The ground floor of Nakano Broadway looks like a typical neighborhood arcade - dozens of shops selling handbags, sneakers, pet supplies and so on. But step onto the escalator and prepare to enter a different world - a warren of tiny, hyper-specialized shops focused heavily on anime and manga-related interests. Mandarake, the world's largest comic-book store, has its headquarters here, and they currently run 26 different minishops devoted to manga subgenres, collectible toys, trading cards, videos and soundtracks.
Mandarake's collectible toy outlets in particular have attracted a host of competitors, with names like Robot Robot and Alphaville, each with its own specialty niche. Squeezing your way through the stores' narrow aisles, you can admire impressive collections of Bearbricks and other modern designer toys, Hanna-Barbera figures from the Flintstones and Scooby-Doo era, Gundam action figures, Star Wars paraphernalia, Beatrix Potter miniatures, Pez dispensers, Playmobil sets, and much, much more.
Spinning off from the world of manga and anime are shops selling art books, animation cels and movie posters. If you like to dress up as your favorite comic-book character but you aren't handy with a sewing machine, the cosplay shops can sell you a complete outfit or two. Well-known pop artist Takashi Murakami has four contemporary art galleries here, along with a cafe-bar called Zingaro.
It's not all toys and games though - there are goth, punk and other alternative-fashion boutiques, and some half-dozen watch shops serving different market segments. Fujiya, a local audio-visual shop, has one store devoted to professional video - cameras, boom mikes, editing decks - and another one selling musicians' equipment such as professional mixing boards, synthesizer components and DJ mixers.
Hundreds of other small shops are spread over the mall's five levels, selling everything from fabrics by the yard and tropical fish to collectible coins and banknotes. You can have your back massaged, your fortune told and your teeth cleaned without leaving the building. There are also a surprising number of tiny restaurants - serving tempura, okonomiyaki and other dishes - wedged among the retail stores.