This image is stolen from the Hotel Nishi-Shinjuku (Nishi meaning "West", note that the area the hotel is located in has the same name) web site, with the black-on-blue text labels added by me. If you follow the path of the red arrows, you will get to the hotel.
At Shinjuku station, find the West exit. This is the hardest part. Don't hesitate to ask the JR folks to guide you. Your best bet is to ask them which side the Keio department store is on. Once you exit the station, turn right and start heading North. Stay on the right hand side of the street and these directions will take you to the following four places:
Jumbo Pachinko: On the first block, you will see Jumbo Pachinko on your left across the street. I definitely recommend stopping there, especially after dark because the place is just a huge wall of noise and light. You'll probably see a bunch of anime-themed Pachinko machines (the Space Cruiser Yamato ones were just being rolled out when I was there), plus some gashapon machines and UFO Catchers.
Hobbit: Go straight across the huge Oume Avenue intersection. After you cross, start looking to your right and up. Hobbit is on the second floor of one of the buildings, marked by a yellow sign. The entrance is next to Mos Burger. If the McDonald's is on your right, you've walked too far. Hobbit's focus is mainly on models, but they have a very good selection of new robot and monster toys, and their prices are very good.
Tiny Vintage Toy Store (I don't know the real name): After Hobbit, exit and go right. At the McDonald's, make a left and cross the street. Then make a slight right and keep heading up the street. You will pass Kashiwagi Park on your left, which is really just a big gravel patch with some guys living in boxes at the back. (Behind the park is a graveyard, if you want to check it out.) You will pass the Hotel Nishi Shinjuku on your left. Keep going until the road ends, there will be a convenience store in front of you, I believe it's a Sunkuts. Make a right. The toy store will be on your left, across from the Maseda Prep School. It's very small, but it has a good selection of vintage robots and monsters, and the guy who runs it (he had pink hair on one side and blonde on the other last time I saw him) is very friendly. If you walk too far, you will find yourself back on the street where McDonald's and Hobbit are.
As you go back and forth along this route, you will see many places to eat, including a good tonkatsu place a couple of doors down from Hobbit. Of course, if you decide to hit McDonald's, have a Teriyaki burger with fries. Plunk down the extra Ã‚Â¥10 for a "shaka bag" and wash it all down with some grape Fanta.
There are two other places in Shinjuku worth going to, but I don't remember exactly where they were or detailed directions on how to get there:
Sakura-ya: Get back to where Hobbit is. Walk back towards Shinjuku station and cross back over Oume Avenue. Then turn left, crossing underneath the railroad bridge (check out the neat illuminated tiles and hold your breath to avoid the urine fumes) and stay to the right, then cross straight across the street and start going straight through the back alleyways. The route you're on will stop, and there will be a Best Watches/Jewelry store in front of you. Turn left, and make the first right. Sakura-ya will be on your right. Video games are on the first floor, toys are on the second, startlingly realistic gun replicas are on the third. Their prices are the most deeply discounted, and you may be surprised to hear announcements over the PA in English.
Yellow Submarine: This place used to be near Kabuki-cho, in fact the sign is still there, but the store is gone. I'm not sure where it went.
Also, the East side of Shinjuku station features the Tokyu Hands department store, which is in the same building as the Takashimaya department store. Definitely check them out because they occasionally have exclusive toys like those Pantone Kubricks, and go to the top floor (12th?) because there's an HMV there - they've had M-1 Go exclusive vinyls in the past, plus those really cool Bullmark shirts that were over $30 and wouldn't fit most gaijin.
One last word about Shinjuku: Stay away from Kabukicho. I was told it's a wretched hive of scum and villainy.
Mandarake Nakano: They are located in sixteen shops across three floors of the Nakano Broadway mall, which is directly across from the Nakano train station. In addition to toys, they have cels, manga, everything anime-related you can imagine. Once you're done with Mandarake, scour the rest of the mall floor by floor. You will find some other toy stores like Robot-Robot, and lots of small consignment shops with toys for sale, as well as caches of gashapon machines. If you come across a DVD store called Disc 9, say hi to my friends Kunio and Shigeko. The infamous Lobster Catcher machine on the first floor is gone. This place is easy to get to, take the North exit out of Nakano station and walk straight into the Broadway Mall, then go up a couple of floors. Directions are here.
Other Toy Spots
Forrest Gang: You will find everything you've ever dreamed of, plus a plethora of things you never knew existed. The downside is their prices, which are a little on the high side. Take the Yamanote Line to Sugamo station. Go left out the ticket gate. Walk down that street until you come to an intersection with a stoplight. Turn right and go across the street and keep walking on the road perpendicular to the main street. Forrest Gang should be on the left side of the street.
Mandarake Shibuya: Not as extensive as Mandarake Nakano in my opinion, but worth checking out. Harder to get to, and I don't remember how. Directions are here.
Wave Be-J: This is in Kichijoji, around the corner from the Kichijoji Dai-Ichi Hotel. They have a really wide selection of toys and kits and everything is discounted. Yes, I giggled about the name, too.
Magic Box: Don't go out of your way to visit their stores. They were filthy and overpriced.
- I know it's been said before, but wear comfortable shoes. You won't believe how much walking you're going to do.
- Traveling in Japan, you can't go wrong by sticking to the JR Yamanote and Chuo (Central) lines. The former goes in a big circle, the latter cuts through the center of that circle.
- Be adventurous. If you see some plastic food in the window of a restaurant that entices you, go inside and order it. If you can't tell what it is on the menu, just point to a picture of it (or point at that vinyl replica).
- Keep napkins or something with you, because some of the traditional noodle and sushi places don't seem to have these handy. Hoard those tissues the advertising girls give out at the train stations.
- You will use the word sumimasen at least 100 times a day.
- As far as cash goes, if you have a large purchase (around $100 or more), use your credit card instead of cash. That way you aren't losing money on the exchange fee.
Additional material added by Joshua Bernard