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

The stores covered in this section are the ones that are just that little bit further away from the “hot spots” and require a dedicated visit. This is where a car really comes in handy. Not only do you have a mobile porter with REALLY big arms but you also don’t have to worry about timing/finding transport. So of course it would be silly not to take advantage of it.

These will be covered in their respective ball park regions.

-Hollywood-

California Surplus mart

California Surplus Mart – one of the biggest and most comprehensive online stores for work wear (Dickies, Carhartt etc) and army surplus. Unfortunately the retail store does not do it justice, only carrying the “popular” colours and styles. Sizes were sporadic at best and the range sadly lacking. Still the biggest in the central area but not what I expected. Prices are average, if not a little high compared to department stores and the downtown area.

Undefeated LaBrea

Undefeated La Brea – the store from that ep of Entourage at the barren concrete end of La Brea. Not a bad range of stock, definitely the most lush looking out of the three in LA. Friendly and helpful staff, fascinated about how colourful (and durable) Aussie currency is 😉

And Still – clothing store right next door to Undftd. Big range of team apparel and vintage styled sports apparel. Lots of Starter gear. Larger double store with locker room inspired decor.

Off Broadway Shoes

Off Broadway Shoe Warehouse – At the Santa Monica end of Sunset Blvd, OBSW can not be missed, a huge two story warehouse style building with only one level. This one is definitely for the girls with 2/3’s of the massive range falling in to the “girlie” strappy, slippy, boot-y, healy, slutty (!) range of woman’s footwear. They also have a large selection of sneakers for guys and girls but all in the active wear vein from staples like Nike, New Balance, Puma, Asics, but don’t expect anything very “fashionable” for these. The guys also get a big selection of work boots and hiking wear from Caterpillar, Mack, Timberland, Merrell, Northface etc. Even though the “talent” isn’t the best, the prices are more than reasonable with true clearance pricing of discounts on top of discounts. A perfect place to stop when you realise the mistake of wearing Chucks or Shelltoes as travel shoes 😉

Hollywood and Highland

Hollywood and Highland – They were asleep at the wheel when they named this shopping complex, being the cross streets the building sits on but most people would know it as the building with the big elephants on the roof. Planted right in the middle of tourist heaven(or hell to some) it stands grand with its Egyptian theme. Conversely, the shopping center itself is quite small, consisting of the usual combination of high end and regular souvenir stores. There is a Sanrio store but like most, only stocks the Hello Kitty range. On the plus side you can pick up a Hollywood x HK exclusive with the kitty sandwiched in a movie scene marker ^__^

This is also a good viewing spot if there’s a premier (Pirates of the Carribean – On Strange Tides while we were there) at the El Capitan theater across the street. Take some binoculars for some celebrity spotting.
H & H also has a wide range of eateries and restaurants. Our recommendation for a quick and healthy bite is the Mongolian BBQ place tucked in the back corner. Pick your own ingredients and the chef fries it up. Reasonably priced as well.

The Church of Scientology is just down the road too if you’ve sinned and need to say a couple hail Tom Cruise’s.

Church of Scientology

-Beverly Hills-

Niketown Beverly Hills

I know a lot of people would die to shop on Rodeo, but realistically the best most could muster is window shopping and attracting glances that suggest you either just threw up on yourself or “you’re wearing THAT???”. Suffice to say, the majority held very little interest for us other than the Nike flagship store. Being The ‘Hills it had more focus on the active wear side of things (LEFT!! LEFT!!! – re: Spanglish), personally I preferred the Santa Monica store. One of the reasons you’d come here is for the dedicated store tee’s “Nike – Beverly Hills” though you will need a large amount of finger snapping to help pull that one off. Which I no doubt would struggle with and hence respectfully declined the purchase.

-West LA-

Giant Robot 1

Giant Robot 2

Giant Robot 1 and 2 – Yep, there’s two stores with in about 100m of each other. Thankfully the same stuff isn’t rehashed over both stores, #1 has more of the stuff you’d expect from a vinyl collectible store. Blind boxes, collectible figures, cute plushes, anime/Threadless inspired tees and a small selection of related books. #2 has a slightly more grown up feel about it with a large range of books and clothing in a more vintage style rather than cutesy. They also have some house wares like retro patterned travel mugs. Definitely worth a stop in if you’re out Santa Monica way.

Blackmarket LA

Blackmarket LA – No, not the legendary UK DnB DJ, it’s a store in a similar vein to the GR’s and is next door to GR1. A double lot store which has a clothing side with lesson known brands but more than likely rating high on hipsters’ wish lists. They also have a limited range of shoes and accessories. In the second room there’s a wide variety of kitschy knick knacks, Asian style ornaments, a small selection of Kidrobot vinyls and some Lego keyrings and clocks which we didn’t see anywhere else. Prices are a little high on some items, easily notable on the KR merchandise being $1-2 more on top of the usual retail price.

-East LA-

Citadel Outlets

Citadel Outlet Mall – very much in the same vein as Harbour Town on the Gold Coast – a large outdoor mall with outlet stores from major brands. It is also the home to the worlds biggest Nike outlet store with a floor dedicated to each sex (kids stuff is upstairs with the women’s wear). Once you’re off the Santa Ana freeway on Telegraph road its pretty hard to miss the row of giant LED signs topped with Sphinx like statues. Inside, its all your fave stores but in discount form – Adidas, Nike, Reebok, Puma, Journeys, DC Shoe, Converse, Skechers, Vans, Volcom, Under Armor, Quicksilver, Billabong. Prices range from “ok” to “crazy fire sale clear out!” but like any outlet stores its more about being there at the right time when the stock is there…. and in your size!
Also take a moment to visit the rest rooms, strange request but you’ll thank me, easily the most lush ones I’ve seen at any strip mall!

Nike Outlet - Citadel Outlets


-Silverlake-

Undefeated Silverlake

Undefeated Silverlake – This is the largest of the 3 LA stores. Wider range of colours and styles. Clothing is on actual hangers instead of being folded up, much better for customer friendly browsing.

Secret HQ LA

Secret Headquarters – couple doors down is this comic and graphic novel specialist and right next door is Vacation Records – for your rock music on vinyl, you know, those big black plastic round things.

Wacko - Soap Plant

Wacko / Soap plant – This is one of those places that you’re so glad that you made the effort to pop out to. I know it’s a pretty big call but I would have to say it is THE best toy store in LA for variety and quantity when it comes to collectibles. The store is huge compared to your regular niche vinyl toys and collectibles store and swaps snooty arrogance for down to earth friendliness. From the outside the building is eye catching with “hippy” style colours and art work yet rather unassuming along Hollywood Blvd’s other randomly coloured buildings. The company itself has a rich and long history in LA dating back to the 70s (see website).
You might feel a bit uncertain walking in and seeing rows and rows of books but don’t doze off just yet, these are the sort of books that are conversation starters and should adorn everyone’s coffee tables. They’ve got it covered from pop culture and low brow to fine art, to technical and historic books, they even have the Big Book of Breasts…in 3D! You’d seriously need a bigger house to fit in all the Win!
As you make your way to the back there are sections of plush toys and household and stationary items which then blend into movie and TV merch, clothing and then a back area with “the good stuff”. Blind boxes galore, many older series and series you’ve never heard of before like CI Boys work, the only place I saw these in LA. They now join their other buddies from the same series I nabbed in Japan 😉
Plenty of older models or out of run items next to rarities like the So So Def afro man, this and a lot more on top of our big purchases would have found a new home if we weren’t already shipping 3x 10kg boxes back home! The list goes on with wind up toys, vintage style pop culture items and a general assortment of “oh COOL!” knick knacks. My only disappointment is not being about to “have all the cats” ;p

All items are reasonably priced for their value and the staff are friendly and helpful. The website has a few items but doesn’t do it justice.

-Van Nuys-

Big Kid Collectibles

Big Kid Collectibles – Definitely out of the way unless you’re going to the Van Nuys airport, but if you are, its worth a look in, especially if you’re over 45. I know what you’re thinking, its all penny whistles and moon pies, not so, but you’re along the right lines. A vintage lounge complete with clear plastic covering only adds to this.
They boast an extensive range or original and replica vintage items, brand/sporting memorabilia and lollies/candy – how some of these are still being made (or are actually edible) I don’t know! They even have original Dr. Pepper glass bottles!
Preowned items adorn a lot of the cabinets (original Smurf and Winnie the Pooh figures are in there too) along side classic faves like Etcha Sketchs. There is also a clearance table, not quite 1950s prices though 😉
Staff are friendly and only too happy to have a nostalgic yarn.

Up next we close out our epic stay in Lala land by taking sight seeing to a whole new high 😉

Los Angeles 2011 part #1 – Arrival, Melrose Trading Post
Los Angeles 2011 part #2 – West Hollywood shopping, Mulholland Drive
Los Angeles 2011 part #3 – Downtown shopping – Fashion District
Los Angeles 2011 part #4 – Downtown shopping – Japantown
Los Angeles 2011 part #5 – Steel Panther @ The House of Blues 17/5/11
Los Angeles 2011 part #6 – Hollywood sign, Farmer’s Market
Los Angeles 2011 part #7 – Peterson Automotive Museum
Los Angeles 2011 part #8 – Greater LA area shopping
Los Angeles 2011 part #9 – Hollywood sight seeing with Orbic Air
Los Angeles 2011 part #10 – Driving in Los Angeles/California

Complete Los Angeles 2011 photo gallery here