As you may know, I’m a huge nerd. And just like every other nerd, I have my obsessions: trains, and Disney parks. Tokyo is like heaven for nerds, called “otaku” in Japanese. In this series of blogs I’ll introduce you to nerdy Japan. In the next post I’ll take you to Nakano Broadway, but first: trains!
After finding a stall with train signs at the Oi Keibajo Flea Market, I wondered if there were more shops selling those kinds of things. It had to be, right? With so many trains and metro lines? I googled and found the website of Karamatsu Train, and after verifying that this site hadn’t been last updated 15 years ago, I decided to visit the Kanda shop.
“I wonder if this is the place”, I say to myself when I enter a hallway with an elevator, that makes me feel like I’m trespassing. I push the button for the 4th floor, and I know I’m in the right place: I step right into the store.
A big sign with destinations and prices catches my eye. It’s only 8000 yen, about 60 euro. I’m a bit too afraid to send it home by mail, so I decide not to buy it.
The shop is packed with train stuff. From postcards to train parts, from station signs to train driver hats and clothes. At the table, there’s a man digging into big piles of train tickets. Looking for that one, rare ticket.
The tsurikawa, rings you hold while standing in the train or metro, catch my eye. They go from 800 yen, 6 euro. A bargain! I post a pic on Instagram and almost instantly Dani replies: “Get me the green one!” Sure. I buy a yellow one for myself, the one that says “please turn off your phone near the priority seats”. One of the few rules no Japanese ever adheres to.
Karamatsu Train has stores throughout Japan, but if you visit Kanda, you might as well visit Shinjuku. The shop gives you a discount the value of your train ticket from Kanda to Shinjuku, if you buy for more than 2000 yen. I left the shop with the tsurikawa, a bunch of postcards from my year of birth (20 years of Shinkansen, whoo!), a sign that says 出口 (exit) for 500 yen and a hand sign. Nerdgasm!
If all the shopping made you hungry, you can go to the most appropriate restaurant at station Kanda: the Kanda Tetsudo Club. I ate Japanese curry katsu, which wasn’t very special, but the decor made it worthwhile!
Kanda is at walking distance of Akihabara, aka Abika. There’s so many things you can find online about Akihabara, I won’t elaborate too much about this most famous nerd town.
But I’d like to mention this: If you walk from Kanda to Akiba, please note the gorgeous old railway bridges and the stone base structures you walk past. And please do read this Wikipedia article about former station Manseibashi, so you can dream about an underground, abandoned station and an old, demolished one that looked like Amsterdam CS.
Train souvenirs for beginners
If you’re not as big of a train nerd as me, but you’d like to get a cute souvenir for your train-loving nephew, check out Trainiart, a train giftshop in shopping mall Atre 1, right next to Akihabara station. Trainiart sells pens, socks, stickers, notebooks, sippy cups and baby clothes with Shinkansen, metrocar or Suica-penguin-print. I bought a set of amazing postcards, masking tape and a Yamanote iron-on tag. I have no idea where to put it, but yolo.
…because in my next blog, I’ll take you to Nakano Broadway, the nerdy shopping paradise, where they sell Euro Disney keychains, Star Wars Furbies and… More train stuff.