Nakano, Japan: On Broadway

It is only eleven o’clock and it is already well over eighty degrees Fahrenheit. In an effort of reduce as much energy as possible, the lights in the train are turned off and the air conditioning (if any) is at a minimum. I can already observe the exhaustion of those who are lazy from the heat: from the university student with his blazer off and his sleeves rolled up, to the woman in front of me fanning herself ,to myself with drips of sweat rolling down my back. Arriving at the station, the Broadway is seen clearly from my window with the sun shining off of the opaque glass windows at the entrance.

Nakano is a city just outside Shinjuku, and a much more serene one at that. A bustling city in its own right, Nakano provides a calm cityscape with which to explore. Waiting on the sidewalks in front of the Broadway are vendors and petitioners all holding out fliers in their hand, reaching out for me, or anyone, to take them.

As I walk past the open stores where wind bells chimed, a plume of air conditioned wind would pass over me and relieve me from the bludgeoning heat for a few seconds. Yet as hot as I was, my compassion went out to a Takoyaki vendor who stood leaning over the steam, twisting his wrists quickly to turn the dumplings over in the sizzling skillet. The sweat on his forehead swas topped only by the white towel wrapped around his head. As I drove forward into the main complex of the shopping area, I forced my legs to climb up the linoleum stairs–my jeans sticking to my legs uncomfortably– to find the Mandarake.


In broad terms, the Mandarake is where you can find all things related to anime. The shelves are packed so tightly with merchandise that one visit will not reveal enough of the enormity of the store. Every inch of the store is piled with anime figures with the most costly hidden away in glass cases and the others stacked on shelves, one on top of the other. It is always crowded, and very often I have to shift sideways just to slip through the close aisles. My venture is a difficult one,as I search for obscure anime hidden among the much more popular One Piece manga, of which one cannot escape. Yet after rifling through the glossy covers, I was able to find the only Rozen Maiden manga and waited patiently in a ten person long line to buy it.


Upon leaving the store, I walked over the skyway that  looked over the first floor.  I noticed thousands of green, blue, and white cranes hanging from the ceiling in rows. I understood their meaning at once. A poster on the banister notes that one can purchase the paper for ten yen, which will go to help relief for the earthquake.

Turning the corner—ever so delicately hidden—was a panty vending machine. I looked over and realized why, since right next to me was a video shop, or a porn store. The panty vending machines (or selling panties in general) are, understandably, a risqué venture. Quite recently there have been laws enacted to stem the purchasing and selling of used panties, primarily due to the fact that they are often solicited from teenage girls. That there was one here, in the middle of a mall, was intriguing since they are most often in secluded stores. It is the kind of displayed sexuality that is easily intermingled with the more adult anime, for which there are posters displayed in various storefronts; it is not shied away from.


Down the end of the hallway I spied an ice cream vendor a few meters away and subconsciously moved my feet towards the smell of sweet waffle cones. I took relief in the simplicity of sitting in the quiet of the hallway eating my mango ice cream with my bags of shopping settled at my feet.

July 8, 2011

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