The Akihabara district in the Chiyoda Ward of Tokyo draws millions of visitors from all over the world for its vast array of electronics/ appliance shops, anime/manga shops and maid cafes. But did you know that there is another lesser known neighborhood just northwest of Shinjuku called Nakano City which has just as much to offer in the way of Japanese pop culture merchandise and is less frequented by non-Japanese?
The main draw in Nakano City is Nakano Broadway, a multi-level shopping mall famous for its many stores offering anime and idol related goods as well as game consoles, toys, video games, souvenirs, clothes, shoes, second hand goods and even groceries. Just a five minute train ride from Shinjuku via the JR Chuo Line, this four-level shopping mall is an otaku (Japanese term for people with obsessive interests, commonly the anime and manga fandom) heaven.
The second and third levels are primarily dedicated to the anime and idol related shops while the ground level houses the stores selling clothing, shoes and second hand merchandise. Mandrake, a popular Japanese manga, anime and doujinshi (amateur manga publications) shop occupies much of the real estate here. The basement level has a marketplace offering everything from fruits and vegetables to meat and seafood. You will also find numerous restaurants offering cheap and tasty yakitori (grilled chicken skewers), okonomiyaki (a Japanese savory pancake containing a variety of ingredients including pork) and ramen (noodle soup dish) all for around ¥1,000. If you happen to leave room for dessert, try the eight layer/ flavor softo cream at Daily Chiko. Here you will find unusual flavors like murasaki imo (purple potato) and various soda flavors. Aside from the soft serve ice cream, they also sell an udon (a type of thick wheat flour noodle) dish for only ¥180!
If you miss the maid cafes of Akihabara, don’t fret. Kuroneko, a maid cafe where the girls wear cat ears is just the thing. You will find one Kuroneko cafe on the first floor and another on the second floor of Nakano Broadway. Patrons can enjoy all you can drink beverages for ¥1,000 for 30 minutes.
Leading up to the mall you will come across a 740-foot long covered shopping arcade with a variety of shops including restaurants, cafes, jewelers, pharmacies and boutiques. It is a great place where one can switch gears from an adventure in shopping to an adventure in gastronomy. There are also many little food alleys lined with restaurants and izakayas (a type of Japanese drinking establishment that serves food) surrounding the mall and arcade, which offer a variety of different dishes to sample. You can practically spend an entire day exploring the area!
Where Akihabara is more or less a tourist attraction, Nakano is a place where you can find those very rare pop culture items not available anywhere else and get an opportunity to shop where the locals shop for such items.