Ikebukuro is sometimes labelled “Akiba for girls”, but that’s only half-right. While the area is riddled with some of the best and largest doujinshi shops in Tōkyō, it’s also home to Animate’s flagship store and head office. Yep, eight floors of the best Anime and Manga merchandise available in Tōkyō.
Ikebukuro’s also excellent for second-hand goods. Books, tankōbon, costumes, figurines, DVDs, CDs, bonus goods (those magazine freebies), models… There are several K-Books outlets here, a Mandarake, and a Comic Toranoana to namedrop a handful. Most of these shops are on a street nicknamed Otome (“Maiden”) Road alongside the Toyota Amlux showroom and opposite one of Sunshine City’s entrances. The Comic Toranoana is the other side of Sunshine City, down a seedy backstreet littered with love hotels and groping bars.
The Japanese have an attitude to second-hand goods that I find refreshing. They seem to believe that if they’re going to hand something in to a shop to be sold as used, it’d better damnwell be as close to mint condition as humanly possible. My lesson was learned the hard way: after punting full price on some art books I’d been looking for, I found them second-hand in Ikebukuro for a third to a quarter of the price. I even picked up a copy of a book that was only weeks old, a collection of cover art from Comic Megastore (that’s a manga porno mag, if you’re interested) for only 600円 – cover price 2,762円 before tax. And, no, the pages were not stuck together, you filthy animal :p
So before you rush to Akihabara to buy your artbooks, manga goodies, and other geeky stuff, give Otome Road a go. Things could cost you far less than you’ve budgeted for.
Visiting Otome Road:
Well, this one’s… complex. If you know an easier way, please leave it in the comments.
Head to Ikebukuro Station and leave via the East exit, number 35. Follow the wide main street away from Seibu and the train station and you’ll get to a massive intersection with a Lotteria on the corner. Cross the road here, and continue in the direction of the crossing – you should pass a Sanrio shop selling lots of Hello Kitty goods. Continue onwards until you reach Sunshine City and Tokyu Hands. Click here to see the route so far on Google Maps.
Use the escalator next to Tokyu Hands to head down into Sunshine City. Follow the travelators past the Toyota Amlux centre. You’ll reach another Sunshine City entrance and a concierge desk staffed by a couple of very helpful ladies, so you can always ask them for help if you’re lost. By the concierge desk are escalators heading back upwards. Take these, and you’ll be back at street level. Doing all this enables you to safely avoid the extremely busy expressway and its accompanying noise and fumes.
Turn left and exit Sunshine City. You’ll be facing Animate, but you need to turn right and follow the main road to a safe crossing point, then come back again on the other side of the road. Crossing right here isn’t advised, as this road has very heavy, fast-flowing traffic at almost all times. This is where you will exit and cross the road.
This is Otome road: from Animate, back down to that crossing, then further along the main road on that side there are another couple of massive K-Books outlets and a Mandarake, so don’t just give up once you’ve done the Sunshine City stretch.
I’ve actually tried finding Otome Road without cutting through Sunshine City, but I always get lost attempting it. It’s a major traffic intersection, and once you’re off the shop-filled streets it’s easy to go completely the wrong way!
Comic Toranoana is between Ikebukuro Station and Sunshine City. Turn right at the KFC so that Cinema Sunshine is behind you, and head down until you find a large, yellow-fronted building on your left (opposite the Napoli Love Hotel’s red signs). Da-daaa! Easy! And here’s the map.