Tamiya HQ
If you can’t make it out to a model kit factory (if you do, just make sure they still have tours! many don’t anymore) then popping into Tamiya HQ in Shimbashi is -almost- the next best thing. Its essentially a store but don’t let that discourage you, their range is extensive covering thousands of their latest model kits, paints and building materials on the ground floor; an RC haven in the basement and a social build event space upstairs. The street level also has a solid selection of built kits on display and a generous helping of branded merchandise including clothing, stickers and nicknacks. The longer night hours (10pm) during the week (and 6pm on weekends) are useful for planning your days when you lose track of time!

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Diver City Plaza

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Diver what? Located in Tokyo bay, Koto, its not exactly a place that comes up in the Tokyo “must see’s ” list and if youre only going for the shopping you may even miss the best (and biggest) attraction, a 1:1 scale Gundam robot! Those that aren’t interested in all things anime/manga are probably already rolling their eyes but trust me when we tell you its as awe inspiring as the Eiffel Tower (and almost as big!…almost :p). The real treat is making your way there after dark when it puts on a light and sound show complete with accompanying movie, CO2 bursts and a bit of movement! Yes movement, sadly not in the walk around, baritone voice, making girls swoon Optimus Prime kinda way but we’d like to think that if Japan did come under attack Pacific Rim style they’d already have a substitute Jaeger secretly ready to lay it down 😉

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Best thing is, the full length show runs hourly and there are teaser previews on the half hour. Times are displayed on a sign. There is also a merch demountable office at its feet with a modest selection of Gundam related items and Gunpla kits. Most however are available at countless other stores (and at better prices depending where you look) so you can give your carrying arms a break and just enjoy the show. Here, you can also buy tickets to the small “Gundam Front” exhibit which houses some scaled real life props from the series and other points of interest.

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Photo Tip:  As you can see from the photos, this guy is huge, so an ultra wide angle (around 12mm on crop, 20mm on fx) is a must.  A mid zoom will help get some close up details.  A tripod is handy but not a must unless you decide to shoot some night city scapes, not much on this side of the bay however.

Afterwards head inside for some food and shopping. If, like us, you got a bit carried away and watched the full show twice before you realise the shops close at 9, you don’t need to worry, just head up to the top level. Thanks to Round 1 – very similar to Timezone in Australia with arcade games, claw machines (skill (aka patience) testers), bowling and karaoke – shops stay open a bit later on this level with a selection of international fast food and local restaurants. We were looking at a menu only to realise the place had closed, but of course, in true Japanese hospitality, the owner came out and asked if we wanted a table and that it was no problem to cook us something. How could we say no? The bento set was delish btw 😉 We also now find it very difficult to go back to fried items sitting on the plate instead of on a mini rack to stay crispy!

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Travel Tip: There are a few ways to Diver City from Tokyo station but there is no direct route so you will need to change trains and do a bit of walking between stations.  Allow about 30min all up and remember to keep some change on you for the local trains that don’t accept the JR passes.  Full list in english on the Diver City webpage.

Next up we hit the shinkansen early for a day trip to Yokohama, you know, the place where all those tyres come from :p

If you have any questions on our travels, where to buy, what to do, hit us up on the Soulbridge media facebook page.

Japan 2013 part #1 – Arrival
Japan 2013 part #2 – Tokyo International Toy Expo
Japan 2013 part #3 – Gotemba – Premium Outlets mall
Japan 2013 part #4 – Tokyo – Studio Ghibli Museum
Japan 2013 part #5 – Tokyo – Kichijoji and Nakano
Japan 2013 part #6 – Tokyo – Akihabara
Japan 2013 part #7 – Tokyo – Tamiya HQ, Diver City
Japan 2013 part #8 – Yokohama – Zoorasia
Japan 2013 part #9 – Yokohama – Ramen Museum
Japan 2013 part #10 – Nissan HQ and Yokohama
Japan 2013 part #11 – Osaka – Nanba Shopping
Japan 2013 part #12 – Kyoto
Japan 2013 part #13 – Tokyo – Harajuku, Shibuya
Japan 2013 part #14 – Osaka castle, Umeda Sky building
Japan 2013 part #15 – Osaka Aquarium and Tempozan wheel
Japan 2013 part #16 – Osaka Universal Studios

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Aki’ba, THE geek mecca (and mecha!) of the world. We covered a few spots on our last visit but its one of those places that you can continually go back to and not only find something new every time but you’ll never cover all of it! It’s a bit hard to reference each store, especially when a lot of them don’t even seem to have any obvious naming (having rubbish Japanese reading skills doesn’t help!) but know that if you work your way north from the station keeping within a block or two of the main drag you cant go too wrong. The best part is uncovering hidden treasures in stores that, at first glance, don’t look like they’d have what youre looking for.

A couple of our fave stops include:
The Gundam Café – exactly what it says on the box. A café celebrating all that’s Gundam with Gundam referenced food and drinks and nifty décor. Also a good place to grab a couple café related souvenirs – mugs, biscuits etc. as well as a small selection of Gunpla. Next door is AKB48, the girl band, the theatre, the hourly shows. Sick of waiting years to see your fave act or missing them because they didn’t come to your city? AKB48 has you covered where you can go to them and see them play any day of the year and even in different parts of the country on the same day! How is this possible? Well having 48 members (now into the hundreds!) helps. Though if you’re not a tweenage girl or business man it may not be your cup of Miso.

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Mandarake – Big black building. Toys. Cosplay. Old, new. Lots. If you’ve read any of our posts about Japan previously, you’ll know how much we champion this place, go there.

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Gashapon store – A whole shop just for gashapon! While the thrill of the hunt is always fun, I’m finding I’m more inclined to just pay a slight premium to get the “discovered” pieces and either cherry pick or buy the whole collection that someone else has taken the time to collate. If this sounds like you as well, the rear of the store and upstairs has display cases and shelves full of the ones you’ve been chasing, didn’t know existed or have been out of production for years.

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Sega – There are plenty of multi storey gaming buildings but none stand out quite like Seee-gahh (cue sparkly shine). Many hours and thousands of Yen can be spent without blinking an eye. But of course if you cant master the “giant metal nail punching holes in the paper” or “push the pig through the bars” technique, there’s always the cop out of simply finding a store that stocks the prize you’re after and buying it 😉

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Super Potato – Wall to wall retro console gaming, even if you’re not after a cartridge or console there’s plenty of items that would make great wall/desktop display pieces.

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Robot Robot – Thankfully this was one of those times judging a shop by its name paid off! With no street frontage and only a sign to go by, it was always going to be a gamble but the trip up the elevator was worth it not just for Robot squared with its extensive range of Hot Toys style high end collector products with leanings towards horror movies and gore in general …and vagina-like monsters (why are they always vagina-like??)  but for the smaller accompanying stores on the same floor with a great selection of new and used toys and collectibles. Want to see a fair chunk of Coca Cola’s history as a yoyo? Yep, you see that here too!

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Of course there’s also the plethora of electronics stores like LAOX which really need no description, if it’s a new gadget, they’ll more than likely have it. Pricing is however average or slightly better with greater bargains to be had online but finding a JDM only model or colour can be worth it.

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We stumbled across a “Rollertarg” a bit further down so lunch was an easy choice 🙂 continue walking and you will end up in Ueno. However, unlike last time the market gods were not kind to us and a lot of stores that we previously come across had moved on, though its always a good place to walk through, you’ll never know what you’ll find and the nearby park is more than worth the trip.

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If you have any questions on our travels, where to buy, what to do, hit us up on the Soulbridge media facebook page.

Japan 2013 part #1 – Arrival
Japan 2013 part #2 – Tokyo International Toy Expo
Japan 2013 part #3 – Gotemba – Premium Outlets mall
Japan 2013 part #4 – Tokyo – Studio Ghibli Museum
Japan 2013 part #5 – Tokyo – Kichijoji and Nakano
Japan 2013 part #6 – Tokyo – Akihabara
Japan 2013 part #7 – Tokyo – Tamiya HQ, Diver City
Japan 2013 part #8 – Yokohama – Zoorasia
Japan 2013 part #9 – Yokohama – Ramen Museum
Japan 2013 part #10 – Nissan HQ and Yokohama
Japan 2013 part #11 – Osaka – Nanba Shopping
Japan 2013 part #12 – Kyoto
Japan 2013 part #13 – Tokyo – Harajuku, Shibuya
Japan 2013 part #14 – Osaka castle, Umeda Sky building
Japan 2013 part #15 – Osaka Aquarium and Tempozan wheel
Japan 2013 part #16 – Osaka Universal Studios

Kichijoji

In true Japanese fashion of revamping and renewing just about everything every couple years, Kichijoji had copped a bit of a touch up in parts and is in the process in others. Our main reason for coming out this way last time, Skit, had also changed or more precisely, moved a couple blocks away – actually not too long after we were there. Their new store now sports a street shop front and actually looks more like a store than a hoarder’s cluttered apartment! But never fear, Its still wall to wall, floor to ceiling of shrink wrapped sneakers of all kinds from super rare to garden variety and brand new to turning-to-dust just minus the creepy slum factor.

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I struck it lucky last time with a pair of Baltimore AF1’s in mint condition and as it turns out, that same strike of lightning struck again years later for the same pair but $20 cheaper! Perfect timing since the previous pair are on their way out.

Shopping tip: The website is still the best place to start with a mostly up to date inventory of stock and prices for a pre-visit recon mission. You can also check out stock in their other stores to see if its worth the trip out to them.

LA Avenue aka Napsize was another great place for us to stop last time but it too had moved, all the way to Harajuku! So the only other place left that sparked our interest was one that was missed the first time round, PX Megastore. There’s a few reviews online that speak rather highly of the place but unfortunately, to us it seemed a bit junky, kind of like rocking up to a garage sale a day later, its all been picked through, the half decent stuff is gone and you’re left with stuff you could easily do without. Its not a complete loss though, there is a large range of new and (mostly) used brand name street wear including sneakers, G Shocks, endless amounts of Supreme branded items and a huge selection of clothing, a lot of which can be viewed on their website. There’s also racks of clothing and sneaker basket bins at clearance prices at the front.

Prices were very hit and miss, more along the lines of miss which didn’t help, but if you like a rummage sale in a bad-part-of-town discount store feel and are in the market for some vintage street wear then its worth the several blocks walk from the station.  You may however have better luck at one of their other stores.


Nakano

From a tourist’s point of view, Nakano for all points and purposes is just Nakano Broadway mall, which is pretty much all there is at this small station but if you want a toy, electronics, games and anime mecca outside of Aki’ba then this is the perfect stop. In fact, you wouldn’t feel too bad if you had to miss out on the latter after spending a fair portion of the day here.

Travel tip: take the north exit from the station and its just across the awning covered street.

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The first section of the mall is actually Nakano Sun mall, over 200m of branded shops and restaurants in a similar vein to the B grade retailers from your regular Westfield. Uniqlo is there for some well priced basic clothing along with a range of mobile phone and small electronic shops. Continue along till you reach the escalators, this will take you up to level 3 and is where the fun begins!

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So in the vein of Aki’ba its an anime and toy heaven and judging from the number of Mandarake stores it really should’ve just been called the Manadarake centre, seriously there’s more than 12! Some aren’t branded or are focused on only one type of product but the price tags all have the name. So basically if you want any kind of model kit, anime figure, manga book, RC toy or general electronics, you’ll be hard pressed to not find it here. The catch slight however is a fair portion of the items are used or of vintage status which is a blessing and a curse for some (actually if you’re looking for latest and greatest this is probably not the best place to start). There are also a large number of gashapon hoarding stores (basically they collect (possibly by buy, sell, trade) pretty much every gashapon “prize” new and old and individually package them) so if you’re after that chaser you’ve spent forever looking for, more than likely they’ll have it here, usually at a premium. Its better than having to pour money into a machine on a prayer but granted its not nearly as much fun.

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The stores themselves are reminiscent of the multi level bargain market style buildings in China, no real décor or order other than shelves to hold stock, usually floor to ceiling. It took me hours to get to the point but eventually they did start to all blend together, only the odd few with something different to sell (or a big strip of mech-waste bolted to the store front) stood out. But again, if you have the time and love the hunt there’s plenty of treasures to be found.

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Stairs take you to adjacent levels with more of the same with a change in ratio of cutesy clothing shops to toys and vice versa.

There are also little electronic stores that sell bits and pieces of computers and radios etc. and vintage consoles and games. I’m not too sure on how they go with haggling but a couple stores automatically gave discounts for multi buys, one even slipped in an extra game cartridge with a wink and a “shhh”! Nice one! 😀 FYI, Fonzy’s “eeyyy” finger guns have the same “you’re awesome!” translation in Japanese as well 😉

Travel Tip: stores open till around 7 but many begin closing from 5 or 6.

The supermarket on the lower level is a good spot to grab some supplies of fresh fruit and veg and snacks before heading back to the station.

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Part of the haul ;)

Part of the haul 😉

If you have any questions on our travels, where to buy, what to do, hit us up on the Soulbridge media facebook page.

Japan 2013 part #1 – Arrival
Japan 2013 part #2 – Tokyo International Toy Expo
Japan 2013 part #3 – Gotemba – Premium Outlets mall
Japan 2013 part #4 – Tokyo – Studio Ghibli Museum
Japan 2013 part #5 – Tokyo – Kichijoji and Nakano
Japan 2013 part #6 – Tokyo – Akihabara
Japan 2013 part #7 – Tokyo – Tamiya HQ, Diver City
Japan 2013 part #8 – Yokohama – Zoorasia
Japan 2013 part #9 – Yokohama – Ramen Museum
Japan 2013 part #10 – Nissan HQ and Yokohama
Japan 2013 part #11 – Osaka – Nanba Shopping
Japan 2013 part #12 – Kyoto
Japan 2013 part #13 – Tokyo – Harajuku, Shibuya
Japan 2013 part #14 – Osaka castle, Umeda Sky building
Japan 2013 part #15 – Osaka Aquarium and Tempozan wheel
Japan 2013 part #16 – Osaka Universal Studios

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Did they just skip a whole entry and jumped straight to #2? You betcha. You’re not going crazy, we’ve had a few requests for a review of this event so we’re skipping the prelims and are jumping straight into it!

Getting there: The website for the Tokyo Big Sight venue has quite clear instuctions and caters towards foreigners well with detailed maps and directions in English. Even without a major event on, when you arrive at Kokusai-Tenjijo station (Rinkai line) its pretty much a straight run to the venue. There’s a lot of open space and the unique architecture of the building makes it hard to miss (keep walking past maccas), but with something like the Toy Expo on the cards it was as simple as following the slews of scantily clad cosplayers. Done and I mean done!

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Travel tip: The event is a trade expo which goes for 4 days, first 2 are for resellers and the second 2 are for the general public. Getting there before doors open and beating some of the crowd is the key to maximising your viewing time.

Travel tip: Lockers – Having jumped straight off the shinkansen at Tokyo Station with all our luggage, the choice was either to spend time looking for our hotel to ditch our bags or head straight there to try and beat -some- of the people that slept in. We were already on the run so we decided to just take our luggage with us. In hindsight we probably should have just left them at Tokyo station but of course there’s never a locker when you need one! (or one big enough for our 30kg suitcases!). Not to worry, the venue has plenty in various sizes, as long as you get there before lunch you shouldn’t have too much problem scoring your choice. There is a change machine nearby in case you havent stocked up on Y100 coins.

Travel tip: Plan ahead – head to the event website before hand and find out which exhibits you want to see first. I recommend doing the big ones first then back track through the smaller vendors that don’t have any queues.

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First thing to keep in mind is that this is a trade expo, a lot of stuff you see is not for sale (yea, bunch of dirty teasers they are!) but where you cant buy, you can try. At least half the items are out of their cardboard prisons and are available for you to add your grubby fingerprints to. Ever wanted to see how that RC controller fits in your hands? Go for it, grab your fave car and take it for a spin while you’re at it. Or how about what you’d look like with a giant inflatable hat and dreadlocks? Throw it on and take a tote of your imaginery spliff, Cypress Hill style. Best of all you don’t need feel guilty or rude and you definitely wont get “the look”, in fact its quite the opposite, you’ll have someone on hand to show you how it works so you can nag your mum for it for xmas 😉

The major draw card AND biggest downside of the event is that its free. This means every man and his cosplaying kid dressed as a dog is there. Think of it like Disneyland or any major theme park for that matter, you will spend the majority of your time queuing…and queuing and just when you think you’re on the final stretch… some more queuing. The plus side is, unlike park rides, once you get in, the “ride” lasts longer than 5min! So back to the queuing, you thought Londoners knew how to queue? You havent seen anything till you add Japanese effeciency to the mix.

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Welcome to Line Town, population, you. First queue is to get in, these were reasonably short as there were several halls to enter. We enter the downstairs one first, simply put, if you’ve ever been to Japan before, its like entering a Pachinko slot arcade for the first time, or for the less initiated, think of hearing every radio station and seeing every TV channel all at once to a backdrop of a 1000 fireworks while drowning in skittles and you’ll be getting close. Take it in for a moment but don’t let it consume you, and it will, find your bearings then make a bee line to… the line.

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One of the main attractions for us and just about everyone else was the Bandai exhibit occuping the most real estate of the whole event and this is where the real queuing starts. Don’t be misled by thinking you can just waltz in the exit, even by accident, security are quite strict (it was an accident, I swear!). Tour group style signs and town criers on megaphones are most likely giving clues as to where the queues start and how long the waits are but that wont help for a second if you don’t understand Japanese, following the branding is much easier. A bit of pre-trip research found the wait was about 30-45min but finding the end of the queue with a mere 10-15m from the entrance I thought we were in luck but then the queue started to zig zag like a bank queue. No problem, 15min in and we were on the last “zag”, but …hang on why are we turning away from the entrance?? Dishearteningly the line took a tangent and headed off behind the vendor stalls and just kept going.

The distracting and time passing sights of people watching and spotting stalls to add to the “must see” list disappeared and we were left with the cold white walls of an event hall and rabbit runs for staff. Like the speeding up and changing into third of a traffic jam there’s glimpses of hope as you spot the entrance and try to estimate the amount of time left but its as much a mirage as a handicap carpark at the shops. Unless you arrived as the doors opened, save yourself a trip on the emotional rollercoaster and just go by your watch. 30-45min is a pretty good time estimate, we took around 40min, however the wait is well and truly worth it starting with a sample bag on entry, perhaps a “thank you, for not slapping the parent of that screaming kid or punching out the guy dragging his feet and staring at you the whole time” more than anything else but like a kid with ADD you’ll quickly forget those woes as the complete Bandai catalogue comes alive and tries to eat you.

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The first half of the display is targetted mostly to the younger kids, especially girls (and the occassional business man) with classics like Sailor Moon, Anpanman, Power Rangers (and other local tokusatsu style shows), Tamagotchi (and its spin offs like Dream Coffret Salon) to favourites like Monsters Inc. A lot of these sections included make and create tables for the little ones. Continuing around we crossed what you could loosely call the sporting section which housed a variety of weapons that shot, darts, water, pellets or paintballs but what I was interested in was the last sections, namely the very extensive Space cruiser Yamanto and Gundam sections. Basically if it was released or going to be released, you’d more than likely find it here from out of the box kit builds to full weathering and detailed dioramas, its all covered.

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Just off to the side of the exit there was one of our fave artists, Mr. Knucklebear himself Touma putting brush to canvas for a piece that was to be a lucky door prized. The cuter than cute Milky girl had her own section as did our favourite way of getting rid of coins, the toy equivalent of the pokies – gashapon! Just remember, a lot of items are display only so try not to get your hopes up too much if you spot that chaser you’ve been after for months!

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The rest of the event which included kids faves from My Little Pony, Mario characters, Lego and those creepy people-like mice Sylvannian Family (complete with their own stage show for the IRL creeps) to big boys toys and collectibles with air rifles, RC of any imaginable vehicle, Nanoblocks, exquisitely detailed movie characters from Hot Toys and even a stand of musical equipment from KORG all required little to no waiting. Unless of course you head upstairs to the Tomy stall, which of course had a line for the escalator, a line to get in to the exhibition hall, THEN a line for the stall. Needless to say we cut our losses and saved some time, more so because Gotemba outlet mall was calling! That’s up next…

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Travel tip: Exhibition eats: there are several “food court” areas essentially selling the carni’ equivalent Japanese food. Plenty of fried items and traditional event food like hotdogs but they also had rice dishes along the lines of teriyaki beef with kewpi and cabbage and gyozas which definitely left our stomachs with a much less weighed down feeling. Perfect to keep on running!

Tokyo International Toy Expo 2013 highlight photos

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Complete Tokyo Toy Expo 2013 gallery here

If you have any questions on our travels, where to buy, what to do or just want to share your own stories, hit us up on the Soulbridge media facebook page.

Japan 2013 part #1 – Arrival
Japan 2013 part #2 – Tokyo International Toy Expo
Japan 2013 part #3 – Gotemba – Premium Outlets mall
Japan 2013 part #4 – Tokyo – Studio Ghibli Museum
Japan 2013 part #5 – Tokyo – Kichijoji and Nakano
Japan 2013 part #6 – Tokyo – Akihabara
Japan 2013 part #7 – Tokyo – Tamiya HQ, Diver City
Japan 2013 part #8 – Yokohama – Zoorasia
Japan 2013 part #9 – Yokohama – Ramen Museum
Japan 2013 part #10 – Nissan HQ and Yokohama
Japan 2013 part #11 – Osaka – Nanba Shopping
Japan 2013 part #12 – Kyoto
Japan 2013 part #13 – Tokyo – Harajuku, Shibuya
Japan 2013 part #14 – Osaka castle, Umeda Sky building
Japan 2013 part #15 – Osaka Aquarium and Tempozan wheel
Japan 2013 part #16 – Osaka Universal Studios

Japantown - Peace Pagoda

Japantown is a short bus ride from from Union Square, catching just about any bus on Geary St. will get you there. Arriving earlier in the morning will give you free run of the place, even though it didn’t seem to get very busy. The “town” is based around a couple shopping centers sharing the Peace Plaza, an open area with the unmissable Peace Pagoda. Surrounding blocks house smaller businesses mostly restaurants and eateries, but having just had a big breakfast there was only one thing on our minds… TOYS!

It is definitely one of the best spots in SF for anime and collectible vinyl figures, I will just list the major ones but in general, the place isn’t -that- big and can easily done in a couple hours of slow browsing.

Japan Video and Auto Freak

Japan Video – as the name suggests, lots of dvd movies and animated series, plenty of JDM stuff for sale and rental. Small selection of toys but a healthy range of plush items.

Auto Freak – if you need to “Asian” up your car or if you want it to look like an EKKA showbag exploded on/in it then look no further this is the place with all manner of novelty knick knacks to do just that. Pedals, gauges, neon, covers, stickers, air fresheners, tissue box covers… you get the idea. They also have a range of die cast model cars and sponsored and novelty race/drift inspired shirts.

Amiko

Amiko – complete cuteness overload in this store with a fair portion of it dedicated to child and baby wear. Small range of men’s tees but the rest is all girls or kids. A few plushes but focus more on practical items based on popular characters like Hello Kitty, Doraemon, Domo-Kun etc.

JPNToys

JPNToys – much more along the lines of a traditional collector toys store with all the staples – blind boxes, vinyl figures, action figures (Revoltech, Figma, Transformers), plushes and plenty of themed tee’s. Prices were pretty average, but there was a small clearance section and selected items on sale so resistance was futile when it came to a Gloomy bear wall clock for $18US.

Moritaya

Moritaya – another explosion of plush with extra Rilakkuma and Pickachu and adaption of these characters to accessories like pens and keychains and household items. They also stock a selection of imported make up.

Katachi

Katachi – this store had a lot of different bits and pieces but focused mainly on Japanese ornaments and souvenirs in the way of Kimono wearing dolls, framed artwork, lanterns and replica and full sized Samurai swords. There’s also a good selection of chef knives and pocket/hunting knives. This was also one of the few places we saw in SF that stocked Toki Doki shirts.

Kinokuniya bookstore – is huge. Not just Japanese/Asian related either, there’s plenty of quirky arts and craft and cooking books. Downstairs has Manga galore, a huge range and more than likely the ability to chase after selected titles/issues for you. Ample stationary and a small selection of toys and clothing as well. The website is just as extensive with many country specific variations, Australia included.

Japantown Collectibles

Japantown Collectibles – definitely saving the best for last with this one, easily my fave store in SF. It’s an unfortunately small store crammed wall to wall, floor to ceiling with figures, models and collectibles. With the hoarding style of display it was both exciting to be hunting round for treasure and frustrating that a lot you couldn’t get to and while helpful, asking the staff every time you wanted a price or closer inspection got tiring rather quickly. Never the less the range of model car kits was enough for me to not walk out empty handed, sadly most items went begging due to the size of their packaging and the dwindling size of my luggage space!

Next up, we head to THE bighouse, the Rock… Alcatraz.

Milpitas 2011 – Great Mall
Yosemite 2011 part #1 – LA to Oakhurst via Bakersfield
Yosemite 2011 part #2 – Yosemite National Park
San Francisco 2011 part #1 – Arrival
San Francisco 2011 part #2 – Shopping – Haight, Downtown SF
San Francisco 2011 part #3 – Chinatown
San Francisco 2011 part #4 – Japantown
San Francisco 2011 part #5 – Alcatraz
San Francisco 2011 part #6 – Fisherman’s wharf, Golden Gate Bridge

Complete Yosemite 2011 photo gallery here
Complete San Francisco 2011 photo gallery here

Chinatown SF

San Fran’s Chinatown is one of the biggest in the world outside of Asia thanks partly to the early gold rush days. You could easily spend a day traversing the hills sampling cuisine and buying any number of knick knacks and knock offs, though if you’re on a schedule, a few hours in the afternoon is enough to get the jist of it.

Doublepunch

We actually started by overshooting Chinatown by a couple blocks north to check out some toys at Double Punch. This is a well rounded store with a good selection of all the regular pieces you’d expect to see at an art toy store. Most are reasonably priced with a few sale items floating about. While the retail store is pleasant enough, unfortunately I had found the online experience far from it and recommend everyone to stay well clear of it. Service was extremely poor, replies were dragged out and vague at best and little attempt was made to find a solution to simple requests to gain my my business. Sad when all I wanted was to purchase some items and pick them up from the store to save on the horrendous international postage charges. A few of the pieces were getting tough to find so I wanted to make sure I could secure them, of course after a few weeks of toy blocking I gave up and hoped to find them in store. Of course, they were sold out by then. Thanks a lot, bastards 🙁

Unpleasantries aside, while you’re out that way, pop next door to Recon/Darkside Initiative skate store, a designer skate store in the vein of Supreme or HUF but with a lot friendlier service. They carry the usual designer items of clothing and a small range of sneakers. Being a smaller slightly out of the way store they also had a few older models/colours of items that have been sold out else where, Undefeated caps and tees where the ones that caught my eye.

The bus stop is barely a block away which took us back to Chinatown. If you’re looking for model kits then Sun Entertainment is the way to go. The store is very unassuming from the street with only a small sign, in fact you’re more than likely to walk straight passed it. They stock a large range of model kits, regular vehicles along with Gundam (inc. Master grade) and similar anime favourites. There’s also a small selection of figures and slot cars.

While there are plenty of el cheapo souvenir shops around the place Far East Flea market dwarfs them all. Perched on top of a hill its about the size of a large Crazy Clarks store and with the same mish mash variety of “everything but the kitchen sink”. This is definitely one of the best places to buy cheap souvenirs, either Chinese/Asia or San Fran related. Its not all junk either, there are some quality ornaments, cool Asian toys and retro items like vintage Coke or Star Wars metal lunch boxes along with all manner of household and travel related items. They even have replica weapons like swords and nunchucks, not too sure how you will go trying to get them through customs though!

Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory

The last stop in Chinatown is a must for the novelty factor alone, the now famous Golden Gate Fortune cookie factory. No more than a little business operating out of a cramped store front in a lane way, but thanks to plenty of online love its grown popular, to the point where you have to pay if you want to take photos! $1 if you can squeeze to the front but def. worth it to see the things being made. Of course there’s plenty of cookies available for purchase, a couple bucks will get you enough to wish you’d never want to see another one again! “Tough cookie not so tough when stuffed with tough cookie”…. or something :p

Chinatown Entrance SF

We keep the Asian theme going next with a cuteness overload in Japantown.

Milpitas 2011 – Great Mall
Yosemite 2011 part #1 – LA to Oakhurst via Bakersfield
Yosemite 2011 part #2 – Yosemite National Park
San Francisco 2011 part #1 – Arrival
San Francisco 2011 part #2 – Shopping – Haight, Downtown SF
San Francisco 2011 part #3 – Chinatown
San Francisco 2011 part #4 – Japantown
San Francisco 2011 part #5 – Alcatraz
San Francisco 2011 part #6 – Fisherman’s wharf, Golden Gate Bridge

Complete Yosemite 2011 photo gallery here
Complete San Francisco 2011 photo gallery here