Though shibuya ward is not particularly famous as an otaku spot, it actually has a lot to offer to treasure hunters and urban explorers alike. Many things have happened since the 17th century, when the district was a strategically important castle town tasked with the defense of edo. Its complete destruction by us air raids during wwii was the starting point for rapid development by the tokyu corporation that turned its station into one of tokyo’s main transportation nodes.
Even today, in order to access Otaku Shibuya you only need to step out of JR Station’s Hachiko Exit. The area in front of the station, including its world-famous scramble crossing has been featured in countless stories, probably starting with 1985 OVA Megazone. More recently the district has been featured in the Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex series, episodes of Tokyo ESP and Sengoku Collection and most importantly in the visual novel Chaos;Head. On the other side of the scramble, another anime regular is the Q-front building. A visit to the big Tsutaya store inside will give you a good idea of what manga are currently hot in Japan as they prominently display all the new popular titles, while from the ever-busy Starbucks you can enjoy the same view of the crossing that was used in the Sophia Coppola movie Lost in Translation.
WIth kaiju, Shibuya has been a late addition. But Godzilla and company have wasted no time in giving the neighborhood the royal treatment, beginning with Gamera 3: The Revenge of Iris (1999), when our favorite giant flying turtle disposed of a couple of Gyaos but only after destroying Shibuya Station, the Hachiko statue and Shibuya 109, and killing in the process twenty thousand people. Then one year later, in Godzilla vs. Megaguirus, the district is literally flooded during the fierce battle between the Big G and its foe.
Speaking of Shibuya 109, the iconic tube-shaped fashion mall on the left of the station was completed in 1979 and is the single major reason why the district has become a major trend setter. With 120 boutiques distributed on ten floors, this is a temple to the kind of flashy, colorful clothes, shoes and accessories which are popular with teen girls. Even many anime characters can’t resist the desire to pay it a visit, as it happens in episodes of The Idolmaster and Oreimo. However, apart from the tiny sanrio vivitix SHIBUYA on the eighth floor selling Hello Kitty goods, there is precious little to be found in terms of otaku fashion.
From the Hachiko Exit cross the scramble crossing and take the street on the right of Tsutaya. On the right side of the street you will see a building with an OIOI symbol. That’s Marui. Though this department store is mainly devoted to men’s and ladies’ fashion, its top two floors feature a few otaku shops worth your attention. Most people of course come here for the One Piece Mugiwara Store on the seventh floor. The Guinness World of Records recognized Oda Eiichiro’s mega hit manga as the comic book series with the most copies published by a single author (320 million as of the end of 2014) and a bout of binge shopping at Tokyo’s only authorized store is a great way to celebrate. You can choose between an endless array of toys, figures, plushies, clothes, stickers, stationery and even character-shaped snacks and chocolates. Next to One Piece we find a Namco CharaPop Store,
and the I.G Store. CharaPop mixes anime and game-themed original goods (T-shirts, stickers, postcards, etc.) with lotteries and other game attractions. I.G Store is Production I.G’s official shop and sells merchandise from the anime studio’s famous works (Kuroko’s Basketball, Haikyu!!, Psycho-Pass, the Ghost in the Shell franchise, the Joker Game series, etc.) including some special exclusives.
They also have an exhibition space where they show a few impressive items, such as a model of the Logicoma from Ghost in the Shell: Arise. The eighth floor features a few event spaces (often devoted to anime and manga characters) and The Chara Shop (THE キャラ SHOP), a sort of collaboration store selling limited-time merchandise inspired by newly released anime and video games.
Now cross the street at the traffic light just in front of Marui and keep to the left of the uphill road (Koen-dori) walking past the curiously-shaped Disney Store. If you are a fan of the iconic clothing brand A Bathing Ape, turn left just before Parco: you will find a BAPE store on the left. Instead we keep climbing Koen-dori and turn left at the intersection. The megastore on the corner at the end of the slope is Tokyu Hands. DIY-inclined otaku (cosplayers, manga artists, etc.) should check out this amazing “creative life department store,” because they literally have everything—and even many things you didn’t even suspect existed. Anything connected with paper, leather, wood, textiles, etc. can be found here. They sell toys too. There are six more branches in central Tokyo alone but this nine-story building is their home base.
Turn left at the Tokyu Hands corner and the second block on the right is the BEAM Bldg, another hotbed of otaku activity. Here you will find the most atmospheric of Tokyo’s three Mandarake stores—at the bottom of two dark flights of stairs. The slightly sinister atmosphere is broken by some loud anime music coming out of the PA system. With its meandering corridors and dim lights, this place can be rather confusing but you’ll have a lot of fun checking out all the goods. This place is particularly famous for its huge stock of used manga and dojinshi of any kind. They even have a small stage where the cosplaying female staff take turns singing. Apparently you can do the same as long as you spend at least 1,000 yen. When you are finished here, don’t forget to explore the rest of the building that, apart from Mandarake, houses an Animate store on the third floor, a RECOfan branch on the fourth selling thousands of new and used CDs (including lots of anime soundtracks), and a stylish manga cafe on the fifth.