When we got back to the hotel, we headed for the internet cafe to check our e-mail. I got a message from my friend Nate with a list of suggestions about things to do, so we wrote down some notes. One place he mentioned was Nakano Broadway. Since we were already planning to visit Shinjuku that night, we figured we would stop by Nakano first. But not after getting some rest in the hotel room.
We set out for Nakano a couple hours later. Nakano lies a little west of Shinjuku, three stops down the Chuo Main Line. Right across from the station’s north exit is the entrance to the Nakano Sun Mall, a fairly typical shopping arcade, and at the other end of the mall is Nakano Broadway. Nakano Broadway is a four-floor building, and the first floor seems just like an extension of Nakano Sun Mall. But the other three floors are often referred to as an “otaku heaven,” though it’s much less known than Akihabara. Nakano Broadway houses dozens of specialty stores, particularly for toys and collectibles. In fact, the Mandarake chain of stores started there, and currently there are over ten Mandarake stores in Nakano Broadway alone, each with a different specialization. Their manga store is particularly impressive, as it’s fairly easy to find complete collections for almost any series, and the prices are typically much lower than normal.
One of the stores I liked best was the Trio 2 shop, located near the main Mandarake store. It’s basically an idol merchandise shop, filled with pictures, photobooks, calendars, posters, and the like. Not that this type of store is hard to find, but it had the best selection of large posters out of all the stores I came across during my trip.
We took our time trying to thoroughly explore the place (it’s pretty easy to overlook a whole section of shops), but it was eventually time to move on. Shinjuku was our next stop. Out of all the places we went, Shinjuku definitely felt the busiest (and perhaps it actually was). The JR Station there is huge, and it’s still packed with people. The immediate area around the station seemed to have a very high concentration of tall buildings, which only adds to the sense of crowdedness. I really felt disoriented there. Even Chuck gets easily lost in Shinjuku, despite having been there a few times before.
Our main goal was to pass by Kabukicho, the infamous red-light district in Shinjuku. Kabukicho is home to thousands of bars, nightclubs, love hotels, etc., and many yakuza and mafia operate there, though in recent years there’s been a movement to try to “clean up” the area. But despite the remaining criminal element and the seediness, it’s still a generally safe place (provided you don’t do anything stupid, of course).
Anyway, it actually took us a while to get there, since as I said, even Chuck gets lost in Shinjuku. We were walking down small streets for quite some time (at least the rain was only sprinkling now), but we eventually found our way. It was definitely a lively place, though I’m sure it would’ve been much livelier if it hadn’t been so early in the evening. Anyway, we didn’t stay there long (we obviously weren’t going to spend any money there). We returned to the area near the station to continue looking around.
Rather than eat dinner in Shinjuku, we decided to try finding something in Shinagawa. Well, when we arrived at Shinagawa station, something unusual was going on. Hundreds of men and women in their early twenties were walking around in packs, all dressed in formal business attire. Suits aren’t an uncommon sight, given the numbers of salarymen in Tokyo, but this many young people dressed up (women included) meant there had to be some kind of event. Chuck’s first guess was that it was some kind of company training.
Lots of these men and women were in our hotel (staying there or just having an activity there, I’m not sure). Chuck, seizing the opportunity to be social as always, suggested finding a place where they were hanging out. Our first try was the top floor of the hotel’s New Tower, where there are some lounges, a dining room, and a party room, but the food and drinks were too pricy. We settled for walking down the street to see if we could find anything.
Not too far away, we found a decent restaurant and ended up seated next to a table with three girls in suits. Worked out perfectly, apparently. Well, we started eating and drinking while the three were having their own conversation. Chuck waited for an opportunity to break in, and he eventually found one. He’s really good at this sort of thing, and he knows just how to use the fact that he speaks English and fairly good Japanese (including his trump card, Yamagata-ben).
The whole time, I was just sitting back watching Chuck work his magic. He was mainly talking to the girl closest to us, who also happened to be the cutest and seemed to speak the best English. Chuck’s second guess about the suits had been right: all the young people were there for a recruiting fair. These three girls were from a college in Kyushu (Fukuoka, I think). We (or rather, they) talked for a while about different things - like I said, Chuck knows how to work it - but they ended up leaving before us. Ultimately, Chuck didn’t get any numbers that night (they didn’t even give us their names after we gave ours!). Oh well.