Nakano Broadway: The Poor Man’s Akihabara

Nakano Broadway

Akihabara is well-known as the world’s otaku paradise. Despite several of the shops being affronts to all things holy, the town, while certainly a flushing void of escapism, at heart remains a celebration of all things otaku. It’s a gift from the otaku gods, a Mecca for the faithful to make their yearly pilgrimage–and bask in the presence of, say, Suzumiya Haruhi.

Nakano Broadway wasn’t like that. It was described to me as a kind of “deep” otaku grotto, a hovel of  subterrainean otaku culture–which should have been warning enough that I would leave feeling like I needed a hot shower to wash off the weirdness.

Which all might have been okay if it was top-quality weirdness, but to me the Broadway came across as just the poor man’s Akihabara.

For one, the lower floors were mostly filled with cheap clothing stores and other non-otaku related goods. Only once I started climbing did the Broadway reveal its otaku nature, but a lot of floors felt empty, like a chapel suffering a shortage of devout–loosing members to age without any neophytes to take their place. If anything it was like a drab, muted apologies for its own existence, which made the few cool stores stand out in a way less exciting and more often out of place.

Mandrake Store

Like this one. Pretty cool, huh? Don’t get used to it.

For what was described to me as an otaku paradise, the whole affair felt rather cheap. Like a community of tents trying to weather a Great Otaku Depression. I had expected floors crowded with the sparkling eyes of 2D poster girls, but I actually didn’t see as much anime or manga as I had wanted–though that was my fault for not recognizing that otaku does not mean “anime lover.”

The proper definition is more of an existential debate, but the basic meaning is “fanatic.” Otaku is anything. The guys waiting at the station, snapping pictures and taking videos as the trains arrive–train otaku. The guys with replica guns lining their walls–military otaku. The guys who love their cars too much–not gearheads, car otaku. And Nakano Broadway, while indeed proffering to the basic anime otaku, is a place for many other species as well.

And where creepiness grows like fungus on damp trees.

Otaku Dolls
These dolls, for instance

Now, I can accept the dolls. I’ve got nothing against them. The finished ones are kind of cute.

Nakano dolls

But the windows of nude ones, with those soulless eyes watching like some kind of half-sentient clone in metastasis, gave me gooseflesh.

But, like I said, I can accept that. It’s like accidentally walking in on a surgery–not pretty while it’s happening, but in the end you know that everything is going to be all right except for maybe a discrete scar or two.

But this kind of thing I cannot accept.

Nakano Broadway Uterus

Anatomically correct intestines and uteri in the window are just plain creepy, and there purely for visceral reaction. I wasn’t impressed. It was just pointless, stupid shock factor with no substance.

Like this shop, named “strange shop.”

Strange Shop

Yes, it was strange, and kind of cool, and had it been smack dab in the middle of a row full of similar ones then I could have gotten into it. But when it’s on a half empty floor otherwise filled with cheap clothing shops, it only looks misplaced. And that’s how many of the stores looked–misplaced.

There were all kinds of stores there. Most of them though, seemed more like someone and his mom decided to open up a shop, and a lot of the merchandise was more like that same guy selling off his private collection of whatever than an actual store. Sometimes that was good…

Andrea the Giant Figure
Like Andrea here.

But sometimes it was more like someone selling off their cheap handmade cosplay.

Handmade Cosplay For Sale

Or their old collection of bubble gum machine prizes.

Old Stickers

I was seriously disappointed with this “otaku paradise,” and have to say that if you want to come to Japan for otaku, head to Akihabara. Nakano Broadway is just a place for that guy who lives in his mom’s basement who–while you have to admit his collection of stuff is kind of cool–really just creeps you out.

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4 Comments on “Nakano Broadway: The Poor Man’s Akihabara”

  1. KallyW
    August 23, 2013 at 2:05 pm #

    Hi there!

    Nakano Broadway was legit the weirdest shopping centre I have ever been in and it gets weirder as you go up! I’m so glad you wrote about it and have all these photos. I wanted to write about it myself but we didn’t take many photos inside sadly – do you mind if I use some of yours? I’ll credit them and link back to your blog 🙂

    I think the fact that many of the shops of the 3rd and 4th levels are vacant adds to the weirdness. There’s a great curry house near Nakano too called Milan – we had the best butter chicken there.

    Awesome post!


    • introvertnathan
      August 26, 2013 at 1:20 am #

      Hello. Feel free to use my photos, as long as you give me credit like you said. I’m looking forward to reading your piece.

      • Kally
        August 26, 2013 at 1:37 am #

        Thanks so much! 🙂



  1. Book Giveaway! Cool Japan Guide | IntrovertJapan - April 14, 2015

    […] of this was new to me. I’ve written about quite a few of the sites myself, and except for Nakano Broadway and Sensoji, I would also recommend them. (A lot of people disagree with my particularly negative […]

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