Hello 2018! This is a major update of a post I made back in 2016, with much more information that has come with multiple trips to Japan. I hope you can make good use of the information here on your own trips to Tokyo.
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.
Licensed Anime Shops
Licensed anime shops feature well-stocked and guaranteed authentic merchandise and are generally more space-generous than their secondhand store counterparts. If you want to support your favorite series, buying from these shops is the way to do it.
Animate Ikebukuro: Animate Ikebukuro is the headquarters of the popular Animate chain, 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. Pro tip! When you enter, go immediately to the elevator line and take it all the way to the top and make your way down level by level with the stairs. It’ll save your calves! (10AM–9PM)
Gamers Ikebukuro: Like Animate, Gamers is a popular distributor of many different series. It generally errs more towards the side of idol anime and has a dedicated male consumer-base, but because this location is in Ikebukuro it’s a little more friendly to female shoppers than some other locations. (11AM–9PM)
Pokémon Center: No first time trip to Ikebukuro is complete with a stop at Sunshine City and the Pokémon Center headquarters. However old you are, there’s something for everyone 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. (10AM–8PM)
Kiddyland: Brand new as of late 2017, this Harajuku mainstay now has a small shop in Sunshine City, right next to the Pokémon Center. Kiddyland features goods from multiple popular anime as well as kawaii character goods from various Japanese mascots. (10AM–8PM)
Sanrio Gift Gate: Sanrio doesn’t need much of an introduction and it would be hard to miss this shop in any case. Two levels of absolute sweetness and as the shop name implies, great for gifting. (11AM–8PM)
Secondhand shops feel a bit like treasure hunting. Primarily buttons and rubber straps, these shops are packed densely and tightly, and it doesn’t help that everyone is carrying a giant itabag down a slim aisle. But you can often score incredibly hard-to-find goods at great prices (or not, depending on how rare the item is).
KBOOKS: There are multiple KBOOKS in Ikebukuro alone, and even more confusingly there are multiple KBOOKS locations in Ikebukuro that have secondhand small goods. These range from trending anime, to classic anime, to seiyuu and idol goods, and a shop dedicated to video game goods. (Opening hours vary, generally 12PM–8PM)
Lashinban: Lashinban is KBOOKS’ primary Ikebukuro competitor, with a few shops sprinkled around the neighborhood for seiyuu and stage actor media, trending anime, and more classic anime. (11AM–8PM)
Bookoff: While not a dedicated anime store, Bookoff Ikebukuro is stocked to the brim with secondhand manga, video games, CDs, and DVDs. If you’re looking for media, check here first! (10AM–11PM)
Doujinshi are fanmade books entirely in Japanese of different series. You can find anything from comedy to romance to pornographic. Though there’s something for whatever your type is, for the most part doujinshi in Ikebukuro leans towards male/male relationships and often depicts sexual relationships, so peruse at your own risk.
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. Mandarake also sells some secondhand goods, CDs, and official artbooks, but this location is primarily new and secondhand doujinshi. (12PM–8PM)
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. Toranoana carries new doujinshi only, where the prices are generally a bit higher than Mandarake. There are two branches in Ikebukuro, so make sure to check both of them out! (10AM–10PM)
KBOOKS: KBOOKS also has a secondhand doujinshi shop separate from all of its secondhand good shops, and is definitely worth a browse for the different used stock they carry. (12PM–8PM)
Meikido: One of few shops with absolutely no anime advertising on the exterior, Meikido is hard to find but worth the hunt. Inside is probably the cheapest secondhand doujinshi you’ll find in all of Japan. Perhaps best of all, it isn’t as crowded as some of the most popular shops on Otome Road. (11AM–9PM)
Melonbooks: Melonbooks has a bit of everything, but primarily books. Licensed manga, magazines, comics, and of course – doujinshi! Like Gamers, this is a mainly Akihabara shop with an Ikebukuro branch, and as a result the stock is more male-catered than you typically find in Ikebukuro. (12PM–11PM)
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. Many of these places are small and fill up very quickly, so the sooner you’re there at opening, the better!