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Nakano Broadway sells nothing useful. Like Akihabara, its east Tokyo rival, it sells large quantities of bizarre manga and anime spin-off novelty items. Unlike Akihabara, which at least manages to sell some useful things, (TVs, cameras, computers, etc) in Nakano its all useless. Much of the bin fodder they peddle isn’t even related to manga or anime. Yet still, every weekend its packed with people emptying their wallets. It makes for a fascinating afternoon wander.
Just a 5 minute ride from Shinjuku station, the first place to head for in Nakano is Mandarake. Its a huge store which spreads its tentacles along 3 of the 4 floors of the Nakano Broadway complex. It boasts stocks of over 100,000 products. Basically, Mandarake sells anything they can get away with sticking a price label on.
The sheer variety of utter crap on sale is breath-taking. Small scale plastic model airport meals sell for 1000 yen (about 7 pounds). You can pay 20,000 yen for a fading picture card of a long retired sumo wrestler you’ve never heard of. And if you’re a fan of 5 inch high plastic models of purple haired unfeasibly large breasted girls wearing intergalactic high school uniforms you’ll be in heaven.
You don’t have to be an otaku, an obsessive geek, or be particularly knowledgeable about manga or anime to enjoy Nakano Broadway. As I found out, there is enough fun to be had just looking at what other people spend their money on.
In one store, amongst the jigsaws, cosplay outfits and anime figurines, I saw a bit of 20,000 yen software on sale that you use to translate your dogs barks into Japanese speech. It’s a ridiculous technology and I don’t even own or like dogs, yet I thought about buying it. Such is the danger of these trash shops. In the end, I was happy to escape that particular store only 2,000 yen lighter after buying a miniature Lego Japanese Tree Frog.
The highlight of my afternoon came as I was leaving: a huge collection of ornate 50 yen fake food erasers. Overcome by their fragile charms I was tempted to buy the whole lot. It was only the thought that I never actually use a pencil, let alone an eraser, that restricted me to just buying the green tea and tuna sushi models. They are the perfect souvenirs of an extraordinary place.