Aside from akihabara, the eastern stretch of the jr yamanote line features a few major otaku spots and at least one hidden jewel. From shinbashi to nippori it only takes about 15 minutes, but if you plan to see them all in one go it will likely take the whole day.

SHIMBASHI STATION

Tamiya Plamodel Factory

Opening times 12:00–22:00 (Mon–Fri), 10:00–18:00 (weekends & holidays)

If you are into plastic models, you’ll obviously love Shizuoka-based manufacturer Tamiya, and a pilgrimage to its showroom is a must. Besides 4,000 of their famous Scale Model, Radio Controlled, and Mini 4WD series, they sell about 500 tools, paints and publications. The place doubles as a sort of Tamiya museum as many of their completed tanks, ships and cars are on display throughout the store. Last but not least, there’s a 150-square-meter Event Floor, where they host seminars, workshops, and Mini 4WD and Radio Controlled car races.

TOKYO STATION

Tokyo Character Street

Opening times daily 10:00–20:30

The first basement floor beneath Tokyo Station has arguably the highest concentration of manga/anime/ TV-character shops in Tokyo. Some of the 26 stores lining up the station’s Ichiban-gai (First Avenue) are devoted to Hello Kitty, Pokemon, Ultraman, Jump magazines’ characters (One Piece, Naruto, Bleach, etc.), and a few TV broadcasters including NHK. They are ideal for souvenir-shopping. First Avenue is directly connected to the Yaesu Exit on the east side of Tokyo Station and is next to other themed areas specializing in sweets and ramen.

UENO, OKAMACHI & AMP NIPPORI

1- Yamashiro-ya

Opening times daily 10:00–21:30

With six floors full of every toy you can think of, a visit to Yamashiroya is going to take you several hours. They are particularly well-stocked with mainstream, big brand goods, but also have an interesting selection of indie toys and even a few exclusive items you will find only here. It’s not the cheapest store in Tokyo, but many of their toys and models are beautifully displayed in glass cabinets, so even if you buy nothing (I dare you!), you can always take it as a visit to a toy museum.

2- Ueno-ya

Opening times 10:00–19:30. Closed on Wed.

Not really a must-see place, but if you happen to be in the area and like dusty old-school shops this one’s for you. They sell party goods and the kind of toys kids used to play with in the ‘60s, but their forte is natural latex masks. They have a huge stock (Godzilla, Gegege no Kitaro, Ultraman, Star Wars, just to name a few) and are priced 2,500–4,500 yen.

3- Kyushoku Toban

Opening times 11:30–14:00 (lunch), 18:00–23:00 (dinner). Closed on Sun & national holidays

If you are curious about the food Chibi Maruko and Sazae-san’s little siblings eat at school, check out this diner a short distance from Akiba. Kyushoku Toban means “school lunch duty” and the waitresses here don the same kind of smock elementary school kids wear when they take turns serving lunches to their classmates. The menu (served on metal trays) is typical Japanese school lunch fare and includes deep fried whale, while agepan (sweet deep fried bread coated with sugar, cinnamon, etc.) is one of their more popular items. The main difference from school lunches is that you can actually order alcohol. The second floor is made to look like a classroom and can be reserved for dinner parties (4–20 people).

4- Kondo RoboSpot

Opening times 14:00–18:00 (Mon–Fri), 10:00–19:00 (Sat). Closed on Sun & holidays

While Akihabara has some nice robot shops, this off-the-beaten-path multi-space is the only one where you can actually touch and play with them. Apart from selling Kondo robots and spare robot parts, Robospot features practice facilities, a training school, and robot soccer and battle events. The good news is that while the place is usually reserved to Kondo robot users (1,080 yen/day (Mon–Fri) or 540/hour (Sat)), first-time visitors are given a chance to try their hand for free.

KOIWA

Though Edogawa is the easternmost ward in Tokyo, and Nishi Koiwa is just a few minutes away from Chiba Prefecture, Koiwa Station is only a 15-minute train ride from Akihabara. This is a

quiet suburban neighborhood, free of famous landmarks and tourists, but hardcore collectors should definitely check it out. Here’s why.

1- Manga Yado / Shirakuna

Opening times 13:30–19:00 (Tue–Sun)

In Japan even the blandest-looking neighborhoods can hide a treasure. Take this shop. It used to sell tin toys, then in 2008 its owner began to manufacture vinyl toys under the Shirakuna brand. Today his original kaiju figures share space with a wide range of antique toys from the 1950s, all the way back to the prewar years. This cluttered place functions as a studio as well. Pay it a visit and if you are lucky you will have a chance to watch the artists while they are working on their new creations. You may want to call in advance (03-3659-1990) to make sure it’s open.

2- Third Uncle / Character Toy

Opening times 13:00–21:00 (Tue–Sun)

Serious collectors with fat wallets can forget about the other shops in this book and head directly to Third Uncle. They can be sure to leave the store with their hands full and a much lighter wallet. From monsters, action figures and robots to mini cars, plamodels and everything in between, they have a huge stock, all in mint conditions and beautifully displayed.

HACHIOJI

Haunted Restaurant

daily 17:00–24:00 (Mon–Fri), 16:00–24:00 (Sat–Sun & holidays)

This ghost-themed restaurant from the same company that runs The Lockup in Shibuya features dark rooms, skulls and other spooky tricks. You can choose between a Phantom Manor Course (2,800 yen) and a Nightmares Course (2,300) while cocktails are served in syringes and test tubes. Online reservation required.

Toybox 1102

Opening times daily 18:00–1:00 (Fri–Sun & holidays)

The highest-located retro game “bar” in Tokyo can be found on the eleventh floor of a common apartment building in Hachioji. As soon as you step inside you are surrounded by toys, indie figures and manga (they are in the toilet too!). Literally thousands of video games are neatly sorted out in several boxes in the living room together with a few monitors, a table-top game cabinet and even a pachinko machine. The place is reservation only (mail the guy at least one week ahead. He will tell you how to find his house). It costs 500– 1000 yen for one hour, depending on the number of people going. You can either bring your own food and drinks or ask your host to prepare something.

TAMA CITY

Sanrio Puroland

Opening times 10:00–17:00 (Mon–Fri), 10:00–20:00 or 10:00–18:00 (Sat–Sun).

This indoor theme park is an uber-cute celebration of Sanrio’s most famous creations (Hello Kitty, Little Twin Stars, My Melody, etc.) and while mainly geared toward children, can be enjoyed by adults too. Popular attractions include a roller coaster train, a boat ride, and Kitty’s house, while several live performances take place at different theaters around the park. Just remember that the waiting lines in the weekends and during the holidays can be very long. If you visit during the month of your birthday you can get a birthday card at the information desk on the third floor. Wear it around your neck and you will be able to celebrate your birthday by taking commemorative photos with the house characters.

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