Manga Souko – 24 Hour Thrift Shops
Manga Souko is a chain of second hand stores found throughout Japan. Touted as a “recycle store”, they buy and sell games, DVDs, manga, books, clothing, furniture, toys, decor, textiles, musical instruments, leisure equipment, electronics, and collectibles. With stores located in the Chubu, Kinki, Chugoku, Shikoku, Kyushu and Okinawa regions, you aren’t too far away from experiencing one of these magical places.
“What does a secondhand store look like in Japan?” you may ask. Good question. I’ve visited two of these places (both on Okinawa), and the first thing that struck me was: they’re huge! Multilevel complexes often with large parking areas, and filled with the cast offs of previous owners, second hand shops are serious business here. But, you know what they say, one mans trash is another mans treasure. How very apt. Another weird but wonderful fact is the 24-hour opening times. Only in Japan could you browse vintage video games at 1 am and not be considered “a bit off”. I think it’s fabulous. Let’s have a look at what you can buy here, section by section.
Depending on which branch you visit, they often have a small arcade section in them. You’ll find mostly claw machines, but also the odd non-prize based game. Littered throughout the store are gashapon (capsule machines), never too far away from some child-like fun.
The only thing in the store that isn’t second hand! It’s mostly sweets and candies, but also long life items such as ramen and freeze dried snacks. If you love Japanese sweets, this is a good place to find some popular items. Most of it is pretty cheap, great for trying something new without blowing the budget.
Games and Gaming
Any retro gaming fans amongst you? You’re in luck my friends. Manga Souko is Nerdvana for vintage and not-so-vintage gaming. Relive your childhood with an SNES, GameCube, PS1, DreamCast, or GameBoy, and a range of games and accessories to go with it. Everything is neatly sectioned off, allowing you to focus on the console and games of your choice. Not big into retro? That’s okay, you can also buy the latest consoles and games for a better than new price. Remember this is a second hand store though, so don't have too many expectations for the latest and greatest games. However, if you’ve had your eye on a specific game for a while, you might be lucky enough to find it here, and for a better price. They don’t only do electronic games. If you ever played the popular card games (Yu-Gi-Oh, Pokemon, etc), you’ll be glad to know there’s a huge card section too. Cards are housed in these cool, special units that allow you to see every single card individually.
Books and Manga
Probably one of their biggest sections, the manga library is immense! The choice is overwhelming, with manga to suit any tastes. Same with books. There are some neat finds in here, and it’s an area you could waste a lot of time in. There is one small issue though; most of the books and manga are of course in Japanese. You might get lucky with the token English book, but don’t count on it. However, if you can read Japanese or are studying it, this may be a good go to place for you.
DVDs and Music
Another vast section, you’ll find a plethora of genres in both DVDs and music. Again, mostly Japanese, but some Western stuff can be found nestled in here. Anime fan are you? This by far seems to dominate, though I did spot a great martial arts selection also. There is something for everyone here. The kids section is great, if you have young children who love cartoons, introduce them to Japanese versions! Everything is bright, colourful, and cheerful, plus they might even pick some of the language up. Being bilingual is never a bad thing!
Anyone under 18 is banned from this section, obviously. It’s denoted by a full length curtain with a huge “no under 18’s” sign plastered on it. Without going into too much detail, it’s fairly typical of what you’d expect to find in an adult section, with maybe one or two differences. In a nutshell though: marital aids, lotions and potions, adult books, magazines and DVDs, dress up, and hentai. Hentai is the name for anime pornography, though this is probably too wide a description. Anyway, if that’s your thing, you’ll find it lurking somewhere in the back of the store.
Surprisingly, the electronics section is pretty vast. TV’s, DVD players, phones, cameras, computers, laptops, heaters, dehumidifiers, accessories, and cables can all be pursued here. I love the selection of vintage items, especially the cameras. You can pick up old polaroids here, sometimes even the film that goes with it. It’s a great trip down memory lane. If, like every other smartphone user on the planet, you are always breaking your charging cable, you can often find decent replacements here for a lot less than you’d pay inside. Computer accessories are pretty cheap, I managed to buy a mouse and keyboard from here for 1,000 yen ($9/ £7), way less than half what I’d have paid for new items from a conventional store.
Home and Decor
Furniture is fairly rare, I imagine it gets snapped up pretty quick, but you can always find some quirky decorative items. Vases, ornaments, artwork, mirrors, candles, you name it. Grab yourself a traditional item, like a Kokeshi doll (wooden dolls made in a variety of styles) or a Buddha, or something sleek and modern, like a vase or mirror. If you want to freshen up your home but have a limited budget, this is certainly a good place to start. Stock rotates all the time, never short of ideas for brightening a room. There are practical items too, such as kitchen appliances, bathroom accessories, and eating utensils.
The kids section is super cute! Huge range of plushies, games, and toys, and for a variety of ages. The plush section is pretty cool. If you have kids who love Disney, I can almost guarantee you’ll find something for them there. I happened across a real piece of nostalgia here: Sylvanian Families. I adored these as a child. For anyone not in the know, they are cute, anthropomorphic critters who mostly live in very traditionally English homes, and with Olde English-style clothing. A furry twist on the normal dolls house set up.
The creme de la creme of Manga Souko is easily the figurines section. A simply astounding array of popular and obscure anime characters, as well as model kits (cars, aircraft and military vehicles), mecha, and other related stuff (think masks and accessories). They have a huge range of current figurines, so serious collectors will have a ball here. Popular shows such as the Dragonball franchise, One Piece, Naruto and Fairy Tail all have a wide choice alone, without counting all the other anime I saw covered here. I’m a bit of an anime geek, so this was heaven for me. If you collect Gashapon trinkets, head to this section, as they have tons of them hung from all corners in little bags, some for as little as 108 yen (94c/ 65p). They have TVs above the shelves in this section, so you can enjoy a classic anime whilst you browse.
Prepare yourself for another massive section, encompassing men, women and children. I found this section fascinating but overwhelming. The sizes are mostly Japanese, so a little limiting if you aren’t teeny tiny, but you can find some lovely pieces here, and maybe even a designer article! There’s a shoe section close by as well, in theory allowing you to get a whole new outfit in this one store. Brilliant!
Jewelry and Accessories
If you’re all about designer bags and bling bling, this is the place for you. Everything is locked away in cabinets, but staff will allow you to scrutinize any piece you wish to see closer. Necklaces, earrings, bracelets, watches, and handbags are just some of what’s on offer. Don’t get me wrong, you won’t find it for 1000 yen, but you will find it cheaper than buying brand new.
Last but not least, if you have a hobby, they have the equipment for it. Musical instruments, workout machines, bicycles, golf equipment, footballs, basketballs, and baseball stuff, to name but a few. I can’t speak for the mainland stores, but the ones on Okinawa have a good section for scuba diving and snorkeling, both popular pastimes on this sub-tropical island!
Great! Now what?
They check if everything works before putting it out for sale, and anything they aren’t 100% sure will work comes with a warning label (and lower price), so you can weigh up if it’s worth the risk or not (non-refundable or returnable if you decide to purchase such an item), this is especially important when considering electronic goods. For most things, just choose it and take it to the register. If it’s locked up, ask a member of staff, they will get it for you and take it to the counter. It’s that simple!
Locate your nearest store here. Happy shopping!