In Tokyo, Japan there is a place called Akihabara. It’s a neighborhood of high rises and shopping malls, packed with everything a self confessed nerd could ever need: toys, comic books, games, costume stores, maid cafes -- it is a literal otaku wed dream. Beijing sadly doesn’t have an entire neighborhood dedicated to the obsessions of the youth/grown ups who have the mental age of fourteen year olds, but it does have the ninth floor of the Soshow Entertainment Shopping Mall in Chongwenmen.
The ninth floor is what is known as a Dongman Cheng (动漫城), loosely translated as “animation city” and it’s the biggest one in mainland China, making it a mecca for nerds of all shapes and sizes across the Middle Kingdom. Why? Because whether you’re in desperate need of imported Gundam figures, outdated video games,that final detail missing from your outfit for the upcoming cosplay convention, or the guilty pleasure of erotic manga, they’ve got it all.
Want to come on a nerd’s odyssey? Sure you do, so let’s get stuck in.
Chongwenmen has a bunch of shopping malls and department stores which are pretty much the same as Dongzhimen or Galaxy Soho. This skateboarding duck posing next to a chick with red hair was pretty cool though.
Once in the mall you’re going to have eight floors of neon lights and faux-Korean fashion boutiques. Bad acid trip whilst watching a sci-fi flick from the ‘70s decor, kind of like this.
But fear not! The ninth floor approaches!
And it opens up into this:
I included the last photo of the dude rocking an awesome mullet to prove a point. No one is going to judge you in this place. Nobody is coming here to be cool, in fact they most likely don’t care if other people are even there. They’re just in for the games,toys, comic books and other wonderfully useless crap packed into the shelves of the tiny retail units. While there is all manner of weird and wonderful treasures are to be found I’ve divided this guide into four categories: toys, comic books, cosplay, and games. Let’s start with toys.
Simply put, there are a shit-ton of toys in this place. It’s what most of the shops are selling and it’s not the kind of toys one might find in the Hongqiao Toy Market. Nope, no super soakers here. We’re talking full on collector nerd vibes. Transformers, movie characters, video game bosses, Gundam mobile suits... basically if you want something from a film, comic book, or video game in toy form there’s a good chance you’ll find it here.
There’s a reason The Joker is holding a wad of Benjamins: some of these babies will run you in excess of 2500rmb. Not for kids.
Bruce is into it.
Christ knows how much vintage awesome like this will run you.
More common characters from cartoons, like this one from the insanely cute Japanese anime/manga Doraemon, will run you somewhere closer to the 200-400rmb range.
I think it’s fair to point out that the whole place does have a recurring vibe of sexual frustration so don’t be surprised if you see some toys like these.
And others we won’t talk about here. You can see for yourself if you’re into that.
Next, comic books. As a good portion of the wares on sale are influenced by Japanese manga/anime and American DC/Marvel characters, plus everything else that in between, it makes perfect sense that there is also a ton of source material on offer. Not as much as the toys, but we’re talking entire book shops of comics that look like this:
A lot of it is in Chinese, but, hey, even if your knowledge of Chinese characters barely extends past the menu at the local dumpling joint, who cares? They’re comics, just look at the pictures.
I have it on good authority this boxed set is an erotic comic book. Once again, even if you can’t read the dialogue you could just look at the pictures.
Cosplay. For those who aren’t content just to read comics and play with the associated toys but want to actually be those characters, albeit on the weekend or at a convention. Big in Japan, cosplay is gaining popularity in China too. There’s a few retails units catering to all your dress-up needs.
I get the feeling this dude isn’t really into the wares he’s selling.
But he was super helpful when it came to what accessories he had on offer, especially in the ‘tail’ department. Hey, it’s that chick with red hair again.
And, again, this time cosplaying hard. As a cat. Pointing to a Japanese school girl’s uniform. Meow.
Fancy cosplay stuff, in case you’re cosplaying somebody from a steampunk comic book or whatever.
Finally, games. There a bunch of joints flogging all the latest titles for the Playstation, XBOX and so on. You can try some out and challenge some dudes to a game or something. But for me the real win is this solitarily gem:
While I’ve previously written about the shanzhai 8-bit and 16-bit jams you can get your hands on at markets around China, this place is a real deal. Legit retro games for the Famicon, Super Famicon, Gameboy, Genesis, Neo-Geo and a bunch of other platforms, many imported from Japan. Prices range from 50-100rmb per cartridge to ohmygodhowmuch. I’m not going to tell you how much I spent but I’m pretty much sorted for games for the next three months. Like most of the shops it’s rammed. The fun is in looking around and seeing what they have on offer. It’s way more fun than taobao, most of it seems legit (according to the prices) and in fact some of this junk you’d be hard pressed to get your paws on without ebaying something from Japan.
Toys, comics, costumes, games, all your nerd needs taken care of in one sexually frustrated place.
I’ll end on this picture of my cat rocking an accessory from one of cosplay joints... it’s a cat cosplaying a human cosplaying a cat... it’s pretty much the Inception of cosplay.
Dongman Cheng ("Animation City") is on the 9th floor of the Soshow Entertainment Shopping Mall. Easiest way, jump on the subway, get on line 5 and get off at Chongwen, Exit C. If you’re the Hollywood type you could take a taxi to the same place. Out of Exit C you want to walk straight and you’ll see a sign for Soshow up on the building seen below. That’s your destination. There is allegedly an actual front door, but it’s easier just to go through the KFC into the mall on the ground floor.
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