Friday, January 5, 2018

Visiting 3 scale model shops in Akihabara, Tokyo

Akihabara. It is a suburb of Tokyo, very close to the city centre, and it is crazy. It's also known as "Akihabara Electric Town", and the neon skyscrapers surrounding Akihabara Station specialise in selling electronics, cameras, manga, video games and other pop culture. And, more importantly to me, there are about six or seven scale model shops within a ten minute walk of the station!

Scale model shops in Akihabara - Yellow Submarine, Volks Hobby and Leonardo LG

I got to visit three of them recently. The two biggest, Yellow Submarine and Volks Hobby, are in the same building right next to the train station. They stock a phenomenal range of new kits, across the whole spectrum: armour, aircraft, ships, sci-fi, cars and bikes. But what is astounding to me is the incredible breadth of their range. They don't just sell the kits, they also stock a huge range of tools, resin accessories, photo etch detail sets, spare sprues, individual figures - just everything.

And it seems that this is just what they always stock.

I'm more used to Australian hobby shops, which sell an okay range of kits, but there is no store which sells all the accessories, all the detail-up stuff, all the specialised tools, in any depth.

a) the scale model scene is so strong in Japan that enough customers buy the esoteric stuff to keep it regularly turning over, or;
b) Japanese retailers don't mind having esoteric stock sitting on their shelves for extended periods of time.

Regardless of why, it is incredible to see so much product in one shop.

The third shop I visited was Leonardo LG, which is an easy ten minute walk north of the station. This was also an eye-opening experience. It is a secondhand model shop! It sells only secondhand kits - some ancient, some recent, some rare, some common. It's like a secondhand book shop, but full of models!!!

Scale model shops in Akihabara - Yellow Submarine Ma.K. Maschinen Kreiger kits
Maschinen Kreiger kits on display in Yellow Submarine.

Scale model shops in Akihabara - Leonardo LG secondhand plastic model kits
The entrance to Leonardo LG.
Scale model shops in Akihabara - Leonardo LG secondhand plastic model kits
All the secondhand kit shelves in Leonardo LG.

Japan, you are officially the Scale Model Kingdom of the World.

A couple of the stores were unhappy about me shooting much footage inside, but I got enough to give you a flavour of what it was like. I tried to be respectful of the stores' wishes, but also to show you guys how incredible they are. Why wouldn't you want to show the world how amazing these stores are?

If you're ever in Tokyo, you really have to visit Akihabara. I ran out of time to see all the stores - please, check out the others as well and let me know what I missed out on!

Video is embedded below, but in case that doesn't work here is the link:
Visit 3 scale model shops in Akihabara: Yellow Submarine, Volks Hobby and Leonardo LG



1 comment:

  1. Hi again Dave, just back from Akihabara again myself, and I’m so pleased you got some pictures out of Volks and Yellow Submarine. I can’t understand why they don’t allow photography in their stores (I have been cautioned by staff too) Maybe they just don’t need extra publicity as they are so busy anyway!
    To do the area justice, you need to spend a whole day...or ideally even two! A lot of the other shops there are worth exploring as they often have Scale model jewels stashed away in corners that you would never find. Many of the Gundam and figure shops also have second hand sections that cover the full gamut of the hobby, but you have to explore every storey of every building by climbing tiny winding stairways. Book-Off also has a hobby section below ground in their store on the other side of Akihabara Station. The second hand thing in Japan is huge as nobody has much storage space in their small homes, so they sell their old stuff when they buy something new. Shops also have glass cabinets you can hire to keep your stuff, and they put a price on anything they want to sell. Lots of collectable stuff is bought and sold like that.
    Glad you had a good time. I am incredibly grateful that my job takes me to Japan regularly (up to 10 times a year) so I can geek out in Akihabara!