UPDATE Find an updated version of this post, with many more locations here!
When in Japan, all otaku make Akihabara their first destination. But did you know that Ikebukuro is a better bet if you lean more on the side of series catered to women? Ikebukuro anime stores are not only some of the best, but it also isn’t a known tourist destination so the merchandise is a little better stocked. For those wanting to experience Ikebukuro to the fullest, here are some recommendations.
Animate Ikebukuro: Your first stop ought to be Animate’s Ikebukuro store, their branch store towering at 9 levels. More than half of these levels are dedicated to merchandise, while some of them are for cosplay goods, and some for anime exhibition. If you go to Animate, go early. This place is packed the second it opens and only gets worse throughout the day.
K-Books: With locations all around Ikebukuro, at first glance the K-Books on every street corner may seem a little confusing. K-Books actually has a store for all sorts of different merchandise – one dedicated to celebrities, one to doujinshi, one to keychains and figures, and so on. For anime merchandise, K-Books is a little easier on the wallet than the bigger chains like Animate and you can find a lot of rare items here. My personal favorite store in Ikebukuro.
Lashinbang: A little hole in the wall and rarely mentioned, Lashinbang also has great prices and great merchandise, including a lot of rare merchandise only given out at special events.
Mandarake: One of the kingpins in doujinshi, Mandarake’s Ikebukuro store is incredibly easy to miss (it’s a staircase going underground), but the cavey atmosphere adds to the allure of the whole thing. Which is to say: this place is mostly doujinshi, and a lot of it is very, very dirty. Maybe leave your family outside for this jaunt.
Toranoana: Much like Mandarake, Toranoana is filled to the brim with envy-inducing fanworks that’ll have you wondering how on Earth people can be so talented. Even if you can’t read the doujinshi, the low prices are well worth marveling at the artwork on par with professional manga-ka.
Pokémon Center: No first time trip to Ikebukuro is complete with a stop at Sunshine City and the Pokémon Center. However old you are, there’s something for everyone in here that is bound to boost nostalgia of days spent on the playground trying to pawn off one of your 80 Charmanders. The merchandise here is so cute, and naturally exclusive, and I would dare anyone to go in here and not walk out with something.
There you have it – a beginner’s guide to Ikebukuro that’ll have your wallet crying for mercy. The merchandise is cheap and plentiful and certainly adds up quickly, but it’s hard to feel too terribly about it when so much of it are hard to find. For best results, be sure to check store hours to time your trips. Most stores open at 11, but ones like Animate open earlier and Mandarake later. It’s best to start shopping right away and to avoid weekends, many of these places are small and fill up very quickly!