Who Needs Akihabara When There’s Nakano Broadway?

Aaron Baggett

This might come as a shock to some of you, but I’m considered a geek in certain social circles. I’m not sure if it’s because of my desire to insert Terminator 2 into every conversation or my spot-on impression of a lightsaber, but people everywhere just seem to label me as such. Personally, I don’t see it. Usually I just blow it off. Other times I point at them and yell “Expecto patronum!”

Akihabara, the so called “otaku haven” to idol chasers, anime aficionados and game addicts the world over, today feels more like a tourist trap than anything. However, if I really did want to splurge on that high-kick posed Chun-Li action figure, I’d make my way to Nakano Broadway. It’s massive emporium for all things geek. Overstocked with anime, collectibles, tech and all the niche stuff you can find in Akihabara, only condensed into one single place.

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And who doesn't love niche?
And who doesn’t love niche? | Photo by Aaron Baggett

Nakano Broadway has really ousted Akihabara as the go-to place for finding deals on brand goods, cheap knock-offs, and tech parts. The first time you visit you will be overwhelmed by the number of shops and awkward anime girl ads posted up everywhere. Akihabara has that stuff too of course, but Nakano Broadway really feels like it caters to your specific taste.

Every shop is special or unique. Meanwhile, the main strip at Akihabara is filled with duty-free stores and game shops with fixed prices all down the line, and unhappy looking maids that will get real—and real fast—if you even think about taking their picture.

maid cafe nakano broadway
Why won’t you love me?! | Photo by James Willamor used under CC

And if you’re looking for old-school items, don’t even bother with Akihabara outside of the Mandarake store. On the other hand, Nakano Broadway is a nostalgia goldmine. I am an old. I have no idea what a Naruto is or how someone can make a show about Clorox Bleach. I asked my high school students if they liked YuYu Hakusho or Tenchi Muyo and they just stare at me and blink.

I mention that swimming anime or one of the other hundred exaggerated sports anime out there and they’re suddenly the most attentive English students in Japan. I’m probably just blissfully uncool, but tell me this, dear reader: Would an uncool guy have a Yusuke Urameshi charm on his iPhone? I rest my case. Speaking of which, do you have any idea how long that would have taken me to find in Akihabara?

Photo by Aaron Baggett

Speaking of Mandarake, Japan’s largest distributor of collectibles, Nakano Broadway is the franchise flagship. While there is only one Mandarake amidst the dozens of Softmaps in Akihabara, there are 26 Mandarake specialty shops making up all four floors of Nakano Broadway from sports memorabilia to Star Wars. And the retail corner located on the 3rd floor in particular is a real sight to behold.

Thousands of people buy and trade anime, manga and collectibles here every week. It’s like an otaku version of the Tsukiji Fish Market. If you’re looking for something in particular, there is a pretty good chance you’ll find it in one of the Mandarake at Nakano Broadway.

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You really don’t need to be an otaku to enjoy Nakano Broadway. The basement, first floor and alleyways around Nakano Broadway are packed with normie stuff from Uniqlo to izakayas. The famous ice cream shop Tokudai Soft Cream found in the basement is also worth a mention for its “eight layer challenge.”

As the name implies, it’s an eight-layer tower of soft-serve ice cream on a cone all for the cheapo price of ¥390. So whether you consider yourself a full-fledged otaku or you’re just interested in the curiosities or others, or even if you just want a massive ice cream–induced brain freeze, Nakano Broadway has a little something for everyone.

Photo by eerkmans used under CC
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Tags: Akihabara, Anime, Ice Cream, Manga, Nakano, Nakano Broadway, Otaku, Ufo, Videogames
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Name: Nakano Broadway
Location(s): Nakano,
Access: 5 minute walk from Nakano Station
Business hours: Most stores are open 12:00 to 20:00
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10 Responses to “Who Needs Akihabara When There’s Nakano Broadway?”

  1. Avatar
    Scotty Luther King October 13, 2012

    I live nearby in Nerima and I have never heard of this place. Now I have to check it out.

  2. Avatar

    Thanks for the heads up, Aaron. After all of my years in Japan, I have to say that I agree with you on Akihabara with it being an Otaku haven. Now, Nakano Broadway is something I’ll have to check out, especially for a cheap 80’s Gremlin backpack. Wonderful article, a pleasure as always.

  3. Avatar

    Don’t tell people about Nakano Broadway, Its better without all the tourists!

    • Avatar
      CheapoGreg October 18, 2012

      Such is the power of Tokyo Cheapo that I’m sorry to say it will be swamped with tourists in no time 🙂

  4. Avatar
    Poofy & Boofer February 14, 2014

    Wait! I know this is a really old post but I hope I’ll still get a response. Where exactly can I get Yuyu Hakusho merchandise? My partner and I will be having our very first trip to Japan this coming March and getting anything Yu yu Hakusho-related (specifically Kurama. Really.) was at the top of my to-do list. Hanami is 2nd. This is serious stuff guys. You don’t need to lecture me about Japan being way much more than that because I know that. And Yu Yu will still be my priority. Heck I’m even planning to visit Kurama mountain and Mt Hiei just because of Yu yu. Will I see Yu Yu merch in Nakano Broadway?

  5. Avatar

    I do not agree. I love borth places but Akiba just has more variety and is bigger. I never felt ripped off, I saw some cheap games, and especially figures! And I got a picture with two street maids. And maybe I’m just THAT weird.

    Btw, what’s the reason for the text having a line through it?

  6. Avatar

    I just went and it was pretty cool. I had no idea that if I’d just gone a little further than I usually go to eat, I’d find lots of old figurines for nerds.

    Plus, I go to Akiba mainly for the hardcore electronic geekery and Nakano Broadway doesn’t have that.

  7. Avatar

    uhhhhh why on earth would you take a photo of a maid when they’ve said that they don’t want to take a pic with you (and probs don’t want secret photos taken behind their backs)?

    • Avatar
      CheapoGreg December 1, 2014

      You’re asking why we took an anonymous photo of the back of a maid? Really?

    • Avatar
      Brandon A English January 17, 2015

      This is why: because they will NOT pose in Akihabara without being paid for it. Note my two pictures below, from Akihabara in November: first one is paid maid cafe and the other is outside. Even in the cafe, they wouldn’t allow me to take any pics without paying, and even then I had to use their crappy camera instead of my DSLR!!

      It isn’t about preference, dude, it’s about OKANE!

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