Hello! This is Ayumi, otaku writer for MANGA.TOKYO!
If you’ve ever been to Japan, I’m sure you were awed by the number of anime shops you stumbled upon. And if you are planning to go to Japan in the future, be warned: There are SO MANY anime shops around. So many…
I’ve been one of those lost otaku souls, wondering around aimlessly, not sure which shop to choose. I don’t want you to go through the same hell and that’s why I wrote this brief guide. Download and print this list so you know which shops you need to visit according to your own otaku needs.
Let no otaku get lost in the anime wilderness of Japan ever again!
New or Second-hand?
Anime shops can be divided into two simple categories: Places that sell new products and places that sell second-hand merchandise.
Just to make sure we understand the difference: New products are licensed and sealed items. Second-hand items are sold by their previous owners to these shops to be resold to us. Although some of these second-hand products are actually sealed when brought, the shops open them for inspection. Second-hand products are especially handy if you are looking for an item that was sold as part of a mystery-box series, the type where you don’t know what kind of item you get until you open the box. Second hand shops are also great for discovering rare and/or discontinued items. They are the best place to search for a particular product you may have in mind.
Now, let’s continue to the list of shops!
These are trusted shops selling at the RRP. Choose these shops if you are looking for newly-released products.
Animate is a major anime merchandising chain and is considered the first-stop shop if you want any anime-related goods. They even have branches in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Thailand.
The flagship store in Ikebukuro is impressive as every floor of this 9-storey building is filled with anime merchandising. It probably has the largest selection of the latest products, though each branch has their own selection. Some small branches may not have large figurines.
What you can buy: general anime products, new releases, manga, magazines
Kotobukiya specialises in original products. Their signature rubber straps are popular for their cuteness with which no other shop can compare! Most of the branches are rather small and give a relaxed feeling. They don’t have a huge stock, but I often find items that were sold out in Animate, so I recommend that you go there if you’re after a particular product. Recently, they have been promoting Danbo from Yotsuba.
What you can buy: Kotobukiya original products, and others
Toranoana specializes in CDs, manga, magazines and doujinshi. Some branches have dedicated floors for men and women for an easy and comfortable shopping experience. They stock a wider variety of doujinshi (self-published manga) than Animate. Major doujinshi circles who pitch at comic markets sell here on commission. They often sell manga with Toranoana limited bonus cards, so if you want to buy some manga, make sure to give them a visit.
What you can buy: wide variety of doujinshi, manga, magazines
Apart from manga and CDs, Animega stocks all sorts of Ichiban Kuji (lucky draw). If you want to draw as much as you can in one visit, Animega is the place you go. They also have replica swords and plastic models and it’s quite fun just browsing their shops. You even can buy tools for modelling. There’re many Animega limited items which you can’t find at any other shops.
What you can buy: Ichiban Kuji, replica swords, plastic models, figures, Animega limited goods
Melonbooks mainly deals with doujinshi for men. You can find CDs from Touhou Project and
Vocaloid. They offer great customer incentives, though there are fewer products and manga for women.
Their bonus goods are worth checking out! Sometimes you can get a book cover with a newly drawn illustration, or a special box to store every volume of a manga. Collect their shopping points to exchange them for their original goods featuring Melon-chan, their mascot, or discounts for your next shop.
What you can buy: General anime goods for men, games, CDs
Volks specialises in figures, dolls, model railways, and plastic models, and it is very different from other anime shops. You’ll lose track of time just browsing their shop. They stock brilliant plastic models with intricate parts. Volks will satisfy both 3D model experts and enthusiasts. Some branches showcase Gundam models, a.k.a. Gunpla, made by professionals and other featured dolls. They also stock breathtakingly beautiful high-quality figures. This shop is at the top of the must-see list if you are looking for figures!
What you can buy: Modelling tools, high-quality figures, dolls
It’s a bit of a gamble to buy a second-hand product because the price varies depending on the shops. You might get it for a surprisingly cheap price or a ridiculously high one. Although they are classified as second-hand, many of them are kept unopened. It’s quite fun just shopping around for second-hand items. Who knows, you might discover a super rare item that was first sold a couple of decades ago!
Shopping in second-hand shops really feels like treasure hunting.
Lashinbang deals with second-hand doujinshi and other goods. Most of their branches stock goods for ladies. They sometimes sell manga at bargain prices. There is a good chance of finding issued which you had given up hope of ever finding.
I advise you to shop around in different areas, as their pricing differs depending on the area. For example, after you buy an item for 3000 yen, you may find the same item for 1500 yen in a different area. I know that feeling very well, as I am the one who has experienced that repeatedly. It depends on your luck though.
What you can buy: Anime goods, figures, second-hand manga, games
K-Books has branches in Ikebukuro, Tokyo and Nipponbashi, Osaka and deals with only second-hand goods.
Their branch in Ikebukuro is segmented into categories: for ladies, for men, voice actors, doujinshi, and audio. It certainly makes it easier for customers who know what they want. K-Books surpasses other anime shops with their variety and quantity. However, their prices are rather high- particularly in popular genres. I therefore recommend that you buy things here only after you’ve shopped around and you are sure that this is the only shop where you can get the item you want.
What you can buy: CDs, Voice actor goods, anime goods, doujinshi
Mandarake specialises in rare and interesting collectables- such as Sailor Moon sticks, soft vinyl monster figures, and items that are so peculiar that you might wonder how they ended up in their shops (like a large elephant mascot which used to be placed in front of a drugstore). You might find a toy which you wanted to have when you are little, or something you lost a long time ago and thought you’d never see again. It’s like an amusement park for otaku people. They also stock toys of Japanese heroes, such as Kamen Rider. Some branches stock Johnny and Associates goods.
What you can buy: very rare and nostalgic collectors’ items and memorabilia
And a Little Extra
Major electronic shops
These days, major electronic and home appliances retailers, such as Yodobashi Camera and Sofmap sometimes have an anime goods department where you can buy figures. In general, they stock children’s toys, such as Precure and Kamen Rider. However, they sometimes have figures of new characters.
The Akihabara branches have a floor dedicated to figures. They stock popular figures, such as One Piece, Fate/Stay Night, and Hatsune Miku. If you are after one of these figures, why not try going there?
What you can buy: Figures, popular toys
Comic Zin is a bookshop which only has two branches (in Akihabara and Shinjuku) and sells the doujinshi of circles that pitch in comic markets on commission.
You’ll be astonished by their crazy collection. For example, doujinshi of delicious katsudon (deep-fried breaded pork and eggs on rice) and good restaurants and eateries in Akihabara. Yes, they are not guidebooks, but doujinshi! I personally call this bookshop ‘a shop with a Comiket experience’.
They sell general manga but with bonuses especially provided exclusively for Comic Zin. I sometimes have to travel from Kyoto to Tokyo in order to get these special bonuses.
What you can buy: an experience as if you are at Comiket rare Doujinshi, manga with exclusive bonuses
Time to Do your Shopping List
Did you like the article? I hope you find it useful the next time you go on an anime shopping spree.
Each anime shop looks the same, but in reality they differ from each other. They have their own specialising fields and quite different stocks. Please keep this article in your mind when exploring anime shops in Japan.
Don’t forget that shopping around anime shops is not just about buying things. It’s about experiencing the joy of finding new things and meeting like-minded people.
And, of course, these are not the only shops out there! There are so many places you can find around Japan that sell otaku merchandise. Do you have a favorite shop you want to suggest? Let us know in the comments below!
Happy anime treasure hunting, everyone!