Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Day 10: In the Presence of Merchandise Part 1

Due to exhaustion from the previous day’s climb, I woke up at 9:30, which was still an hour earlier than everyone else, but considerably later than my normal time. We headed off to Nakano Broadway almost immediately, stopping briefly at the supermarket to pick up bread for breakfast, which we ate on the twenty-minute train journey.

Nakano Broadway is similar to Akihabara, in that it is an otaku paradise, selling anime merchandise, electronics, CDs, DVDs and so on. It is, however, much less polished, much less touristy and significantly cheaper than Akihabara. Whilst Akihabara will have all of the latest and shiniest merchandise from the most recent and most popular shows, Nakano Broadway is full of dusty boxes and cases containing cut-price second-hand or defect figurines and manga volumes from series that aired five or six years ago.
Nakano Broadway
Nakano Broadway itself wasn’t too hard to find, but it was about ten minutes walk away from the station. It was certainly more tucked-away than Akihabara, on the second floor of the shopping arcade. It took us a while to find anything. Although a figurine shop was of some interest, many of the shops were packed with old miscellaneous junk.

Eventually we stumbled across fantastic doujin store. Unlike Akihabara, where doujins were almost all ¥600 or more, everything here was between ¥100 and ¥300. While Henry and Yingke didn’t have all that much interest in browsing for doujins featuring their favourite series, Mark and I eagerly began searching through the racks. This was a rather more time-consuming operation than it had been in Akihabara, however. The doujins were sorted by circle rather than by series, and none of us were familiar with many doujin circles. We therefore had to browse dozens of racks packed with books in the hope of finding one or two with series that we knew. An hour or so of searching yielded a reasonable number of successful finds, however, and having paid for our very reasonably priced books, we headed back out into the Broadway.
This wall just seemed to be there for anyone to draw on it.
It's worth viewing it in full size - bits of it are quite
When we had finished looking around that floor, it was almost lunch time. We initially looked for a curry place that I had had recommended, but were unable to find it, and eventually settled on the cheap and easy option of udon. Mine was fairly filling, but the shop next door to the Udon counter was selling the most amazing ice-creams I had ever seen. The ice cream part was much taller than the cone itself, and came in swirls of whichever flavour combination you asked for. I avoided the experimental ‘green’ option for once, and went for chocolate and vanilla, which tasted wonderful. Sadly, I don't have a photograph of it, but it baffles me why ice-creams that awesome aren't sold here. Perhaps there's a business opportunity there.

After lunch, we headed back upstairs, this time looking to explore the highest floor of Nakano Broadway. This time, results came much more quickly. Within minutes of reaching the top floor, I had located a Tokiha Mai figurine at just under ¥2000, and a little more searching in a nearby shop yielded a Senjougahara figurine for under ¥1000. While I agonised over the decision of whether to buy one or both of the figurines, Yingke made the decision to go back downstairs (accompanied by Henry) and purchase some Touhou nendoroids he had seen.
A nendoroid is a type of small figurine with a disproportionately
large head.  I don't think they're very appealing, but
some people find them adorable.
I eventually decided on buying both figurines, which was really inevitable, but I wanted to at least pretend to myself that I was thinking about saving money. Mark and I waited around the figurine shop for a bit to see whether Yingke and Henry would come back up to us, then decided to head down to see them.

This proved a rather more difficult operation than we had anticipated. Whilst we knew the route back to the stairs, it was impossible to actually follow it without being distracted by the multitude of shops selling anime merchandise. We ended up going into five or six, and spending five to ten minutes in each. By the time we did finally reach the first figurine shop where we knew Yingke and Henry had gone, they had predictably left.
Are there any circumstances in which you would pay more
than £200 for a playing card? I thought not...

What followed was about twenty minutes of searching for each other. There were multiple sets of steps connecting the two levels of Nakano Broadway, and could probably have kept going around in circles forever had we not had the bright idea of one person staying in the same place and the other searching. By this method, Yingke and Henry eventually ran into Mark, who was standing still at the bottom of a flight of stairs while I searched the upper floor, and we were thus reunited.

We had been planning to go to Washinomiya Shrine next, but forces outside our control (rain, the length of the trip, a desire to buy more cut-price anime merchandise) prevented us from doing so. We decided to stay in Nakano Broadway, and doing so turned out to be a good plan. We went back around the top floor, this time making a more thorough search, and it didn’t take us long to find a CD and DVD store.

It was almost exclusively selling anime CDs and DVDs, which didn’t stop me subtly hunting for an Olivia CD. What I found, however, was just as good. In a corner of the store near the bottom of the rack were two Maria-sama ga Miteru drama CDs. I was tempted by both, but one was standalone, while the other was the third in a sequence. Even though I wouldn’t have been able to understand it anyway, I wouldn’t have wanted the third part in a sequence without having the first or second, so I ended up just buying the standalone CD. Yingke similarly located three Aria drama CDs. We were feeling pretty good about having resisted temptations and only spent around ¥4000 between us in that particular shop, when Henry broke off from our group just as we were leaving and headed back into the shop, mentioning as he did so that he was “just going to pick up the Shana box set”. The Shana box set was ¥12000.

Leaving the store, we headed on in the direction of a nearby Mandrake, a shop selling manga. The range was fairly impressive but, well aware of the amount we had bought by this point, we only bought a couple of volumes each.
The figurines purchased at Nakano Broadway. The nendoroids
belong to Henry and Yingke, while the taller ones at the
back are mine.
Finally, staggering under the weight of our purchases, we headed back to our hostel. It was the rush hour, and the train was packed to bursting, but we somehow made it. After an hour or so of playing around with our purchases and taking photographs, we headed back out again. Henry was in favour of the Chinese restaurant again, but I made an eventually successful push for a curry udon restaurant in Ueno.

Unfortunately, another disagreement ensued when it emerged that every other member of our party objected to either curry, udon or both. Defeated, I agreed to the grill restaurant nearby as a better alternative than Chinese food for the second night in a row. Amusingly, I ended up being the most satisfied with the food we were served. The steak with egg and onion sauce was absolutely delicious – indeed, I would go as far as to say that it was the nicest ‘British meal’ I’ve ever eaten. English chefs should be ashamed if the Japanese are capable of outdoing them so easily.
Steak, egg and onion sauce. Delicious.
Yingke and Henry weren’t filled by the meal, however, so they went into the Chinese place for a second course on our way back. Mark and I returned to our rooms, meanwhile, and started a second long discussion of When the Seagulls Cry, to the amused exasperation of Yingke and Henry when they returned an hour later to find us still coming up with and dismissing theories.  

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