Guide to Retro Shopping in Akihabara, Tokyo

Akihabara, known affectionately as Akiba, is one of the most well-known Electronics districts in Japan. Yet, its popularity has led to a lot of redevelopment in recent years pushing out a lot of the smaller more specialist shops which attracted people in the first place, and replaced it with mammoth all-purpose electronic stores. This has unfortunately meant one thing, less retro video game shops. Still, while iconic names like Messeh Sanoh (as featured in SGGG) may be no more(it is now Trader), the area still has a few great stores to satisfy the retro hunger of any retro/Dreamcast enthusiast.

Tokyo's infamous Akihabara district

So, you've arrived in Tokyo and want to check out the gaming paradise that is Akihabara, well how to get there? Luckily, Akihabara has become very accessible in recent years with a variety of train lines running through the area. Firstly, it is on one of the stops on the Yamanote line, a loop which visits most of the major areas of downtown Tokyo, the Kehin-Tohoku line, which travels north thru south through the city, and the Chuo-Sobu line which goes directly through Tokyo. You can also access it directly from Narita express via the Keisei line and the area is also serviced by the Hibiya and Toei Shinjuku (via Iwatamotocho station) subway lines.


Once you get there, the crowds, the noise and sheer visual explosion can be enough to break even the hardened Otaku. The narrow, windy streets can be a nightmare to navigate for uninitiated so here I have marked, what I consider to be the four best stores for picking up any retro or Dreamcast games in the area. While obviously Akihabara prices are not exactly the cheapest in Japan, for the most part they are reasonable and comparative with Ebay prices, and besides, the convenience and enjoyment of having pretty much everything you could want all in one place and available to see first hand makes up for it. If anyone knows how any other key stores to check out I would love to hear about them so please share them in the comments section. The trouble with Akiba, and Tokyo in general, is that buildings and stores come and go so frequently that keeping information up to date can be a challenge. Anyway, here are my top 5 retro stores in no particular order other than the route I normally take when in the area.


Shop A
Super Potato スーパーポテトレトロ館秋葉原店
http://superpotatoakiba.jp


First up we have shop A which is Super Potato. This is the store that most tourists will visit simply for its reputation for having one of the largest selection of retro games in Japan. So much so that it is often featured in Japanese video game program, GameCenter CX. You shouldn't have too much trouble finding it as it proudly displays its retro heritage with the awesome Super Potato sign outside on the front and music from the NES classic, Super Mario Bros pumping out onto the street.

If you absolutely must find an old school game that day, then Super Potato will probably have it. The only problem are the prices which are generally at least 20% more than other places. Still, all of their items are mint and they have pretty much every Dreamcast title you are looking for amongst their well-organised Dreamcast section at the back of the third floor. Be sure to check out the cabinet for the rarer titles such as LOL (priced at 7,000 yen on a recent trip), Space Chanel 5 Part 2 (6,000) and Border Down Limited Edition (15,000) and take a gawp at some ridiculously priced Mega Drive titles.

Their console selection goes in waves; sometimes they have pretty much every console pre-PS2 and at other times there will be simply just mounds of Famicoms. When I went on this particular visit they had a couple of unboxed Dreamcasts retailing at 6,800 yen each, a Biohazard Claire Red edition console for 50,000 yen and a Maziora Dreamcast for 500,000 (yup that's half a million)  yen. So yup, not exactly cheap but then it's largely a tourist trap.


The store has a decent range of a variety of consoles

Some, like the Super Famicom are playable, there's even a Virtual Boy to try out!
A wide-range of games are always in stock, the rarer stuff though is hidden in the cabinets

The building itself consists of three floors, and the first two floors are where you’ll find the games and consoles. Up on the third floor their is a retro arcade with a small selection of titles. Personal favourites are the Super Mario Bros and Final Fight arcade machines. Also, look out for the huge Solid Snake statue and the armchair made out of Famicom cartridges.



Shop B
Liberty リバティー
(http://www.liberty-kaitori.com/)


Liberty has a few stores scattered all around Akihabara. They mainly deal in second video games and toys, although recently they are increasing their stock of idol photographs which are so popular at the moment. Quite an underrated store, they do have some great bargains at times, and while their stock may not match the condition of others stores on this list they are usually one of, if not the cheapest. Check out their website for a map of their store locations as they are always changing locations.


Shop C
Retro Game Camp レトロげーむキャンプ
(http://retrogamecamp.com)



Shop C on the map. This shop is relatively new to the area and Retro Game Camp's doorway is adorned with crates of suspicious-looking, bargain basement CD-ROMS in the doorway. However, while it looks like a cheap place to shop it is in fact quite the opposite. Like Super Potato they keep stock levels high by pricing high. Probably the most expensive of the shops listed on this page. So, while they have a reasonable amount of goods they should be your last port of call when searching for your Dreamcast goods.

The unboxed Dreamcasts were retailing for 8,000 yen while those Twin Sticks for Virtual-On: Oratorio Tangram were just under 7,000 yen. Pricey!



Shop D
Trader トレーダー
http://www.e-trader.jp



Simply the best retro game shop in Akihabara. The are a few branches in the area but you will want to visit the main shop on the main street (chuo dori) as this is the one that specializes in pre-PS2 retro. The stores are clean and not excruciatingly cramped like the retro eccentric stores such as Super Potato and Retro Game Camp. While they may not have the levels of stock they once had you will find pretty much every Dreamcast game you could want. Their prices are competitive and you will usually find that they are the cheapest of the bunch. Condition is always great and they have a "junk" section of games retailing for a portion of the regular priced titles.  Another trend is for them to import new titles for retro systems such as Sturmwind for the Dreamcast and the Neo Geo X titles and prices aren't too bad. Trader seems to put a lot of emphasis on Sega goods with a great variety of Mega Drive, Saturn and Dreamcast titles.

 Classy looking retro store

Constantly refreshing their stock with newer titles like the above


The only negative thing  I would have to say about Trader is their lack of hardware in recent years. While a few years ago they could easily match stores like Super Potato and Retro Game Camp for variety, lately there have been times were they have literally no regular Dreamcast consoles in stock, never mind limited editions. Still, if you could only visit one retro game shop to purchase games (as opposed to just gawping at them) this would be the one.



Shop E
Mandarake マンダラケ
http://ekizo.mandarake.co.jp/shop/en/



















Mandarake is one the newer shops in the area it occupies a gigantic building with eight floors selling everything from video games, to figurines and old board games. The Mandarake chain is a number of stores throughout Japan specializing in a different otaku obsessions and the Akiba branch has a great selection of Dreamcast games and limited edition consoles. The prices are similar to Super Potato (i.e. fairly expensive) but they only carry super mint items which in Japanese terms means as good as brand new. 



 Mandarake has a lovely collection of mint games, just be prepared to pay premium

The store also has a number of limited edition consoles and on my last visit I saw a Biohazard Claire Red console retailing for 50,000 yen, although it was missing the limited edition metal plate that is included, and also black, and silver Dreamcast-Direct edition consoles (around 40,000 yen). The store is very clean and while the isles are quite narrow it is quite easy to navigate around their impressive collection. In fact, my only real complaint about Mandarake is that their skimpy two elevators are nearly always full or due to the sheer amount of floors take an age to arrive. So, you end up braving the six flights of stairs to get to the game section which can be annoying if you have been on a bit of a console spending spree and are logging around some heavy consoles. They also have some stores in the Nakano Broadway shopping centre in Nakano which are similar to the Akiba branch but possibly slightly cheaper.


Finally, after a hard days game shopping through Akiba there is nothing better than actually getting around to playing some video games. There are a few arcades in the area but the one I really recommend for a gamer is the "Hey Hirose" Taito game centre on the main road next to the huge Softmap store. It can be easily missed as its entrance is deceptively narrow but entering its narrow corridor will reveal and arcade full of great titles. This place is filled with actual video games and not just the casino crap or crane games that most centres seem to be focused around these days. On the second floor you will find a wonderful selection of classic shooters and up on the third floor lays practically every decent 2D and 3D fighting game ever produced. 

 The arcade has a fantastic old school look, complete with my fave title - Capcom vs SNK 2

The wonderful thing about this arcade is that while most places are scaling back their video game corners the Taito arcades are the only ones that selection continues to actually grow. There is usually a healthy amount of competition, especially around some of the older 2D fighters so its definitely, the place to display your gaming skillZ while in Japan. I made a quick video showcasing just some of the titles available to play so please see the YouTube link to see a real-life Tokyo arcade.



Comments

  1. Thanks for this article. I'm doing my annual pilgrimage to Japan in September and I've got a real hankering for some retro shopping especially Dreamcast and this guide hits the spot!! Will definitely be checking out Trader in Chuo Dori. I've been to the Trader just outside the JR Akiba station but this one looks heaps bigger!

    Also any ideas where I can buy DS games please? Last time I think I went to Gamers trying to find Ouendan for the DS and they were completely out :(

    ReplyDelete
  2. Boy, I wish I had found this article before I visited Japan last summer. I only had a few hours in Akihabara and we were so overwhelmed that I didn't find any retro stuff to buy. Have a plan is essential if you have limited time available. Guess I just need to go back.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Anonymous3/11/2014

    I just completed my sixth trip to Tokyo and retro game shopping has really taken a nose dive. You can still find cool stuff, but it's nothing like a few years back where I would fly home with four full suitcases every trip.
    I'm really into old hardware (consoles, controllers etc) and large amounts of good priced retro software, as opposed to 20 000 yen copies of Radiant Silvergun.

    Super Potato is still around of course, but as expensive as ever. They also had way less hardware. Retro Game Canp was sort of OK still, but the big Trader had zero interesting hardware (more like newly produced Famicom clones than Neo Geo sticks and Densha De Go-controllers, if you know what I mean). Also less cool software than previous years.
    Liberty and the big SofMap has no more retro games, and the same goes for several of the smaller stores that used to have a shelf or two of great bargain stuff (including hardware).
    There is a store a bit up the main street (third floor on top of a model shop) that still carry a full wall of retro hardware, but they're currently blowing out all their retro software in huge bargain bins, so I'm afraid they might be quitting the bussines too.

    Some people have been talking about Nakano as "The new Akihabara". Sorry to burst anyone's bubble, but it's nothing like that. Fun to roam around for an hour or two, but don't expect to come away from there with a couple of suitcases.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Anonymous3/17/2014

    Maybe Akibahara has changed, because I was there in Summer '13 and all I found was overpriced Visual Novels and Japanese ports of American games.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Awesome post buddy. I wish i read that before i went to Japan last year as i only found Super Potato. But i'm going back in a couple of months :)

    ReplyDelete
  6. I actually fear for the worst as I went this weekend and Trader was the emptiest I have ever seen, could DLC and Online retail really be finishing off retro games sales even in Japan.....?

    ReplyDelete
  7. Anonymous6/09/2014

    Thank you so much. I'm heading to Japan in two weeks and plan to spend a whole day searching for Dreamcast games. This guide is exactly what I was looking for. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment