If you’re an otome fan, and you’re so lucky as to go to Japan, and want to find some cool/fun/awesome otome stuffs while you’re there, this guide is for you!
First off, if you don’t know Japanese, here are some key terms to look for:
女性向け： Josei-muke – Targeted to women. You’ll see this on store maps and section titles and it’s helpful when you’re in a multistory place like animate.
同人誌： Doujinshi – well, you know what this is.
家庭ゲーム・TVゲーム ・ PCゲーム： Katei game/TV game (console games) / PC game
乙女ゲーム：Otome game – if you read this blog you know what this is too!
漫画・コミック： Manga / comic – they usually use the second (katakana) version, but sometiems you see the traditional ‘manga’ used
特典・とくてん CD： Tokuten CD – a special CD, usually refers to preorder or limited edition bonus CDs. Places that sell used games/CDs often have these separate from the games.
If you have something specific you’re looking for, I totally recommend writing it down, in Japanese (and in the alphabet so you can say it as well), and if you don’t have much time, giving that to store staff – I always found them to be super helpful and nice. Also write down what it is – a PSP game, drama CD, etc. When you give it to them, you can say, “Sumimasen (Excuse me), kore o sagashiteimasu kedo…” which means, “I’m looking for this…” or “Sumimasen, kore ga hoshiin desu kedo…” (I want this), and usually that’s enough, they will know you’re asking for help. If they shake their head or apologize (something starting with “sumimasen” or “gomen nasai”) it probably means they don’t have it.
I’d totally do this in specialty stores like animate (I’d try to get to the right floor first), I’m not sure if bigger stores like Book Off would know their games that well (I did ask in a Book Off about finding the Violinist of Hamelin manga and they found it for me). Oh, and if you’re looking for doujinshi, especially if it’s a big series like Hakuouki, One Piece, or Prince of Tennis (テニスの王子様 or Tenipuri テニプリ）, it can’t hurt to write down which characters you’re looking for as well (if you want a pairing), or if you want an ensemble (オールキャラ or All-Chara), or you want BL or non-BL (which they call ‘normal coupling’, even though I think there’s way more BL doujinshi). Here is what the shelves of a Mandarake or doujinshi store look like. The tabs sticking out are the guide to the genre – some series like Tiger and Bunny and Uta no Prince-sama will have whole shelves (more than one) to themselves, and the tabs will be orderd by the couple – Otoya x Tokiya to use one example. Now, when I was in the Mandarake (I think it was), I found the general otome game section (the pic is from K Books) near the back and just went through like a madwoman. It wasn’t too big, maybe half a shelf once you remove the Hakuouki and Uta Puri stuff, but that’s still a few hundred doujinshi to go through.
Ah! One thing you should look out for if/when buying doujinshi – there are also a lot of doujin novels, which are great if you’re fluent in literary Japanese, not so great if you’re hoping for comics. The katakana for novel is ノベル, or its traditional name shosetsu ( 小説 ), and you can distinguish them because their covers usually don’t have a picture on them.
They’ll also have a Drama CD section, hopefully organized by title, but not always. Apparently Book Offs have a drama CD section too, I don’t think I ever noticed.
For games, I found the best deals in Book Off, and probably Lashinbang (also nice because Lashinbang is small), and maybe Trader (4 stores in Akihabara, 1 in Shinjuku). Mandarake was also great, although in some places the volume of stuff to sift through is huge.
Once you’ve gotten what you want and take it up to the cash, they’ll total it all up. If you’re using cash, great (by the way, you can use ATMs at any 7-11 with your North American bank debit card (any that have Cirrus(or maybe Plus, I can’t remember)! It’s awesome!), if you’re using a credit card, they’ll usually ask you something – I believe it’s to ask whether you want it all together or in separate charges. I don’t really know the reason behind this, I always just say “Ikkaku de”, which means all in one. Once you’re all done you might want to say “Doumo” or “Arigatou” in thanks, and then try not to be too obvious while you giggle and skip away in happiness.
Tokyo – Ikebukuro
This is the dream spot for otome fans. There are other places with several of the same stores, but none are as targeted to female fans as here – Otome Road. Check out my guide for the basics, but there’s actually even more around there that I totally missed during my trip *cue sobbing*. Besides the K Books stores, Mandarake, Lashinbang, Book Off, and animate (7th floor is drama CDs, 8th is games, and 5th and 6th is character goods), there is:
Meikido 明輝堂: a great doujin store for women, and according to my shopping guide the physical store has used games and CDs as well! Using extreme patience and virtual scouting with Google Streetview, I now know where it is – it’s not surprising I missed it since it has very little signage. It’s across from the Mandarake (not where the K Books store is but the street behind), on the 4th floor behind a Family Mart (convenience store). The signage it has is small but bright pink, and it’s in kanji.
Tora no Ana とらのあな: This is actually right off the main street, Sunshine Doori, leading to Otome Road, on a side street which has a KFC on the corner. It has doujinshi, but also games and CDs.
Gamers ゲーマーズ: This is on the side street right before Tokyu Hands. However, looking at their webpage I wouldn’t go here unless I had lots of time.
Stellaworth: Can’t believe I missed this, I thought it was only online but this store is all for women (and they always have really good special items with games). I think it’s on the same street as Gamers.
And for anyone who’s going later than November 17, the animate is moving out of Otome Road! It’s moving closer to the station, further north. There are good directions at the animate site for the new address.
(if you want it bigger just save it, the original size is twice what shows here)
Info on other anime/manga/game stores:
Kyoto: Animate – this is actually pretty near Gion if you’re doing sightseeing. If you’re walking down Shijou (四条） along to Gion, about two blocks west of Gion there’s an entrance to a pedestrian mall called Shinkyogoku (新京極）. About 125m in there’s an animate on the right (you might have to go up stairs to the door, I can’t remember).
More animate locations – they even have one now in my old suburb!!
Mandarake has stores in Shibuya, Umeda (Osaka), Grand Chaos (Osaka, near Nanba/Shinsaibashi), and their huge complex in Akihabara – as well as their several small stores in Nakano (Tokyo), which are totally fun
More links if you’d like to check stuff out before you go(this isn’t their whole selection):
Bookoff Online: if it works that goes to their PSP adventure games – many many otome games there. Now you won’t find that whole selection in one Bookoff but I usually found a couple games to buy.
Mandarake *new* doujinshi
Mandarake games – the part in brackets is which store it’s at
K Books online doujinshi store – the otome game ones are in the bottom right
K Books’ Ikebukuro store blog, where they post often about new collections they bought from collectors. Lots of BL but a bunch of otome as well – you can also see the range of prices.
Tora no Ana CDs Game Doujinshi by Title and PC Games (Princess Side)
Bookoff interactive map of locations – there is ALWAYS a Bookoff nearby, wherever you go.
Oh, if you’re looking for cute souvenirs or just cute things in general, I higly recommend Kiddy Land – their flagship store is right in Harajuku.
Hmm, what else can I say…if you have something specific in mind, some stores are searchable online before you go. Otherwise, it’s a lot of fun to just go and browse. Also, if you have trouble finding a place, there will often be neighbourhood maps around. Remember that addresses in Japan are done by blocks, from big to small, so an address would look something like: 東京都 豊島区 東池袋 1-22-10 – Tokyo-to (city or region), Toshima-ku (city section), Higashi Ikebukuro (area), 1-22-10 (neighbourhood, block, and building number respectively). That’s the address of the Book Off near Otome Road. If you have more money than time, you can take a taxi – just give the taxi driver the written address and they’ll take you there (taxis in Japan are really nice). Also good for when you’re loaded down with otome stuff! (That’s one place where being a game otaku has a huge advantage over being a manga otaku – the goods are WAAAAAYY lighter. Don’t ask me how many times I’ve lugged around 20 kgs of manga in my backpack)
If you have any other questions, leave a comment and I’ll try to answer!