In the beginning of June 2003 I found myself in Tokyo for 7 days. I had a book all made up of Japanese toy stores, and I had money to burn. All of the shops I went to were really great, but it got to be overwhelming. Who would have thought you could see too many toy stores?
Some of the things I set out to look for were nowhere to be found. SOP Yamato, Max and Milla valks, SOC Minerva X were all absent. But I discovered a ton of things I would never have found otherwise. Here is a quick rundown of the shops I went to.
Fuji Yama Department Store (Akihabara)
I don't know the name of this place, but it was part of the JR Akihabara station. If you take the Electric Town exit, it's the mall immediately to your right. Go up to the second floor, and its all new toys. They had Gundam jumpsuits, lots of kits, and a great deal on the DX Revolver Mammoth. Good for new stuff and Gundam stuff.
Pass through Kaminarimon Gate, and you will find Nakamise Shopping Arcade, a long covered alley with lots of shops. In there are a few overpriced mom-and-pop stores with lots of goodies. No real vintage, but there is some stuff that is a few years old. You have to dig, but it could pay off.
Aso Bit City (Akihabara)
This store is run by the LAOX chain, which has stores for different things all over akihabara. Toys are on the 4th and 5th floor, but the whole store is worth a look. Lots of oversized statues of characters all around. All new toys, reasonably priced, plus gashapon machines.
Fly-Ya is a damn hard place to find. If I can find my map, I'll post it. It's on the second floor in some back alley. Lots of vintage, but very expensive. Not the best vintage store, but worth a look.
Forest Gang is the best vintage Japanese toy store. It is insanely huge. Cases and cases of vintage chogokin, vinyl, kaiju, sentai... you name it. Prices can be a little on the high side, but the stuff is in really nice condition. Some bargains can be found.
Phone: 03(5978)3278 Open at 1pm.
Gamers is a gaming/anime/comic/toy shop, right off of the Electric Town exit. The 7th floor is new toys, chogokin, Gundam and figures. You can catch a good sale here sometimes.
Hobbit is a small hobby and toy shop. Not much to see here. If you go to Gamers you don't need to go here, unless there sold out of something.
Kaiyodo Hobby Lobby (Akihabara)
This store is on the fourth floor of an indoor mall that also features a great anime/manga shop called K-Books. Its right near the station.. just take the Electric Town exit and look for the giant "K-BOOKS" sign in the window. Its a neat store, but there are a ton of little shops on all these floors. All new, no vintage. there were 2 new stores on one of the top floors that looked good but weren't open yet.
Kiddy Land (Harajuku)
There's something like 7 floors of toys in here. From artsy vinyl stuff, to girls toys, to giant robots. All new, and a little pricey compared to TRU, but definitely fun. Reminds me of FAO Schwartz a little.
Open 10am-6pm daily. 6-1-9 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku. Tel: 03-3409-3431
Laox Hobby (Akihabara)
Another multi-floor store. The toy floor has gundam, soc, zoids, and some nice display cases. To get here, exit Akihabara JR Station from the south exit heading towards Kanda gawa (River) Head straight for the main road and turn right. LAOX Hobby is only three buildings to the right from the station exit.
Mandarake is the place to go if you are looking to get the most out of your toy shopping dollar. Tons and tons of toys, anime cells, and more. Some really decent prices on used stuff. GX-06 Chrome sets for $70 anyone? Be cautioned though - if you see some small writing on the price tag, it may mean that the item is damaged or incomplete. Make sure you have them open what you buy. Also, be aware that there is a high hentai quotient, with some items on display that would certainly be illegal in the USA. No photos are allowed in Mandarake, but Josh Fraser got some on his last trip. Here's yours truly in front of Mandarake.
It's hard to believe that this store is actually better than the Shibuya one. The Mandarake here stretches over several floors. There are also TONS of little shops in here, including ROBOT ROBOT. Plan a whole afternoon for this place.
Pook et Koop (Harajuku)
This is a tiny little shop specializing in Kubricks, HK vinyl, and limited run stuff. I came across the Panda Z there.
Open 11:30am-8pm. Cat Street, 6-15-9 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku. Tel: 03-5466-8504
A very old and famous vintage toy store. Kinda pricey, but that seems to be the theme. There's 2 floors here.
Toys R Us (Odaiba)
This is located in the Aqua city Shopping complex. Pretty much the same as a US Toys R Us, except that its chocked full of Japanese toys. SOC, Gundam, Macross, Kamen Rider, Transformers, etc.. If you're looking for something new at a great price, here's where to start. They had SOC GX-01r, 02r, 04s, and 06 on the shelves.
1-7-1, Daiba, Minato-ku, Tokyo 135-8707
Wave Be-J (Nakano)
Mostly model kits and magazines. Some new toys at decent prices. To get here, exit the Kichijochi Station and heard north across the bus terminal lot. Walk along the main road until you hit a T-intersection. If you didn't pass a Mitsukoshi Department store on your right, you might want to check your compass again. Turn right at the T-intersection and proceed a few blocks (I don't remember how many off hand) until you see Be-J on your left.
Same basic thing as Kiddy Land. 7 floors, Good stuff up top. Not worth the trip to Ueno, but if you are there anyway, go for it.
Yellow Submarine (Akihabara)
There are a ton of Yellow Submarine stores in Japan. The photos are a mesh of a couple different locations. This is mostly a model store, but they have a lot of Gashapon separated for you to buy individually. there are 6 Yellow Submarine stores in Akihabara, and 3 of them deal with toys.
Some unknown store (Akihabara)
We followed a small map that Jake had.. it was supposedly to a small toy store on the fourth floor of a building. We had to ask a security guard outside of a pachinko parlor, but eventually we found our way. When we got up to the fourth floor, we saw... Porn? In this porn shop, in the back, was a toy section. It was overpriced, but the randomness was just so weird. If I find the map, I will post directions.
Places I didn't go to:
Hakuhinkan Toy Park
Open 11am-8pm daily. 8-8-11 Ginza, Chuo-ku. Tel: 03-3571-8008