When I first entered Nakano Broadway I didn’t know what to expect. As I entered under the large red sign into the long corridor that makes up the first floor I wasn’t at all impressed. I was expecting a grander welcome that wasn’t there, at least not on the first floor. I saw a regular cheap ¥100 shop, a suit shop, and a cute place with socks representing each of the prefectures of Japan, but I didn’t see anything right away that would have given me any sense of what this place was hiding. At least not until I saw the Japanese idol trading card shop. Then I knew I was getting warmer and just a bit closer to the Otaku heaven this place has a reputation for. I didn’t have the time to stare and gawk though. I was ushered by my escort upstairs by way of escalator just as quickly as could be done through the crowd. Once on the top floor my eyes began to open wide to the world of Japanese pop culture. It was a treasure trove of Japanese pop culture mania or should say it is the mother load. That is Nakano Broadway, a hobbyist dream come true.
I didn’t realize that half of this stuff ever existed, but a lot of it reminded me of going though my grandparents attic and seeing some of the old toys that were my dad’s when he was growing up, but these were way freakier and not as dusty. These were spotless toys and they were everywhere and some perfectly preserved with boxes and all. Some were out and some were secured behind glass, but each seemed to have its place. It was obvious by just walking around and seeing a few of the shelves that there was a great deal of care put into the display of these mighty little figures and toys. There was of course the familiar Robbi The Robot from Forbidden Planet, Speed Racer, and Astro Boy filling up the shelves in various forms from trading cards to life-sized replicas, but after that all familiarity was gone. The most strange and somewhat disturbing thing I saw was a crucified Ultraman that seemed to be all the rage as he was everywhere. There were creatures and characters here that I’m sure are most beloved by most Japanese, but that I had no idea of who or what they could be. And they were rampant and scattered about, ambiguous in their domain. It was awesome nostalgia meets today’s now! It was glorious and spectacular!
But it wasn’t all toys here. There were all sorts of hobbies on display. There were manga books and anime cels. There were cosplay costumes of every type and character. There were air gun shops full of military realistic weapons and even more realistic if not realistic suits, helmets, badges, and outfits. There were those key chain/phone doodads made to look like everything cute under the sun. There were maid cafes, movie posters, record, and DVD stores. There was even a yo-yo shop and I’m sure stuff that I’m not mentioning that I might still be blinded by if I try to recall. All together it was a reminder of being a kid, and if you looked not even so hard, you could see the wanting eyes of window shoppers as they studied the toys and figures of their yesterdays through the glass. And it was all marked and priced and ready to be loved. And then, there were the people that were living their childhood still. Dressed to the nines in outfits and splendor that a kid’s imagination can only fathom and few can fashion.
We kept popping in and out of shops all day meticulously doing our own gawking at the shelves. We spent most of the time mentioning our own memories that were sparked by the pop amalgam and bursting into laughs at the more than occasional site of the absurd. It was fun. When we made it back to the bottom again we were both starving, but that’s a different story.