If it sells any form of retro, vintage, or modern geekery, I’m all about it. I’ve visited Akihabara extensively as that is usually my go-to location for things like that, and it’s a great excuse to browse more Japanese Pokemon cards and retro tech! A few weeks ago I heard about Nakano Broadway. But was it worth visiting?
If you’re looking for somewhere to find one-off products, retro tech, toys, trading cards, or anything in between, Nakano Broadway is definitely worth visiting. It’s smaller and quieter, but no less exceptional than Akihabara (unless you’re buying second-hand games)In fact, I would suggest that for some things, Nakano Broadway is the place to find them
So, if that sounds like a bit of you and you’ve booked the cheapest flights to Japan already, I’m going to tell you exactly why this place should be on your itinerary and how to get the most out of your time there. Let’s get into it!
What is Nakano Broadway known for?
Nakano Broadway is a shopping mall located just outside of Tokyo, and it’s known for being filled with camera shops, retro games shops, 30 Mandrake stores (not even joking), Japanese Pokemon card shops, and pretty much anything else any otaku could ever want.
It’s frequently labeled as an ‘Akihabara alternative’ and ‘little Akihabara’, and having ventured inside I can completely understand where those people are coming from.
The mall was originally founded in 1966 as a luxury shopping complex, and as you’ll see in a minute, a lot of that luxury still exists in many of the stores inside. That said, the ground floor looks a little worse for wear…
How to get to Nakano Broadway
Getting to Nakano honestly couldn’t be any easier. All you’re going to do is take a 4-minute train journey from Shinjuku (which I’m sure you’ll be near at one point or another), and walk 4 minutes to the entrance of Nakano Broadway, it’s that simple! And even though it’s just 4 minutes on the train, it’s a welcome relief from the somewhat manic nature of Shinjuku and Shibuya.
Nakano Broadway Opening Hours
This is where it gets a little tricky.
10:00 am to 8:00 pm are the closest to general opening hours you’ll get. However, each of the (around) 300 stores inside has its own opening hours, some being early or later than the time mentioned above.
Also, and this is probably a decent tip for your entire trip to Japan, google’s opening hours can be notoriously unreliable. I’ve had to walk to 4 separate restaurants in a single night because Google told me they were open and they weren’t!
Get your hotel to check, slide into their dm’s, or message them on Line to make sure you’re not walking to somewhere that’s been closed for months.
In any case, hit up this alternative Akihabara spot somewhere around early to mid-afternoon if you’ve got your heart set on visiting a specific place. And honestly don’t be surprised if somewhere is randomly closed. It’s Japan! It happens, haha!
As soon as you walk out of Nakano train station, you’ll find the really long covered arcade of shops pictured below. It’s a little like Tenjinbashisuji that we’ve talked about before, only way smaller, less busy, and overall a far more pleasant experience.
You’ll find lots of food shops, clothes shops, and electronic shops dotted along this pathway leading up to the Nakano Broadway entrance. Though I must say the puppy shop was pretty darn cool – not entirely ethical, but super cute nonetheless.
At the end of the tunnel, you’ll find the entrance to the otaku paradise that is Nakano Broadway. Be warned before you walk in, the whole place is in a little need of a little TLC. But who wants a geeky grotto that looks clinical? Not me!
Nakano Broadway – The Shops
Mandarake – More than a used Manga store
I won’t be writing about any specific shops in this article, but I thought it was worth mentioning Mandarake, purely because of how vast this place is. According to the official Mandarake website, there are 30 little shops inside the mall. I only went into about 4 of them and still spent huge amounts of time there.
I’ve also visited Mandarake Shibuya and Mandarake Akihabara as well. They’re both really cool if you’re in the area, but in my opinion, they don’t really have the same vibe or character as this place. Perhaps that’s because they opened their very first store right here in Nakano Broadway. I love knowing nerdy facts like that haha! Photo dump incoming!
There are lots of Mandarake shops in Nakano Broadway, and if you’re anything like me you’ll definitely spend a huge amount of time in all of them. These above photos are from the first one on the right-hand side as you enter. Vintage manga, retro movie memorabilia, board games, and figurines are just some of the cool things you can expect to find inside.
While this place is a haven for anyone who loves Japanese pop culture, they also have a surprising amount of damn fine cake shops. How can you say no to that face?!
Nakano Broadway is a maze!
If you don’t like getting lost in an absolute maze of shops, Nakano Broadway probably isn’t for you. But if you love exploring and finding new places and hidden gems, then keep reading!
I’m a massive camera nerd. Mentally that’s something I’ve come to terms with, but my wallet is lagging far, far behind. Perhaps it’s because of the two lens purchases I made during the first two months of living here, or perhaps not. We’ll never know…
My point is, I love a good camera shop and Nakano Broadway is great for camera shops. There are more than a few places to find them inside, and there’s also a Fujiya camera shop on the way to Nakano Broadway Mall. If this sounds like a bit of you, Nakano Broadway is worth visiting!
If anything, I found it easier to find retro toys in Nakano Broadway than I did in Akihabara. It feels like you’re hunting through a cave to find all these little treasures.
It’s honestly a great experience if you want to live out your treasure-hunting dreams haha! That feeling alone is enough to make me suggest that visiting Nakano Broadway is worth it.
International travel is all about buying cool retro toys, Pokemon cards, and vintage books… Right? If it is, that’s just another reason to take the incredibly small trip out here!
At just over $26, this is the desk feature I really miss not buying. I think it could genuinely look so cool on a desk, but at the same time, as a full-time digital nomad, my desk is nonexistent. So can someone who does have a desk buy it and send me a photo?
Here’s the entrance to yet another Mandarake shop in Nakano Broadway. This one specializes in Manga and Japanese books, though from the display above the door, I wouldn’t be surprised if you thought it was… something entirely different.
There are quite a lot of ‘ordinary’ looking shops inside Nakano Broadway as well, including a ridiculous number of watch shops. So if you find yourself in the area and you’re after a watch, it’s a great excuse to pop in!
As I’ve said before, being a relatively older building, the place is starting to show signs of aging. It’s certainly not the glitz and glamour of other parts of Tokyo, but there’s honestly no need for it to be in my opinion.
Is it worth visiting Nakano Broadway?
In case you haven’t guessed it yet with the many times I’ve already said it, the answer to ‘Is Nakano Broadway worth visiting?’ Is a resounding YES! Unfortunately, the choice isn’t always that simple, especially when you don’t have a lot of time.
Considering Nakano Broadway is so often compared to Akihabara, and even referred to as ‘little Akihabara’, I’m going to suggest reasons why you should visit one or the other. Though you’d ideally visit both if you had the chance.
Visit Nakano Broadway if…
1. You prefer fewer people
Visiting Akihabara is an assault on the senses, and that’s not always a good thing. There are huge amounts of people in Akihabara on pretty much most days, especially holidays or peak seasons. I’m not surprised at all by that because it’s an awesome place to visit, but it can be quite overwhelming.
Tip: Every Sunday, the main street in Akihabara is closed from 13:00 until 18:00 to cars. That is a good experience!
If you’d prefer to look around similar shops in Nakano Broadway only with fewer people, Nakano Broadway is likely going to be less busy.
2. You like the idea of a geeks grotto
If you’re an avid collector who wants to venture into the depth of an otaku-like cave and get lost in a maze of unique shops, Nakano Broadway is a fantastic choice. If you’d prefer something a little more open, Akihabara is your best bet.
3. You want to look at a less visited place
Sometimes people who visit Japan just want to see something a little different from everyone else. While I strongly suggest you visit Akihabara at least once, Nakano Broadway is far less known to tourists coming to Japan and technically it’s a little off the beaten track of the main areas in Tokyo.
4. Proximity of shops
If you don’t want to traipse up and down a road searching for different shops to pop in and out of, Nakano Broadway is probably the place to go. If you’d prefer somewhere completely undercover (especially if it’s raining), Nakano Broadway is once again probably going to be the better option. Saying that the stores in Akihabara are so flipping big that you could easily get lost inside them for hours.
Visit Akihabara if…
1. You want more options
While I love the Nakano Broadway shops, Akihabara has a lot more options. For one thing, it’s got the biggest Yodobashi Camera in the whole of Japan, and several entire buildings full of arcades, anime, pokemon cards, and retro game shops. If you’re looking for a place that has the absolute most options, chose Akihabara.
2. You love all ‘wild’ Japan and flashing lights
Nakano Broadway is almost like a mini version of Akihabara, but it lacks a certain grandeur that Akihabra has with its giant billboards and flashing lights. For people who want to experience the ‘futuristic’ (whether or not that actually exists…) or ‘flashy’ Japan, Akihabara is your best bet.
3. You’re going for a specific item
If you’re looking for a specific item, you’ll probably have more luck finding it in Akihabara purely because of the number of shops. For instance, if you’re looking for custom Japanese keyboards, Yusha Kobo Keyboard Specialty Shop in Akihabara is the place to go!
Ideally, you should search in both because you’ll never know whether they have it or not if you don’t look, but with more options, Akihabara wins out. Though, with the sheer number of Mandarake shops in Nakano Broadway, you’ll still definitely find a lot.
Visit both if
1. You’re a super geek like me and you have more time
Unless you’ve got a load of spare time in your itinerary, or you’ve made to trip over to Japan just because you love pop culture, you probably don’t need to visit both. But if you’re like me and your heart beats faster when you find retro Japanese toy shops, camera shops, TCG shops, and more, it’s definitely worth it!
Now that you’ve discovered Nakano Broadway, why not make the most of your visit to Tokyo and explore its trendiest neighborhoods? Check out our article on Tokyo’s Trendiest Neighborhoods: Koenji vs Shimokitazawa to find out which one you should visit next. Pssst: Koenji is just one stop away from Nakano Broadway!