with dozens of pure breed cats.  The themed izakayas usually have a table or two available at almost any hour, but if you want to visit the cat cafe, plan to come during off-peak hours like you would do with the maid cafe's of Akihabara.  Don't have time in your schedule to work around Calico's timing?  Check my section on Ikebukuro for details about the cat cafes you can visit there.


If you head into the side streets at Don Quixote, you'll find yourself in the infamous Kabuki-cho, Tokyo's red light district.  During daytime, it's mostly a rather benign shopping area, but as the sun sets, it becomes a city of lights, filled with young hosts suited up to liven up the night.  The area isn't exactly dangerous, but be on your guard if random strangers approach you and try to pull you into the shops in the area.  The host and hostess clubs here aren't just full of pretty people; they'll put a pretty massive and unbelievable hole in your wallet, too.  Best to just watch from a distance.


For those who haven't gotten enough lolita shopping done at Closet Child and Pure Sound, head southeast towards Shinjuku Sanchome Stn to find Marui Annex, the top floor of which is the new home of many top lolita brands that use to inhabit the late Marui One.


Area Summary

  • Wide array of food selection.
  • Restuarants and stores have long/late hours; stores are usually open until about 9pm.
  • Lots of themed cafes (incl. a cat cafe, dungeon theme bar, Arabian theme bar and a futuristic space theme bar)
  • Home to TWO 2nd hand lolita stores, plus a more elusive Closet Child Men's.
  • Lots of local shops (Gyaru, lolita, crafts, general) and close proximity to other popular shopping areas (Shibuya, Harajuku and Ikebukuro all accessible within a couple of train stops via JR Yamanote or Metro Fukutoshin line).
  • 2nd easiest UFO catchers in town (slightly more difficult than Ikebukuro, but more arcades in a single area).
  • Kabuki-cho and the numerous hosts.  They're kind of fun to spy on from a distance.  I still can't help but be entertained when I see one.

Drawbacks

  • Kabuki-cho and the numerous hosts.  It can get kind of sketchy being the "red light district" and all, so I'd recommend having a buddy if you're wandering around late at night.  It's not really that bad though as amongst the host and hostess clubs, there are a lot of bars that are popular with young people (though more and more of these young people will be drunk as the night wears on).
Harajuku / Meiji Shrine


Although all the guides on the internet will talk about the Meiji shrine with just a brief mention of the street fashion scene, you'll find my review of it completely the opposite with most of the emphasis on shopping.

You can access Harajuku via the ever crowded Harajuku Stn on the JR Yamanote line which will land you on the west end of Takeshita Dori (that legendary J-fashion pedestrian shopping street) sandwiched between all dem clothing and the massive Meiji shrine.  Or if you're coming via Metro, the Meiji Jingu Mae stop on the Fukutoshin brown line will land you right on the block.  Exit 5 from the Metro will land you right around the corner from LaForet and Exit 3 will land you just over from JR's Harajuku Stn and the entrance to Takeshita Dori.

If you're there on a Sunday, take a look around as you cross the bridge towards the Meiji Shrine.  Sunday is traditionally "Cosplay Day" on Harajuku Bridge.  Historically (quite popular in the 90's and early 2000's), many young people would gather on the bridge to hang out while wearing all kinds of visual kei cosplay and alternative (usually punk and gothic) J-fashions.  The scene has died down quite a bit over time, but if you're lucky, you'll still be able to see some fun outfits.  Don't take the name too seriously.  Cosplay Day existed long before lolita fashion came into the scene.


If you're travelling with a mixed group of people, fear not, there is an easy way to give the tourists what they want while the shoppers can take their time.  On the Northwest corner of the region you'll find Meiji shrine.  It is the largest Shinto shrine in Tokyo, and as far as "largest ____ shrines in Tokyo"s go, it's a lot more bearable than the over crowded tourist trap that Asakusa's Sensoji temple has become.  On weekends, you can often catch a glimps of a super traditional Japanese wedding procession happening near the main shrine building.


Once the tourist-types in the group finish with the shrine, Takeshita Dori's worth a visit, even if they have no interest in J-fashion.  The main non-fashion attractions here would be the numerous crepe stalls.  My favourite is the one right at the entrance to Takeshita (across the street from Harajuku JR station), Sweet Box.  The different stalls all taste about the same to me, but Sweet Box wins because they have a 50yen off coupon that you can print or just flash on your phone for an instant discount.  Japanese crepes are different than their delicate French cousins.  They're usually rolled into a massive cone shape, filled with cream or custard, fruit, ice cream, sauces and even entire slices of cake.  Very much so one of the signature snacks of Harajuku, I find it hard to pay the area a visit without inhaling at least one delicious, fatty crepe.  Don't worry about the calorie count.  After a waltz around Harajuku, you've surely burned enough calories to justify a crepe.  Heck, even if you haven't burned many calories, justify one anyway.  Soooo goood.

Next up on Takeshita is the largest Daiso in Tokyo.  One of the most common 100yen store chains in town, Daiso has pretty much everything for sale.  At the Harajuku location, you'll find 4 whole floors of everything from candies to stationary to wine.  Yep, that's right, wine.


315yen wine (although after the sales tax hike, it would be 324yen a bottle now).  That's a bit more than 100yen, but who'd have thought that you can find full bottles of wine at a dollar store?

Last stop in Harajuku for the tourist-types would be the ever giant Kiddyland, a massive toy store.  A short walk from Takeshita Dori, it's a great place to spend an hour browsing the endless shelves of Hello Kitty and Rilakkuma.

As for food in the area, you won't find much in the immediate vicinity of the park or along Takeshita Dori.  There's a lot of snacky stuff though, so you may want to consider eating a light lunch before arriving and then just have some snacks as you browse and go elsewhere for dinner.  For those who are stuck in the area during mealtime, you'll find some places that offer cheap eats on the upper floors of buildings and along the side streets.


If you're absolutely starved, near the end of Takeshita Dori is a little "Italian" buffet.  It's in the basement of a building, but you'll see their massive fake food displays on street level and it's almost impossible to miss.  Not perfectly authentic, but quite delicious regardless.

You may also want to check out the food court in the So-La-Do mall which is a sizable white building or if you have a sweet tooth, Sweets Paradise, an all you can eat dessert cafe is located here.  Despite the name, they do have savory dishes as well in the form of a small array of different pasta dishes that you can balance out all the cakes and desserts that are offered here.

Now that you know where to ditch your tourist friends for the better half of the day, let's get down to business.  Lolita fashion is SRS BZNZ.


Starting at Meiji Jingu Mae (the Metro station) exit 5, you'll find LaForet just around the corner (behind you) as you reach street level.  Although there are some brands scattered throughout the mall (Jane Marple is on 2F, Emily Temple Cute is on 4F, Algonquins is on B1), the majority of the lolita brands are on floor B1.5.  Alice and the Pirates, Angelic Pretty, Atelier Pierrot (also sells Pina Sweet Collection and Triple Fortune), Baby the Stars Shine Bright, h Naoto, Metamorphose and Putumayo all have stores crammed into the lowest level.   It sounds like it's slightly in the basement, but it feels more like you're in B3 by the time you're all the way down.  Just keep going down until the stairs won't let you go down any further and you'll find yourself surrounded by all the glory of burando.  Most of the major lolita brands with storefronts in Tokyo are all represented here except for Innocent World (which always seems to have their stores stand alone from the other brands and hidden in the upper floors of an inconspicuous building).  Also not found here are Excentrique, Atelier Boz and Moi-Meme-Moitie.  Excentrique and Moitie can be found at Marui Annex in Shinjuku.  Atelier Boz's only remaining Tokyo shop is their flagship shop that's floating somewhere between the intersection of Harajuku, Shinjuku and around the bottom back end of Yoyogi Park which is the bottom half of the massive piece of greenery that Meiji Jingu occupies (don't ask me how to find this store, I have no idea either and the building looks like a cinder block on google street view)...

Anyway, LaForet is the place to one-stop-shop for lolita in Harajuku, but since it's in the middle of the Tokyo street fashion hub, the selection is usually rather picked over.  You can sometimes find some nice stuff hidden in the racks though and from my experiences, I believe the LaForet Atelier Pierrot shop is the one that holds most of the webshop discount items, so you can often find some niiiice items on steep discount.  For lucky pack shoppers, LaForet is also one of the few places that open on New Years Day morning to start the madness instead of staying closed until January 2nd (but I'll save that for another post).

Coming out of LaForet, you have an important decision ahead of you.  Turn left for the Innocent World store?  Or turn right back towards the metro exit corner to head towards the Harajuku Stn end of Takeshita Dori?

If you choose Innocent World, you won't see any signs of it from street level.  It's only a few buildings over, but it's on the 7th floor through a narrow doorway beside a donar kabob stall.  Take the elevator up and you can't miss it.  It's not a particularly busy shop being tucked away and apart from most of the other lolita stores.

On the other side, if you head left out of LaForet (or just follow the directions above to go straight there from the Metro station) and turn the corner to continue following the sidewalk (to walk around the block without crossing any streets), you'll eventually find yourself facing Harajuku Bridge.  If you cross it, you'll find the Meiji Shrine.  If you continue around the block, hanging at Harajuku Bridge, you'll find yourself heading down the street towards Takeshita Dori.  At the base of Takeshita Dori is the "arch".  This, but uh...less Christmas-y outside of year end.

A sea of people is usually present.  On weekends and holidays, it just gets worse.

Immediately past the McDonalds on the left side, you'll find Paris Kids, an inexpensive accessory store.  Most items are 300yen before tax (I guess that would be 324yen including the 8% tax now).  Select items are more expensive, but most of the loot, even a large selection of sterling silver jewelry are fixed at this price.

Almost immediately next to Paris Kids is the Daiso as previously mentioned.  A good place to ditch your non-fashion-loving friends, but also a good place to pick up some vacuum bags so you can stuff more glorious clothing into your suitcase.

As you wander down Takeshita, take a moment to look up once in a while.  There are many stores worth noticing that are above you on the 2nd or 3rd floors.  Bodyline and Closet Child, good stores to visit for those on a budget, are both on upper floors of buildings accessible via staircases on the exterior of their respective buildings.  Bodyline is located at around the mid-way point down Takeshita, just as you pass two crepe stalls on your left at an intersection where the street turns ever so slightly.  You'll notice ornate gold railings running up a curving staircase and at the top, the Bodyline shop.  It used to be a sparsely filled room decorated with large, ornate gold and red furniture, but now it's a tightly packed showroom of the bajillion clothing items that have been pumped out over the years.  A couple buildings past this, you'll find the ever beautiful Liz Lisa store.  On the tables outside the entrance, you can often find discount packs or sets of clothing, even outside of discount season.  Next up is Closet Child.  It takes up residence on the 3 upper floors above Richards, a goth/punk type clothing store.


The first level of CC is the lolita floor, filled with a multitude of Baby the Stars Shine Bright, Innocent World, Metamorphose and all the glory of burando.  The second level is the gothic level.  You'll find the gothic brands like Moitie, Atelier Boz and BPN here along with other not-lolita gothic brands like OzzOn, Algonquins and h. Naoto in droves.  On the top floor, you'll find the otome brands like Emily Temple Cute and a bonanza of Q-Pot accessories.

Although there are 3 levels to Closet Child, don't forget to pay for your purchases on each level. They each have their own cash register and you must pay for your purchases of items from each level on that level.  The one thing they don't separate between the levels are the use of their point cards.  If you're going to do some shopping, be sure to ask for one with your first purchase.  Use the romanji pronounciation "pointo kado" to request one.  They will put down your stamps earned from your first purchase and if you place it down in the tray with your payment for each subsequent purchase, they will continue to add stamps.  Every 1000yen you spend will earn you a stamp and each card will take 50 stamps.  Redeeming 30 stamps will get you a 1000yen discount.  Redeeming a card with a full 50 stamps will get you a 2500yen discount.  That's a nifty 5% back for every 50000yen spent (to fill the card completely).  In the world of lolita, 50000yen goes pretty fast, even when you're shopping the discounts.  For some, ESPECIALLY when you're shopping these fantastic discounts.  There is also a change room on each level where you can ask to try on the clothing before you purchase them.  They hold several large sales each year, but keep in mind that during these sales, the change rooms are usually closed.  This is because the stores get mobbed and they simply don't have the staff or the space to wait on people while each person tries on a bunch of clothing.

There are a number of other stores and shops that are worth taking a look at along Takeshita and throughout the rest of Harajuku.  Take your time and explore a bit.  Some shops like the h. Naoto main shops are nested in the side streets and take a little bit of searching.  I like to leave the wandering for a separate day when there's not too much planned since it's best to check out all sorts of places rather than spend your entire vacation in one neighbourhood.

Area Summary
  • Meiji Shrine, the largest Shinto shrine in Tokyo in the middle of a massive park (Yoyogi Park).
  • Cosplay Sundays on Harajuku Bridge just outside the Meiji Shrine entrance!
  • Lolita/J-fashion heaven.  If you have shopping problems, best to leave your credit card behind.
  • Delicious crepes.  On a budget?  Try Sweet Box's 50yen off coupon that can be used on any item.  Give them a print out or just flash it on your phone when you order.
  • Largest Daiso (100 yen store) in Tokyo.  Simply massive and awesome.
  • Kiddyland has a wild array of toys and cute character goods, many of which you won't find anywhere except in Japan.

Drawbacks
  • Cheap and easy food is not as easy to find.
  • Crazy crowds on weekends and holidays (especially Takeshita Dori).
  • Tired and want to sit down?  Hahahahahaha, good luck.


Shibuya

I honestly don't have too much of an attachment to Shibuya.  It's the gyaru holy grail, but for my interests, it doesn't have too much to offer so this will be pretty brief.

Accessible by Metro via a number of lines.  It is a very important interchange station, joining the ends of the yellow Metro Ginza line (convenient if you want to minimize transfers and you're coming from the Asakusa/Ueno/Akihabara end), the purple Metro Hanzomon line and the brown Metro Fukutoshin line with the JR Yamanote line that circles Tokyo.


Ikebukuro has the world's busiest train station.  Shibuya has the world's busiest intersection.  Immediately outside of Shibuya station, you'll find two of the must see sights, scramble crossing (the aforementioned busiest intersection) and Hachiko.


The true legend of Hachiko is about a loyal dog who used to dutifully go to the station to wait for his owner's return from work every evening.  Even after the owner died, Hachiko continued to go to the station to wait for his owner every day for another 9 years before he too passed away.  The unwavering loyalty that Hachiko showed towards his beloved owner is commemorated by a life size bronze statue that is one of the most popular meeting spots in town.  It's also a great place to people watch.  Shibuya is known for fashion, and if you keep watch, you'll see many young people dressed in various local fashion styles, including the well known Shibuya Gal (you get 1 guess for where that's from) which is actually an array of fashion styles, though what they do have in common is usually big hair, loads of make up, sparkling nails and some stellar high heels.

As you stand looking at Hachiko, you'll also be in the presence of what looks like one mess of a massive intersection.  This is Shibuya's famous scramble crossing.  During the daytime, it's just a big intersection, but if you are here during rush hour, oh boy.  For the handheld gamers, this is the location of the main screen for the NDS game It's a Beautiful World (aka The World Ends with You in western markets).

Beyond this, if you look across the street and slightly to the left (immediate left of the big glass Tsutaya building which currently plays host to a Starbucks on the second floor) while facing the scramble crossing from in front of the station, you'll find Center Gai (literally Center Street) with a small arch marking it's start.  It's a usually busy pedestrian shopping street.  I don't feel that it's anything terribly special, but my fashion interests mostly center around Harajuku.  It's a nice area to take a stroll and look around though.  If you look a bit further left of Center Gai, you'll see the Gyaru/Gal mall, Shibuya 109.  This is the shopping mecha of the Gyaru style in Tokyo.  If you have any interest in Japanese street fashion at all, it's worth a visit.  If not for the stores and clothing, it's worth checking out for the array of highly made up girls in their stylish outfits.  If you're more interested in men's fashion, turn right outside Shibuya station and go the opposite direction from 109 for 109 Men's, a rare spot of purely men's street fashion.  Whether you want to look a little stylish, or if you want to look entirely like a host, you'll find some fantastic men's fashion items here.

Standard shopping aside, if you go down the street to the right of Center Gai (immediately right of the big glass building with the Starbucks), then take a left at the 01City building (not to be confused with the plethora of other 0101, read as "Marui", department stores), you'll find yourself facing what I like to think is the cutest Disney Store ever.


Pst, look down at the base of the big, black tower of doom (which is actually a theater plus restaurants).


The insides are just as cute as the store front, with many areas themed to various Disney movies.


The entire district is basically just shopping to me.  You'll find a wide array of shops, including a massive Loft (a crafts and home goods store that occupies several stories of a large building) and a Mandarake (a 2nd hand anime goods resale store).


That's about all  you'll get out of me for Shibuya.  Sorry.  I'll try to update this to be a little more exciting later.

Area Summary

  • Hachiko and Shibuya Scramble Crossing, a true Japanese tale of loyalty and the busiest intersection in the world.
  • Setting for the NDS game It's a Wonderful World (aka The World Ends with You) for some bonus nerd cred.
  • Shibuya 109 and 109 Men's, popular shopping spots for Japanese street fashion.  Especially good for those interested in Japanese street fashion, but want something a bit more everyday wearable even by western standards.
  • Lots and lots of varied shopping.

Drawbacks

  • I don't find the area too interesting?  It's not exactly lacking in attractions, but it just doesn't have the same extremely Japanese culture experience as some other areas I've covered, whether those experiences are traditional or very modern, hobby-related experiences.


Nakano


Nerd heaven #2!  Nakano Broadway (a large covered shopping street with a mall of 2nd hand anime stores attached) is basically the Pacific Mall of 2nd hand anime goods.  Nakano Stn is the west most end of the blue Tozai line on the Metro.  In the past, upon deboarding the train, there was a 50% chance that I would walk in entirely the wrong direction and wind up extremely confused when I couldn't find the entrance to the shopping street.  Recently, a direct exit from the station has been created that exits directly to the entrance of Nakano Broadway.  This with the decorated entrance makes it impossible to miss now.

The actual shopping street is a regular shopping street with restaurants, generic clothing shops, drug stores and all that jazz.  I've never made it to the anime resale stores near the far end of the shopping street without being distracted some at least one store in between.  It's a good opportunity to grab a snack from one of the bakeries along the way so you're re-energized.

The entrance to the mall is via an escalator and some hidden stairs.  They're right next to the Nakano Broadway information booth.  The stair area also lead to the Seiyu on the basement level.  There's a nice bookstore on the 2nd floor and there are numerous Mandarake's and resale stores.


Most of the resale stores focus on arcade prizes (never sold via retail) and gachapons thought they have plenty of other 2nd hand merchandise as well.  Mandarake has several stores here.  Each has a different focus; used manga, doujinshi (fan comics, often yaoi and hentai), vintage toys, collectible dolls, etc.  There are a few more on the 3rd floor, but the bulk is on the 2nd.  If you're after a bargain, you may have to poke around a little.  These stores are crammed full of merchandise and goodies so you never know where you'll find a magically marked down rare item.


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On your way out, right near the bottom of the up escalator/stairs (you'll have to take the elevator or stairs down) is my favourite conveyor belt sushi restaurant...the one that delivers your food on a tiny shinkensen.  The food is standard, the cost on the low end and they offer both food off a standard convoyor belt or via shinkensen.  Each seat has a touch screen that you can order off of.  The menu is bilingual, but the best is that every item also comes with pictures.  It's extremely foreigner-friendly.  It also gives the option of requesting no wasabi be placed inside the sushi.  Unlike sushi here, the wasabi is not offered separately, but rather, a small dab is smeared on each piece.  There are some types that don't come with wasabi (ie. inari-zushi, sushi rice in a sweet marinated fried tofu skin pouch; tamago, sweet rolled egg on sushi rice, and most varieties that are made with cooked fish), but the rest will all have a small hidden smear.  Anything you order off the touch screen will be delivered from the kitchen in the back via tiny shinkensen.  It will stop right in front of your seat as the delivery train is linked to the touch screen at each seat.  When you've removed your plates from the train, press the little lit up button above the train to send it back to the kitchen so they can serve the next order in the queue.

(Yes, train sushi totally deserved the biggest paragraph in my Nakano section.)

Area Summary

  • All the 2nd hand anime/fandom stores in one place.
  • (Yet another) Seiyu in the basement.
  • Convenient area for general (every day) shopping and convenient+inexpensive restaurants.
  • A nice place to spend some time during periods of bad weather.
  • Accessible by Tokyo Metro with direct covered access from the train station (so the basement dwellers can protect their skin from every scrap of UV light).

Drawbacks

  • Subway/train access isn't the most convenient.  Not directly accessible by JR and Metro requires a slight detour from the other popular destinations on the west side of town.
  • Not as massive as it once was.

 

That's all.  Hope someone got some use out of my inane rambling.  If you enjoyed my guide and wish to show your gratitude, I accept tips in the form of cat memes, postcards and corn potage hard candy from Daiso (you have no idea how much I love these, and how much pain it causes me that I can't buy them anywhere at home).

2 comments:

  1. Hi, may I know which building of Shinjuku Yodobashi (and which level) is the gachapon machines located?

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    1. Sorry about the extremely delayed response. The Shinjuku West Yodobashi actually removed the gachapon from the location it used to be in (in the game building) and moved it right across the street into a small, but dedicated location that has a few gachapon machines in the tiny storefront at ground level and the bulk of the machines in the basement. The game building still has a large row of gachapon machines outside the length of the store which is a great indicator that you're in the right location, since the Shinjuku West Yodobashi is comprised of so many buildings within those few blocks.

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