Monday, April 20, 2009

Japan '08: Nakano

Nakano is a shopping and residential area on the western fringes of Tokyo proper. It was a bit out of the way for me, but I made two trips there, lured primarily by the shopping opportunities.
It's common in Japan for political candidates to harangue the voters from street corners, using vans with loudspeakers. Everyone seems to ignore them. As near as I could make out, this fellow in front of the Nakano train station was concerned about the recession and the evil influence of the American economy. My friends and I listened in while eating tasty imagawa yaki (cakes with red bean paste) from a store behind the van.

Nakano Broadway is a multistory shopping mall at the far end of the Sun Mall covered shopping arcade, just outside of the north exit from the JR Nakano Station. The first floor is conventional, but the upper floors are dominated by anime, manga, figure and costume shops.

The Mandarake Main Branch is located in Nakano Broadway, where it opened way back in 1987. Mandarake Nakano is fragmented into more than a dozen specialty shops scattered around the mall; this is the used manga outlet, which is the heart of the operation. In general, Mandarake and the other anime-related stores in Nakano Broadway seem to focus on classic material and used goods, compared to the trendier shops in Akihabara. Nakano predates Akiba as an otaku destination, after all.

Nakano Broadway seems to be in the midst of a decline, as was mentioned in one of the episodes of the TV anime Mahoutsukai ni Taisetsu na Koto: Natsu no Sora last year. In the darker corners of the upper floors, there were quite a few storefronts that were permanently shuttered. Mandarake itself looked about as busy as when I was last there, in the 1990s, anyway.

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