Mention anime shopping in Japan and one of the first things that comes to anyone's mind is Tokyo's Akihabara district.  The area has become a hub for anime and manga fandom over the years, and there's a massive concentration of anime goods shops there.  However, step away from the bright lights of Akihabara and there are quite a few more places you can go for your anime and manga fix

Nakano Broadway is one of these places.  Nakano is an unassuming suburb just a short westbound train ride from Shinjuku station on the JR Chuo Line, and handily it's just a stop away from Mitaka, where the Studio Ghibli Museum is located.  Exiting Nakano station puts you directly opposite a covered shopping arcade, which at first glance doesn't promise too much.  Walk through the arcade to the Nakano Broadway shopping centre though and a veritable Aladdin's cave of anime goodness lies before you!

Nakano is notable anime-wise for one thing, and that thing is Mandarake.  Anyone who has been anime shopping in Japan will have come across Madarake, the 2nd hand anime and manga chain has shops in several Tokyo suburbs as well as major cities like Osaka and Sapporo.  However, Nakano is where it began, and the branch there is one of the most interesting anime places you can visit.

Mandarake covers a large chunk of the 2nd, 3rd and 4th floors of the Nakano Broadway building, but instead of a single big shop it comprises several smaller shop units across the three floors, each selling different types of goods.  Dotted in and around them are other related shops, including the second-hand music and video shop Recomints (which has a similar multi-shop layout to Mandarake) and figure shop Robot Robot.  There's little noticeable order or logic to how the shops are arranged, the companies just seem to have bought extra retail units as and when they became available.  This leads to a completely random hodgepodge of merchandise shops, manga

shops and anime shops, and a single corridor can yield models, figures, rare manga, cels and DVDs alongside American t-shirts and imported toys.  It's chaotic and bizarre, but massively addictive.

Exploring every nook and cranny of Nakano Broadway takes hours and even after you think you have seen everything it can still surprise you.  It's the ultimate market for collectors of all types, no matter what random series or artist you like.  There are specific Mandarake shops specialising in pre-1970's manga and even tin toys from the 1950's and 1960's.  Luxurious DVD boxsets and rare figures are available, as are original cels from the likes of Neon Genesis Evangelion and My Neighbour Totoro.  Artbooks that are long out-of-print sit side by side with 40-year old editions of Shonen Jump magazine, and character goods for long forgotten films and games jostle with hordes of plastic Ultraman villains for shelf space.  Some of the items on sale will attract only the most serious of collectors, with prices running into hundreds of thousands of yen, but there is plenty to tempt those with more modest budgets.

If Nakano Broadway has a problem it's that - much like the building itself - it's somewhat stuck in the past.  You won't find the latest figures or merchandise here, and you are unlikely to find much new release anime and manga.  The focus is on the nearly new, the rare and the collectable, so it's a good place to finish off a figure collection that has sold out everywhere else but not so good if you want the newest of the new.  However the sheer variety and

 scope of the items available is breathtaking, and you will find merchandise for your favourite (older) films and series you probably didn't even know existed.  It's a great place for window shopping too, but most interesting of all it is one of the few places that really gives you a feel of the history of anime and manga.  You can see how the art and content has developed over the course of 50 years through the comics and artwork on display, and see how the style and types of merchandise and toys have changed too.  From the wide-eyed sci-fi of Osamu Tezuka through the elegant girls comics of the 1960's and '70's, the hard-boiled horror and drama of the '80's to the

boom years of the '90's, it's all here.  It may sound a bit over the top to say this about what is effectively a worn-out shopping mall, but there is something about it that awakens your inner otaku and brings back the enthusiasm that time has dulled.  It's a place that rekindles your interest, broadens your horizons and makes you want to explore the history of anime and manga.  For a random jumble of merchandise, DVD and book shops, that's quite an achievement.

Animetion loves Nakano Broadway.  We love the randomness and the old-fashioned feel of the place.  It feels like the kind of shopping centres that are dieing off in the UK, all independent shops, strange layouts and unexpected discoveries.  However, the modern age doesn't have much time for the past, and we wonder how long this unique place will stay like it is.  The 40-year old building is showing its age, and the shops inside are largely specialised to a collector's market at a time when spending money is at a premium.  Despite a PR push aimed at overseas visitors Nakano Broadway still has a pretty low profile, which means that most anime tourists take their money to Akihabara instead.  The number of empty units in the building has grown since our last Japan visit two years ago (cosplay shops taking the biggest hit), and with development space in central Tokyo at a premium you wonder how long it will be before the planners turn their gaze to the suburbs.  Nakano Broadway is a bit of an anachronism in modern Tokyo, but whilst cities worldwide become increasingly homogenised it seems like a little bit of old-fashioned character we hope the city retains.  Catch it while you can.