Groovy Osaka: Nipponbashi
For a pop culture aficionado like myself, Osaka’s Den Den Town and Otaku Road rival Tokyo’s Akihabara or Nakano Broadway. Otherwise known as Nipponbashi, Den Den Town and its one side street, Otaku Road, are points of interest for anyone looking for otaku goods, electronics, or a bit of nostalgia.
Den Den Town, named after all the electronic stores that can be found there, has far more variety than its namesake implies. Maid cafés, toy stores, video game stores, hobby shops, music shops, and some duty free shops all can be found in Den Den Town. The shops carry new, retro, obscure, and international items.
Please be aware that most shops around Den Den Town start to close around 6pm, so try to go early if you want to take your time going through the many stores and items.
Running parallel to Nipponbashi-suji, Otaku Road is teaming with anime and manga shops, as well as card and game stores. It is also lined with some of the most aggressive maids I have ever seen.
Standing along the street in all weather, the maids of Nipponbashi will target any lone otaku, whether he is walking or even driving down Otaku Road. Like wolves eyeing a herd of caribou, the maids intentionally target any male they think they can bully.
Since many shy otaku have difficulty refusing an aggressive maid’s advances, the tactic works and often the otaku gets roped into going to the very overpriced maid café with hidden talk-time fees.
While girls and more confident men are not typically targeted, you can certainly enjoy the show. I was particularly impressed at a maid who stopped a car on the street to ask the fellow if he wanted to spend time with her at her café. He awkwardly declined and drove away as quickly as possible through the pedestrians.
One of my favorite things to do in Den Den Town is to look around the toy shops. I guess I’m just a big kid at heart. I love finding the retro toys of my childhood like Mighty Max, Transformers, GI Joes, Ninja Turtles, and X-men. You can find so much nostalgia mixed in with the latest toys and upscale models. Western toys are normally mixed in with anime figures, anime goods, and plastic models of all sorts.
While there are many great toy shops in Den Den Town, and I recommend going to as many as possible, the two that I love the most are Astro Zombies and Herogangu Laboratories (ヒーロー玩具研究所).
Astro Zombies, as the name implies, caters to cult classics while also carrying some of the latest arrivals to the market. You can find the Ramones as teddy bears, Troma and vintage movie t-shirts, and figures both new and old. Astro Zombies is a treasure trove of nostalgia, oddities, and things you didn’t even know you were dying to have. The prices are quite fair and correspond with the age and accessibility of the item. A small modern figure may run between 1,000-2,000 yen, with the glorious 12 inch David Bowie as Jareth from Labyrinth will run about 10,000 yen.
Osaka, Naniwa-ku, Nipponbashi 3-6-9
(Online shopping available)
Herogangu Laboratories is my other favorite spot. The toys are competitively priced and a bit different than Astro Zombies. Carrying an equal amount of Western and Japanese items, everyone is bound to find something interesting at Herogangu. For about 1,000 yen, you can get a small model of Osaka Tower (通天閣) or a favorite anime character. For 3,000 yen or more, you can buy all sorts of vintage toys, anime goods, and t-shirts. The last time I went, I got a vintage X-men t-shirt and S-mart Ash from Army of Darkness. They cost about 3,000 yen each.
Osaka, Naniwa-ku, Nipponbashi 4-9-21
(Online shopping available)