For the second time in three years, I had a chance to visit Japan for a holiday. The first time was to Osaka, and the most recent trip was to Tokyo. Although I was traveling on a fairly tight budget, I still had fun looking out for Tokyo’s key board game stores. In particular, the information that can be mined from BGG's Japan forums proved especially useful. The following post is partly for future self-reference, and partly to provide a little information to anybody who's traveling to Tokyo.
Shosen Grande (Jimbocho)
To get to Shosen Grande, take the Shinjuku/Mita/Hanzomon Subway Line to Jimbocho. From the Jimbocho station, take either Exit 5 or 7. If you take Exit 5, turn left after leaving the subway and walk for about 50 meters. (My sense of distance is unreliable though.) Shosen Grande will be on your right, and you will have to cross the road to get to it.
Alternatively, if you take Exit 7, turn right after leaving the subway. Simply follow the pathway from there on – you will take a bend to the right and walk for about 200 metres before reaching the shop, but you won’t need to cross any roads.
The 3rd floor of Shosen Grande is dedicated to console games and board games. Their selection of non-Japanese games is really huge, complete with a few shelves of GMT and VP wargames. They also carry a diverse range of Euros, including German editions for some titles. However, their section of Japanese games is comparatively tiny. They do carry the obligatory Oink Games line though.
Price-wise, the non-Japanese games tend to be quite pricey. (For comparison, they are slightly more expensive than those found in Malaysia, where games are already fairly expensive.) On the other hand, the prices of Japanese games are the same as those found in Role & Roll Station. I ended up getting the latest Oink Games – Insider and Twins – for a friend from here.
While not boardgame-related, the 6th floor of the building is home to plenty of train-related merchandise. It was really fun looking at all the audio tracks of ambient train sounds, DVDs of scenes from trains, train signposts, schedule books and other related paraphernalia. I remember watching a documentary on Japan’s railway enthusiasts, and this section offers a glimpse into their world.
Role & Roll Station (Akihabara)
To get to Akihabara, take the JR Yamanote/Keihin-Tohoku/Chuo Line to the Akihibara station. (Note: Don’t take the subway line to Akihabara! The subway station is pretty far from the hotspot. I had to learn it the hard way.) Unfortunately, I can’t give proper directions to the two game shops I visited there as I stumbled around looking for them myself.
Role & Roll Station is on the 6th floor of a building along what I assume is Akihabara’s main street. It’s where the buildings tend to be more colourful and spotted with various electronic stores and maid cafes. If you want to get Japanese games, then this is probably the shop to go to. It’s a fairly compact shop, but they have a good selection of Japanese games, and a shelf or two for non-Japanese games.
An added advantage is that they have sample copies of several games, so you can take a peek inside the boxes to see what the components are like. (As I understand, the tables at the back of the shop are for playing the games from their library.) I visited Role & Roll twice on consecutive days and noticed they had put up new games for sale in the meantime.
From Role & Roll Station, I picked up what seemed to be the last copy of the fantastic Sukimono for a friend, as well as TROLL and Zooscape for myself. I also picked up a thick pad of Rolling World sheets for ¥300 on a whim. (The complete set of Rolling World was sold at ¥2500 and came with dice, pencils and a drawstring bag.)
Yellow Submarine (Akihabara)
Also in Akihabara is a Yellow Submarine outlet on the 6th Floor of the Akihabara Radiokaikan building. The building is somewhere close to the JR station. I wouldn’t really recommend going to this outlet except out of curiosity, because their selection is the smallest among the three. It doesn’t help that the prices tend to be higher than that of Shosen Grande and Role & Roll. (I kept flicking through my phone gallery to compare prices while I was there.) They did have one or two games which seemed to be unique to that shop though.
Walking into game stores in Japan is very exciting because they're packed with compact Japanese games with quirky names and themes like Butababel and Bible Hunter. My one regret is not having enough money to make a few blind purchases. And maybe another regret is not practising my Japanese enough beyond my usual fukurowa kekkoudesu at the cashiers. Japanese is a difficult language to learn!
Great report with great photos!
Not much to add for Shosen Grande. Quite expensive, but huge collection of foreign(non-Japanese) games.
I often go there and have fun seeing those bunch of games.(and feel sad seeing those price tags...)
In regards to Role&Roll Station, you could also go there from the Suehirocho Station, Ginza-line subway, exit 3.
But if it's your first visit to Akihabara area, I would recommend going from JR Akihabara station.
You would have more fun viewing the Akihabara city that way. Not so fun from the Suehirocho way around, IMHO.
And I also would not recommend Akihabara subway station, unless you are going to Yodobashi Akiba.
If so, go to exit 3 Akihabara subway station, and Aki-Yodo would be in front of you.
Unfortunately, I believe you went to the wrong Yellow Submarine store, boardgame-wise.
There are 3 YS shops in Akiba area, and the one you should visit is in a different building, 8th floor.
http://www.yellowsubmarine.co.jp/shop/shop-059.htm (JP only)
Not big as Shosen Grande, but bigger than RRS. Kind of like 70% boardgames, 20% RPG, 10% wargames.