Akihabara is the nerd/geek Mecca of the world, but it’s not always the easiest place to find what you’re looking for. Last year I covered the Osakan equivalent, Nipponbashi, so it’s about time I tackled Tokyo. TCG players, especially those into Weiβ Schwarz, can read on to find out about some of the places worth visiting.
Given the size of Akihabara, and all the side streets, this might not be completely comprehensive, but I’m going to try covering most of the important shops.
If you’re coming into Akiba (shorthand for Akihabara), chances are you’ll be coming via train, so I’m going to be starting from there. The station has several different exits, so it helps to get your bearings first. For this guide you’ll want to find the exit next to the Sega Arcade, which often has some kind of Love Live promotion going on. If you’ve come out near the big Yodobashi Camera you’ll need to get to the other side of the station. If you’ve come out at the AKB48 and Gundam Cafes, then just go back through the station past the Atre and out the other side.
If you stand with the Sega Arcade to your left you’ll be looking down towards the main street of Akiba. Right in front of you are several places worth visiting. On your left you’ll see a building called Radio Kaikan, which has shops all the way up to the 9th floor, with several TCG shops inside.
Right at the entrance you’ll spot a small C-Lab (C-Labo). This has a reasonable selection of cards and sleeves, but can be tough to move about in. It’s worth dropping in, just to compare prices with other shops. I’ve found a few rare gems here, like the official Lucky Star sleeves. There’s also a Hobby Station at the back (recently converted from a different shop), but I’m not sure which games they serve, since I only just noticed the change.
On the 2nd floor you can find the main Hobby Station, which has a decent selection of cards, and a good selection of sleeves at the back. They tend to have a few cards from older and rarer sets, like Black Rock Shooter, so it’s worth checking out. They also have some series organised ‘trash’ boxes, filled mostly with Cs and Us (and the occasional R) with very little value. Prices rarely go above ¥50, and most will be ¥20-30 or less.
After this you’ve got several floors of book shops, before you reach Yellow Submarine. They have a decent selection of new and old cards, alongside some ‘trash’ boxes. It’s worth noting that I think they’re one of the shops which lists the prices on their cards including tax, whereas several other shops list them pre-tax. There’s also plenty of figures etc to look at if you don’t just want to look at cardboard.
Up on the 7th Floor is Torekapack, which was recently renovated. They have big displays full of cards throughout the shop, with the Weiβ section closest to the counter. They have cards from just about every series in the game, so it’s worth a look if you’re after something a bit rarer. They also have a small playing area, but it’s usually packed.
The final card shop, Big Magic, can be found on the 9th Floor. They usually have a display selling completed decks, which can be useful if you don’t feel like putting into effort thinking up a decklist. Usually I think they’re made by the workers at the shop, but I noticed recently that they’d been selling decks matching to Trio lists from WGPs. Their main display for Weiβ is full of signed or foil version of cards, but they also have a ‘damaged’ section for lower end cards. These cards have a Yellow sticker, a common feature throughout card shops to signify damage. Very rarely will the ‘damage’ be significant enough to impact play, or even be noticeable, so you might get some good deals.
The nice thing about Big Magic is that they have several tablet computers set up in the shop, from which you can make orders for single cards. No looking through displays, folders or boxes, just click your card and submit an order. Make note of your order number, so you know when they’ve found your cards. If they can’t find what you want, or enough of it, they’ll let you know. It isn’t always the cheapest, but it’s by far the least stressful way to get your cards. They have a small play area at the back, and sometimes run tournaments.
[2018 Update] During early 2017, a Card World Tower (Or Card Tower) opened up to the left of Radio Kaikan. It has many floors, covering a variety of games, and a lot of play space on the upper 2 floors. The top floor also has an area prioritised for female players.
With Radio Kaikan done it’s time to return to street level. Directly across from you is Card Kingdom, probably the only card shop known to foreigners. They have a huge selection of cards, but are usually overpriced, especially on older or rarer cards. If nowhere else has it, chances are Card Kingdom will, but you might need to pay a 2 to 3 times premium on it. Prices can be decent for more recent sets though, and it’s a good place for sealed product.
One of the best things about Card Kingdom is that you can go there to play cards for free, just make sure you’re on the correct floor for your game. If you’re after an opponent, you can even grab a ‘looking for’ tag for your game and just wait. Some of the foreign players regularly meet up here, either by design or accident, so it’s a good place to get a few games in.
Right next door to Card Kingdom is Gamers, one of the main Otaku chain stores. They have a card section upstairs with a small tournament space, but they mainly just sell boosters. You’re better off going here for general otaku goods than cards.
At the corner of the street, roughly opposite Gamers is this tall building, stacked full of figures and other goods. They have some cards up on the 6th floor, but it’s relatively sparse, and you’ll probably be walking up there.
Now you’ve finally reached the main street of Akiba, at which point it becomes a bit harder to know where you’re going. By now you’ve probably noticed the maids nearby, or at least heard the singing coming from Maidreamin. Next door to it and down in the basement is a little card shop. Not much to say, but might as well take a look.
If you look across to the other side of the street you might be able to see an alleyway with Card World Akiba right at the end. This shop has plenty of cards on display for a variety of games, and has play space both upstairs and downstairs. It’s usually packed though.
There are several more card shops around this area, but I struggle a bit with directions around here, so you may just have to wander about.
Ikkokukan is nearby, and whilst it doesn’t really have a good selection of singles, they have a big play space. You do however need to buy something from the shop before you can play.
Down the end of one of the streets, getting further away from the main road is what I think is part of Mulan. They have a variety of games spread across a couple of floors, and some play spaces upstairs. It’s usually pretty packed, but it’s free to use.
One of the best shops to visit, and unfortunately one of the hardest to find, is Samurai. Not too far from the previous shops, and sort of near a KFC, there’s an area full of maids (or other costumed girls) handing out fliers for their cafes. If you go down this road, eventually you’ll reach a turning on your left with the kebab shop. It’s next door.
Card games are split over floors, and the Weiβ is right up the top. They have a good selection of hard to find cards at good prices, so it’s always worth checking out. If you need a shop assistant there’s a buzzer to press near the stairs.
[2018 Update] In late 2017, Samurai changed to Dragon Star (like in Osaka). This was after I left, so I can’t comment on whether the selection has changed or not.
Heading back past the maids, and going towards the main street is another Hobby Station, which sits opposite a Katsuya. The Weiβ cards are on the first floor with a couple of other games, and more are spread out upstairs. The second floor has a massive selection of sleeves, some very rare, along with some play space. There’s more space on the third floor, but I think like Card Kingdom they’re split by game.
At this point it’s best to try returning to the main street and start making your way down, away from where you started. If you stick to the left-hand side of the road, eventually you’ll reach a crossroads. On the other side of the crossroads is an open space which often hosts events. They’re usually anime / manga / light novel related, but they did have a moe sake event once.
Directly on your left, before crossing over the road, are several card shops. Note that the picture shown above is from the event space side, so looking back down where you’ve just come from. The building on the left has Amenity Dream, which has a great selection of singles, ‘damaged’ cards and ‘trash’ cards. You can often find rare cards here you won’t see anywhere else, like the extra Visual Arts PRs. Do note that if you want to buy singles you need to write down their names. So you probably don’t want to be buying ones from Katanagatari. They also have a quite large play space, but as with everywhere else it’s usually packed.
On the right is another Yellow Submarine. Their Weiβ selection is pretty limited, with more focus on other games, but there is some play space as well.
Keep walking past the event space and eventually you’ll find a turning on your left with this sign. There’s a card shop up on the 4th floor with a decent selection of singles, and a huge number of unsorted ‘trash’ boxes. You might get lucky and score some nice finds, but it’ll probably take more time than it’s worth.
Go even further down the main road and you’ll come across this little sign for Grand Panda Canyon, tucked away between some other shops. They have a decent selection of singles out on display, and sometimes sell decks too. They have some folders at the back which are worth looking through for some of the rarer PR cards. They also have a small play space.
At this point you’ve just about reached the end of the card shops along the main street, so it’s time to cross over the road and start heading back towards the station.
Eventually you’ll come across an Animate, which is the other main Otaku chain store after Gamers. This has floors and floors of manga, light novels and related goods. Round the back is another C-Lab, which has a good selection of cards and sleeves. Note that the photo taken above is from the C-Lab side of the shop, not the main Animate entrance. They’ll usually have some decks on sale near the exit. They will sometimes have really rare cards, like the time they had 2 copies of the Little Busters! +2 Soul for only about ¥4000.
[2018 Update] The C-Lab is now on the 7th floor of Animate. The card selection is the same as before, but there’s now play space too. You do need to fight through Animate to get up there though.
Returning to the main street and continuing towards the station, you’ll come across Trader3. The ground floor is filled with games, and TCGs are on the 2nd floor. Their selection is decent, and they sometimes have a few rarer PRs.
At this point you will have nearly be back at the station, and have exhausted most of the decent TCG options in Akiba, as well as yourself. Don’t be surprised if you’ve lost several hours before you realise it.
Akiba isn’t the only place to check out in Tokyo if you’re into TCGs. Most vaguely otaku-oriented areas will have some card shop or other, so you’re never too far away from more shiny cardboard. I don’t know much personally beyond Akiba, so will only be covering 2 other areas.
Ikebukuro is home to much female friendly otaku-fare, and is more or less the fujoshi equivalent of Akiba. You’ll see this reflected in the fact that there are far more anime guys on all the adverts and shops around you. There are several card shops off on the side streets, such as Big Magic and Amenity Dream, but they can be a little hard to locate. I randomly found a new one whilst wandering around last time. Usually they’ll have a nice selection of cards, alongside a decent play space. The Big Magic for example holds tournaments some weekends.
If you venture to the end of the main street, past the Sunshine City shopping mall, you can find some more card shops, but they’re a bit out of the way. Speaking of Sunshine City, it’s definitely worth checking out the Pokémon Centre Mega Tokyo, which is inside.
If you’re up for tournaments, one of the best places to go is the Yu Vic in Nakano. If you exit the station on the shopping parade side, then go to the left around the parade, you’ll eventually reach the shop just after a convenience store. They’re up on the 6th floor, and have a good selection of cards and decks. They run official and unofficial tournaments all week for a variety of games, and have certificates all over the shop showing successes of their regulars. On Sunday nights from 6pm they host the largest official Weiβ Schwarz tournament in Tokyo. This is usually a reasonable indicator of the competitive environment in the area, and can give you a rough idea on play trends. For more information about the shop, their events, and results from tournaments, you can follow them on Twitter @milkyholmes1.
At long last we’ve come to the end. I’m hoping this will be useful to those of you travelling to Tokyo in the future. If you want to arrange a meet up with other foreigners you can drop by our Facebook group. If you want to keep up on what random TCG stuff I get up to, you can follow me on Twitter @Xagor1.