Ottavia Bourdain Gets Lost in Tokyo
by Ottavia Bourdain

 I wake up and the room is pitch black. I fumble for the button to open the blinds. I find my phone and the time reads 5am. But it’s my first day in Tokyo and I’m not going to waste a minute in bed. I arrived last night after a 12-hour flight. My husband [Anthony Boudain] is shooting a show and my daughter and I decided to tag along.

Since I was a kid I’ve always loved everything Japan. I’m passionate about the food. I’ve been collecting Japanese toys for years and I have an affection for cosplay that has led to misunderstanding and mockery. I used to manage a Japanese restaurant, where I met some amazing Japanese guys who taught me some very bad Japanese words.

Our first mission is a trip to a store in Shibuya; MapQuest is telling me it’s fairly close and easy to reach. In the hotel lobby I tell one of the porters our destination. He calls us a taxi and proceeds talking to the driver for what seems to be a good five minutes. I’m a little worried: Where the hell is he going to take us? My husband explains to me that in Tokyo, there’s no such a thing as an address as we generally think of it. Many streets don’t even have a name. If you want to go somewhere you have to give specific directions.

My husband introduces me to one of Japan’s greatest delicacies: Lawson’s red chicken nuggets. Lawson is a convenience store much like 7-Eleven. They sell an incongruous combination of snack foods and light porn. But their fried chicken and their egg salad sandwiches are truly special. I’m usually a pain in the ass about food, always reading the ingredients list, making sure there’s no sugar or preservatives, but it’s clear after the first nugget bite that I’m just going to throw the diet out the window and go full YOLO for the rest of the trip. There are just too many interesting snacks to try, and the ingredients are all in Japanese so I’m fucked anyway. And if I get sick, so what? You can never spend too much time on a warm and comfy fully automated Japanese toilet.

The following day husband decides to take us to buy plastic food: replica food that restaurants put in their window to attract customers. We head to Kappa-Bashi, the restaurant supply district. My husband’s show’s slogan is “Get hungry, get curious, get lost.” “Lost” is right. He says he knows exactly where we are going, but he’s clearly lying. Eventually I’m the one who finds the store he was looking for, and I’m the one who finds a decent place to eat after walking for hours in a nearly deserted district. We have sukiyaki: thinly sliced beef and vegetables cooked at the table and dipped in raw beaten egg. Delicious. I guess getting lost was not such a bad plan.

Next mission is buying toys. We head to Nakano Broadway. It’s a shopping mall filled with stores mostly dedicated to anime and manga characters. In Japan there’s a name for people obsessed with such things: Otaku. It definitely applies to me, but even husband is tempted by the figurines of his childhood heroes and buys an array of large, ugly monsters whose names he’s frighteningly familiar with.

I’m particularly tempted by the Hentai section, because yes, I’m a big pervert and no one does perversion better than the Japanese. But I’m with my daughter, and “What’s that octopus doing with his tentacle, Mommy?” is not a question I want to find myself dealing with. The “Why are all the schoolgirls showing their undies in the ads?” question is something I’ve already had to dodge.

The Japanese male’s seeming obsessions with frottage, underage girls, and tentacle porn aside, I’m loving everything about Japan: It’s clean, safe, and extremely efficient, but with a quirky, kinky, and sometimes depraved current running just beneath the surface. I love the food.I love the vending machines selling all the kinds of hot and cold mysterious drinks. I love the toilets, with their soft, warm seats and their oscillating water streams that leave your butt fresh and clean after every use.

Way too soon our last day in Tokyo arrives, and I dread leaving. I need at least another month. There is just so much to do, so much to explore.

I had a little girl-crush on Ottavia Bourdain after reading this. All in all, agree, agree, agree.


  • Animate, (next door to K-Books, down the street from Mandarake, and across the highway from the Sunshine 60). Lots of new anime/manga-related merchandise.
  • K-Books, (next door to the Animate, down the block from Mandarake, across the highway from the Sunshine 60). Good selection of anime, manga, and posters.  
  • Mandarake, Lions Mansion Ikebukuro B1F, 3-15-2 Higashi-ikebukuro (Not far from the Sunshine 60). One of the newest in the Mandarake chain of used anime/manga goods stores, the Ikebukuro branch specializes in doujinshi, in particular doujinshi for girls.  
  • Please be aware that the above three Anime/Manga chain’s Ikebukuro branches and any other Anime/Manga related shops nearby have stock that is primarily targeted at women and girls. Most anime/manga shops in Ikebukuro have decided to adjust their offerings to target women and girls, giving Ikebukuro a reputation as the “Women’s Akiba”.
  • Two of Tokyo’s major department store/railroad conglomerate chains, Seibu and Tobu, are based in Ikebukuro and the stores here were not long ago the largest in the world. Paradoxically, Seibu, which roughly means “west Tokyo”, is on the east side of the station, while Tobu, which means “east Tokyo”, is on the west side.
  • Bic Camera. This discount retailer’s flagship store on the east side of the station, with several branches nearby.  
  • Junkudo. A 9-story bookstore (top floor has English titles). 
  • Tokyu Hands, 1-28-10 Higashi-Ikebukuro (next to Sunshine 60). 10AM-8PM. A crazy 7 story ‘DIY’ store with floors of kitchenware, bath accessories, paper goods, scrap-booking supplies, tools, hardware, exotic woods, travel supplies, toys, pet supplies, and Nekobukuro on the top floor. This is a place where you can find, for example, lava lamps next to a shark suit next to a Gundam model.  

Eating —›

Cat Cafe:

  • Nekorobi, 3F Tact T.O Building Higashi-Ikebukuro, +81 3-6228-0646, 11AM-11PM. This café is decorated in wicker and burlap and boasts having a Nintendo Wii as well as cats. Most of the cats at this café were once strays or turned into shelters by their owners. You can use anything in the room you’ll be entering, including laptop, drinks dispenser, cat toys and the Wii. Be sure to take off shoes, wash hands, and be gentle with the cats. ¥1,000 for the first hour, then ¥300 per 15min. In the weekends you can choose to go for 3 hours for ¥2,500.

Animate Ikebukurovia Danny Choo:

You are in the Ikebukuro area for a very short period and are looking for a one stop to cover all your anime needs - where do you go? The answer is Animate - their new flagship store in Ikebukuro is 8 floors filled to the brim with anime goodies. The floors are as follows!

7F:映像商品・音楽商品・ゲーム (DVD’s, CD’s Games)
6F:キャラクターグッズ・Tシャツ・クッション (Character goods, T-shirts, Cushions)
5F:トレーディングガード・フィギュア・食玩・ファンシーグッズ (Trading cards, Figures, Shokugan, Fancy goods)
4F:コミック(少女/BL/ガールズ)・ノベルス・同人誌・画材 (Manga (Shojo, BL, Girls) Novels, Doujinshi, Drawing utensils)
3F:コミック(少年/青年)・コミック文庫 (Manga (SHonen, Seinen) Comic Bunko)
2F:コミック(新刊/少年/青年/アニメ化作品)・ライトノベル・画集 (Manga (New, Shonen, Seinen, Anime titles)
1F:雑誌・食品・新着商品 (Magazines, Food stuffs, New products)

Google Maps

Danny Choo: Nakano Broadway & NB in the Summer

Nakano Broadway is an indoor shopping complex which contains 3 floors full of anime, manga, idol, figures, rare toys and electronics together with a load of other Japanese Pop Culture goodies.

Just imagine an indoor version of Akihabara with a lot less eroge, maids and computer part stores. Recommended for folks who are looking for doujin, rare figures, promotional posters or just “rare” in general.

Google Maps.