Tokyo Revisited Day 8
Although I spent a day packing prior to coming to Tokyo, almost as soon as I arrived I realized that I’d forgotten to bring a coin purse. A pocket-sized change purse is essential while visiting Japan because the country’s smallest denomination paper bill is the 1,000 yen note, the equivalent of a $10 bill. So especially visiting otaku that aim to do a lot of purchasing quickly end up with a pocket full of change. While I practically never pay for purchases with exact change back home in the US, I try to do so as frequently as I can here in Tokyo, just to reduce the number and weight of coins that I have to carry around.
Yesterday I made undoubtedly one of my wisest purchases of my vacation by stopping at the 100-yen store across the street from Jon’s apartment to purchase a coin purse. The two of us then proceeded down the block to the Curry House CoCo Ichiban-ya restaurant. Thick beef & pork flavored curry is very popular here; curry is a rare and expensive dish in West Central Florida, so I savor the opportunity to eat curry here in Tokyo as frequently as I can. Upon entering the restaurant, I was pleasantly surprised to see several bookshelves filled with popular shounen manga series which patrons can borrow to read while eating.
After selecting our seats, the waiter kindly offered me a multi-lingual menu. After selecting my lunch of fried chicken curry with vegetables and a side order of a curry potato croquet, Jon pressed the electronic bell on the table to summon the waiter, who arrived promptly with an electronic ticket book in hand to take down our order.
After lunch, Jon & I split ways. Jon had errands to run, and I had a task of my own. A close friend from home had sent me to Japan with his hopes of finding affordable Godzilla monster toys. Now that I’m reaching the mid-point of my vacation, I still hadn’t yet purchased a single item for him, so I was starting to feel guiltily irresponsible. I’m rather surprised to find that Ultraman toys seem to be quite common around Tokyo toy shops. But Godzilla toys appear to be strictly collector’s items. In the entire time I’ve been here so far, I’ve found only one Godzilla monster toy that wasn’t housed within a glass display case. Oh, and naturally, Kamen Rider toys are ubiquitous.
I returned to Nakano Broadway, Tokyo’s biggest concentration of stores specializing in vintage collectables. At one of the Robot Robot stores, in a hallway-facing display case, I spied an official replica of a Shingeki no Kyojin Survey Corps sword priced at 17,980 yen.
While browsing, I also discovered, to my satisfaction, that the Anime World Star shop still exists, albeit in a new location and slightly smaller size. When I first visited Tokyo in the early 2000s, Anime World Star was a foremost anime production cells shop. The retailer today does still stock production cells, but today seems to have found its niche partnering with Leiji Matsumoto & Masami Kurumada. Anime World Star has long produced exclusive merchandise. I discovered cans of Yamato 2199 bread, exclusive Yamato 2199 drink coasters, St. Seiya: Legend of Sanctuary patches that I haven’t seen anywhere else, and even (very expensive) original art from Leiji Matsumoto. Giant packages of complete genga cuts from the 2003 Ginga Tetsudo Monogatari ~ Galaxy Railways television series were a steal at 800 yen each. In other words, for roughly $8 one could own all of the hand-drawn pencil artwork used to animate a complete single camera shot from the TV series. Each pack contained dozens to hundreds of pages of hand drawn artwork. Unfortunately for me, as I’m staying very conscious of the weight of the goods I’m buying, each pack of genga weighs several pounds. I purchased a pack of two translucent Doki Doki Precure shitajiki for 200 yen and a Mezzo TV series shitajiki for another 200 yen. I’d very much like to go back for a can of the Yamato 2199 bread, but I worry about getting the can home without dents or damage.
While browsing the various stores, I consciously realized that even at Nakano Broadway, the selection of merchandise available seems to be very largely skewed toward very recent and very old with little in between. The amount of One Piece collectables – especially figures of varying sizes – available here in Tokyo is simply staggering. At least one of the small one-room shops in Nakano Broadway is 99% One Piece merchandise. Jojo’s Bizarre Adventures and Dragon Ball are also very amply represented. Bishoujo figures from Macross Frontier, Code Geass, the Monogatari series, Lucky Star, and Nichijou and likewise very common. For shoujo franchises, Pretty Cure goods are common, and Creamy Mami goods seem easy to find since, I’m told, the franchise recently had an art exhibit that featured exclusive merchandise for sale. But collectables representing the 1980s, 90s, and 00s seems to challenging to find. I’ve also noticed that popular characters cost a premium. Any figures of Nano or Hakasefrom Nichijou costs more than figures of the series’ main trio of girls. Likewise, used figures of the Monogatari series’ Shinobu cost double or more the price of any other characters from the series. Kantai Collection is obviously very popular here right now (as is Youkai Watch), but in particular many of the stores I’ve visited have prominently featured Rensouhou-chan goods.
At the Mandarake store for old books, I was thrilled to find two more of the 1985 & 1986 magazines that featured Dirty Pair covers. Either these two issues weren’t on the shelf a few days ago, or I overlooked them.
I spent quite a while at the Mandarake store for men’s doujinshi browsing the shelves with my poor familiarity with Japanese language. I finally discovered that Studio Katsudon was given an entire section for just Dirty Pair doujinshi, but I still didn’t find the 2013 book. I also finally located a section for Koutaru With T and snagged a copy of the artist’s doujinshi that happened to have a Dirty Pair cover. And I picked up, practically, the final 3 Saigado doujinshi that I need. In order to complete my collection of Saigado doujinshi, I need the original first edition of “Left Eye,” the event issue “Boku no Seinen Kouken Nin” copybon, the rare “Hinomaru-kun no Hen! Tankoubon Kinen,” the rare “Lotus Flowers” Love Plus doujinshi, and the circle’s co-published Ah! Megami-sama parody book “The Sport of Fortune.” I have a feeling that my odds of finding any of those remaining five comics is so slim that I’m going to give up deliberately searching for them.
Motivated by sheer otaku curiosity, I wandered into a store that seemed overtly to specialize in doujinshi for women. To my surprise, I discovered that the store’s right hand two aisles were devoted to men’s adult comics. At the very back of the store I found two bins of 100 yen H doujinshi. Once again, I had to restrain myself.
I didn’t realize that Nakano Broadway was home to at least two sex shops. Curiosity urged me to enter one of them, passing by a wall covered with unofficial replicas of the panties of Hatsune Miku and the K-On girls. I decided to indulge and randomly selected at 1,500 yen onnahole from Tama Toys and an 800 yen Rends USB onnahole warmer. The elderly male cashier seemed so excited to have a paying customer – or perhaps he was just pleased to have a foreign tourist customer – that when I paid, he eagerly came around the counter, took a small 200 yen bottle of lotion from the shelf and said to me with a smile, “Souvenir!” as he dropped it into my bag. By coincidence, my purchase also qualified me for a free bonus region-free Tama Toys’ promotional DVD that the cashier stuffed in my bag. Now I’m happy that I made a purchase from this small, independent store rather than buying from the giant, corporate M’s store in Akihabara.
At a cramped figure toys store I spied a dusty, cobweb covered plush Godzilla with a wrinkled, stained cardboard tag lounging in a 300 yen bargain bin. Luckily for me, an elderly shoplady standing in the hallway noticed my confusion and pointed out that I could pay for the stuffed doll at the cashier across the hallway. The very fact that the stuffed toy was dusty and literally cobwebbed just enhanced the feeling that it was a forgotten buried treasure. In the second floor main Mandarake store for toys, I asked the cashier to fetch a Godzilla Final War X-Seijin figure from the display case for me. The alien invader figure still had its cardboard hang tag and was priced at only 600 yen. The total price came up to 648 yen. Tokyo’s recently implemented 8% consumption tax seems to have really frustrated many businesses. Traditionally tax is included in the sticker price of Japanese goods, but now, suddenly, items at the 100 yen store cost 108 yen, and many shops and restaurants I’ve visited now have temporary signs up that explain that the prices listed do not include the extra 8% sales tax. Jon explained to me that many Tokyo area commercial establishments aren’t yet bothering to update their posted prices because the incremental consumption tax rate will increase to a permanent 10% next year. So many businesses are waiting until next year to finalize their new posted prices.
By coincidence, I ended up arriving back home only seconds after Jon returned home. Although it was lightly raining outdoors, I wanted to get dinner before I changed out of my daytime clothes into my pajamas, so the two of us walked to a nearby gyoza restaurant where we shared platters of gyoza and shrimp gyoza, and a plate of “kinpira gobou” (heavily salted deep fried burdock root that tastes like a very earthy, wood-like potato chip). I also ordered a plate of yakisoba.
Seemingly every restaurant in town offers cheap highball drinks made with cheap Japanese whisky, whisky so cheap, in fact, that in some restaurants a highball costs less than a glass of Coca-Cola. Jon & I were both surprised to notice that the Gyoza restaurant had a tri-fountain tap for whisky. We’re used to seeing beer on tap, but American bars and restaurants strictly serve whisky from bottles. I also mused out loud to Jon that cigarette vending machines are quite common on the streets here, but sidewalks everywhere are emblazoned with signs prohibiting smoking on public sidewalks (to prevent accidental burns to bystanders on the crowded sidewalks.)
After dinner we stopped by a small grocer so I could purchase a liter bottle of Coke and a tasty 82 yen Morinaga chocolate & vanilla ice cream Sundae Cup snack. I hoped to find a bottle of the enigmatic new Suntory C.C. Lemon Gold, supposedly a new variety of C.C. Lemon with more carbonation. But the store didn’t stock it. As an experiment, I did also purchase a bottle of Kirin Mets Zero Cola, a zero calorie cola that’s supposedly even imbued with fat-inhibiting chemicals. To my surprise, Kirin Mets may be the best tasting diet cola I’ve ever tasted, but it does still discernibly taste like diet cola.
In the evening I realized that Tora no Ana still offers Studio Katsudon’s Imasara Dirty Pair 2013 doujinshi on its mail-order site, so Jon purchased a copy for me.