I remember as a kid having to sneak downstairs at 5am Saturday morning in order to watch the Dragon Quest anime on television. We’ve come a long way since then. Anime these days is everywhere. It’s global and mainstream and in some ways even inescapable. So now you’ve decided to take a trip to Japan to immerse yourself on its home turf; where should you go? Hopefully this guide can help you with that. Or not, I don’t know…
Akihabara – This is probably the most popular destination in the country to find all things mainstream anime. You can find merchandise for the most current anime, as well as a myriad of shops for manga and anime, toys, etc. The following are some shops to check out, but you should be wandering the entirety of the neighborhood and check out every single shop that piques your interest. But for brevity, we’ll just say these are my top picks.
- Radio Kaikan – The first stop for anyone visiting Akiba. Located right across from the “Electric Town” exit of Akihabara Station, Radio Kaikan consists of 10 floors of various shops selling everything. I mainly go for the newest figure releases.
- Amiami – There’s a massive Amiami on the 4th floor of Radio Kaikan for all your figure needs. But if you wanted more selection, continue onto Amiami 2.
- Animate – A general anime store full of manga, anime, and all things related.
- Mandarake – Their Akiba branch is 8 floors of everything. They have a pretty amazing section for retro toys and second-hand merchandise. Their flagship store is in Nakano Broadway and there’s also a smaller Shibuya branch too.
- Super Potato – Retro gaming shop full of second-hand systems and games from your childhood. Well, my childhood, maybe not yours. I don’t know how old you are.
- Sega Akihabara – I don’t know if I prefer one arcade over another. They’re all pretty fun to me, but the Sega Akihabara 1 does have an adjacent taiyaki stand that sells taiyaki in the shape of controllers and stuff. So that’s cool.
- Yodobashi Camera – If it’s Gunpla you’re looking for, Yodobashi is probably your best bet. They have a massive selection of kits, along with a sizable toy section in general. Also, various electronics and household items too, if you needed rice cookers alongside those Gundam kits.
- Gachapon Hall – Gachapon are small vending machine capsules that have a variety of toys and figures inside. They’re fun and of surprisingly high quality. You’ll spot alot of Gachapon machines all over the neighborhood (starting with Akihabara station itself), but come here for a massive variety of different capsule vending machines.
Anime Japan – Less a sight and more an event, this entry was added with the friend that I’m writing this guide for in mind. Anime Japan 2020 is actually taking place from March 21st until the 24th at the Tokyo Big Sight on Odaiba. I’ve never attended as I’ve never been in Japan in March. But it’s the largest anime convention in the world, and looks absolutely amazing.
Godzilla – Popping over the side of Toho Tower in Shinjuku, Godzilla rawr! I stayed at the Hotel Gracery on a past trip, so I got to take breakfast with the dude.
Nakano Broadway – The other major area in Tokyo to find anime goods. I’m going to go against the grain and say that I prefer Akihabara. You can probably find better bargains in Nakano Broadway. But if you’re specifically interested in the newest merchandise and largest selection (in addition to the arcades and various other weird shit), Akiba is still the better option. People want to hate on Akiba because it’s gotten pretty tourist-centric, and it has. But the selection and variety is still amazing.
Ghibli Clock – For a taste of Ghibli a bit closer to central Tokyo, the amazing Ghibli Clock in the Shiodome complex is worth a visit. Though not from any specific anime, it was designed by Hayao Miyazaki and looks straight out of Howl’s Moving Castle. The clock also comes alive with music and moving parts four times a day, so check the times. There’s an NTV souvenir shop nearby as well for Ghibli souvenirs.
Gundam Front Odaiba – The biggest reason to head to Odaiba is of course the full-size RX-0 Gundam Unicorn. It transforms between two modes, and there are light shows and performances at night to accompany it. There’s also the massive Gundam Base inside Diver City that showcases the history of Gunpla, past Gundam Model Champions, and plenty of Gundam kits.
⇲ Gundam Base Odaiba
Naruto and Boruto Shinobi Zato – Did you know there’s a Naruto World? Me neither, but here we are. An amusement park dedicated to Naruto! It’s located in the Awaji Island Anime Park. I’ve personally never been, but Paolo from Tokyo has.
Evangelion World Fuji-Q – A (relatively) short train ride from Tokyo is Fuji-Q Highland, an amusement park near the base of Mount Fuji. And inside Fuji-Q is Evangelion World! Which is cool and all if you ever wanted to pretend to be a mopey potato sack with daddy issues.
Evangelion Nagoya – Promoting the final Evangelion Rebuild movie, there’s a 6 meter tall Eva-01 standing in the Global Gate complex until the end of March. It’s not quite full-sized, but then again a full-sized Eva is supposedly 80 meters high. So, you know…maybe 6 meters is ok.
Satsuki and Mei’s House – I don’t personally know anyone who doesn’t love Totoro. If you’ve ever wanted to roam their countryside house, there’s a fully realized house in the Aichi Memorial Park in Nagoya.
Denden Town Osaka – Osaka’s “Akihabara”, full of anime and gaming shops, as well as local branches of Tokyo shops such as Animate and Mandarake.
Gundam RX-78 Yokohama – Ok, this hasn’t opened yet. But it will later this year!