Who Needs Akihabara When You Got Nakano Broadway?

Aaron Baggett
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Photo by Danny Choo used under CC

This might come as a shock to some of you, but I’m considered a geek in certain social circles. I don’t know if it’s because of my analytical thoughts on Terminator vs. Robocop or my spot on impression of a light saber, but people just seem to really like casting that label on me. Personally, I don’t see it. Usually I just blow it off. Other times I point at them and yell “expecto patronum!” Besides, I don’t even like Akihabara, the so called “otaku haven” to idol chasers, anime aficionados, game addicts, and people willing to pay money to rest their head on a strangers lap. I’ve always preferred 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 big shopping mall.

And who doesn't love niche?
And who doesn’t love niche?

I used to really like Akihabara, and it can be great for finding cheap knock-offs and tech parts. The first time you visit you’re overwhelmed by the number of shops and awkward anime girl billboards everywhere. But after making the trek to Akiba Town so many times, it’s really lost its muster. Today, Akihabara feels more like a tourist trap while Nakano Broadway feels like it really caters to your taste. Every shop is special or unique. Meanwhile the main strip of Akihabara is filled with duty-free stores that rip you off, game shops with fixed prices all down the line, and maids that refuse to take a picture with you. Even though I asked really politely and you still wouldn’t do it!

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

Not only that, but if you’re looking for old school items, don’t even try Akihabara outside of the Mandarake store. On the other hand, Nakano Broadway is a nostalgia goldmine. I have no idea what a Naruto is or how someone can make a show about Clorox Bleach. I ask my high school students if they like YuYu Hakusho or Tenchi Muyo and they just stare at me like The Children of The Corn. I mention Yokai Watch and they’re suddenly the most attentive English students in Japan. I don’t know if I’m just old or blissfully uncool. Probably both. Either way, Nakano Broadway has all the oldies. You know how long it would have taken me to find a Yusuke Urameshi charm in Akihabara?

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Speaking of Mandarake, Japan’s largest distributor of collectibles, Nakano Broadway is the store’s flag ship. While there is only one Mandarake amidst the dozens of Softmaps in Akihabara, 26 Mandarake specialty shops make up all four floors of Nakano Broadway from sports memorabilia to Star Wars. Their main office is even located on the top floor. 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 Mandarake.

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You don’t even need to be an otaku to enjoy Nakano broadway. The basement, first floor and alleyways around Nakano Broadway are packed with “normal” stuff from Uniqlo to Izakayas. Also worth mentioning is the famous ice cream shop Tokudai Soft Cream found in the basement. It makes the trip to Nakano Broadway worth it alone 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 390yen. 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.

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Photo by eerkmans used under CC
Name: Nakano Broadway
Location(s): Nakano,
Access: 5 minute walk from Nakano Station
Business hours: Most stores are open 12:00 to 20:00
Places Mentioned

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11 Responses to “Who Needs Akihabara When You Got Nakano Broadway?”

  1. Scotty Luther King

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

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

    • CheapoGreg

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

  4. Poofy & Boofer

    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. 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. 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. 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)?

    • CheapoGreg

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

    • Brandon A English

      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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