|Article by Karen Gellender
New York may be the city that never sleeps, but it certainly takes the time to eat some curry and read some manga: there's a wealth of Japanese shops and attractions around, provided you know where to look. Whether you're only going to be in the area for a day and are looking for one or two fun things to do near your destination, or you're going be in the city for a while and want to soak up every bit of anime and Japanese culture available, this guide should help get you started.
1073 Avenue of the Americas
If you're a card-carrying otaku, you may want to treat Kinokuniya like it's a Las Vegas casino-give a trusted friend your last $200 dollars and instruct them not to give it back to you until you've made it safely home, just to ensure you don't spend everything you have. While it's impossible for any one place to serve as one-stop-shopping for anime culture, Kinokuniya comes the closest: this absolutely gorgeous bookstore has books, manga (in English and Japanese), magazines, anime Blu-Rays and DVDs, soundtrack CDs, artbooks, stationary, and even some clothing and toys. Obviously, since Kinokuniya is primarily a book store, there's a lot you won't be able to fully enjoy if you can't read Japanese, but the store simply has so much great stuff, you can go on a wallet-busting shopping spree all too easily. The tremendous selection of anime and game art books in particular presents many temptations to non-Japanese speakers, since the beautiful pictures speak for themselves.
Also, if looking at all the great books available inspires you to learn Japanese, which is pretty likely, their selection of textbooks and workbooks is second to none.
49 West 45th Street
When you first enter this used book shop tucked away on a side street right near the New York Public Library, you might be confused by the sight of tons of used books in English. Never fear: go upstairs, where a veritable kingdom of manga awaits. Book-Off has thousands of used Japanese manga available for only a buck a piece, and tons of other titles available for just a few dollars more. Once again, non-Japanese speakers will be at a disadvantage because while English manga is available, the selection is small, but that's the beauty of the Book-Off "manga for a buck," system; if you flip through a title and enjoy the artwork, why not just pick it up? It's less than a cup of coffee, and you may be able to read it as your Japanese improves.
Book-Off can be great for stocking up on a budget, but come with realistic expectations; you're probably not going to find the newest, hottest manga available and in the $1 section, although we have gotten lucky at times. Also, even if you can't read much Japanese, just knowing the alphabets (Hiragana and Katakana) can be tremendously helpful for reading the titles as you browse the shelves. It's a great feeling to be sounding out a word and then say "Hey wait, I know that series!"
200 West 40th Street (corner of 7th Avenue)
As the title suggests, Midtown Comics is all about comics, mostly of the superhero variety. However, just because the store specializes in American comics doesn't mean it has nothing of value for anime fans; they stock English-translated manga as well. This isn't a must-visit for anime fans, since the manga selection isn't head and shoulders above what you might find at your local bookstore, but if you happen to be a fan of heroes like Spider-Man or the X-Men as well as anime, it's a no-brainer. In addition, it's conveniently located right near Kinokuniya-- which is THE must-visit-- so you might as well.
242 West 30th Street
Image Anime, located conveniently near Penn Station, has a lot of the same things you'll find in other stores- DVDs, Blu-Ray, manga, toys, etc. What sets Image apart is the selection of Gundam model kids, as well as models from other robot series, which are quite hard to find without ordering from specialty websites. The staff is also knowledgeable about model building and may be able to give you advice about how to build the robot of your choice. If you're not a robot fan, the store also tends to have a lot of Final Fantasy merchandise, as well as cute little extras like anime character keychains.
Go Go Curry
273 West 38 Street
Great Japanese dining in NYC is another topic unto itself, but we wanted to point out some places to go where you can try some of the dishes you often see depicted on screen. Have you ever felt your mouth start to water when you watch anime characters at the school cafeteria eating lunch, and the dish of the day is curry over rice? You know the one: a dark, flavorful curry, over a crispy fried protein like pork or chicken, all nestled against a generous mound of sticky, comforting rice? Well, Go Go Curry serves that dish: different variations are available, but curry over rice with toppings is virtually all they serve, and it's phenomenal.
A little hole-in-the-wall joint decorated with baseball memorabilia (the name is based on 55, Hideki Matsui's number-"Go Go" in Japanese), the ambiance is nothing to write home about, but the Japanese curry, savory but not spicy, is exactly what you always imagined if you've ever watched a school anime. It's also worth noting that Go Go Curry is reasonably priced, meaning you'll have that much more money available for plushies and manga.
Oh and word to the wise: Don't order the "Grand Slam," unless you're either really hungry, or a friend is helping you out. Just trust us on this. The eatery has also just opened a new location at 12 John Street.
324 East 9th Street
For those who are unfamiliar with sake, the prospect of a whole store devoted to different sake varieties might seem like overkill. However, just as beer enthusiasts love their different colored brews and wine enthusiasts go crazy over different subtle notes of flavor infused with their grapes, sake fans have tons of different varieties of sake to choose from, and Sakaya (meaning, unsurprisingly, "sake store") sells as many as possible. Sakaya focuses on premium sake, so if you've only tried a cup or two of the regular brew at your local Japanese restaurant, you probably don't know how delicious the good stuff can be. However, don't feel like you have to commit to buying a whole bottle before you know what you like; Sakaya offers tastings throughout the year. You can find out when a tasting is coming up by checking their frequently updated blog.
333 East 47th Street
Take a break from your shopping spree to soak up some culture. Japan society hosts all kinds of lectures, performances and exhibits all throughout the year, all in a beautiful venue featuring indoor Japanese gardens and a waterfall. You may need to plan a trip in advance to get the most out of Japan Society, since you have to buy tickets beforehand for most of the lectures and programs they offer, however they almost always have an exhibit on display for walk-in Japanophiles. Learn about the art, music and cultural traditions that still inspire your favorite anime to this day.
233 W 42nd Street
The famous "Hello Kitty Store" in Times Square actually has more on hand than just Ms. Kitty; all her friends, like Keropii and Chococat are also out in full force. As we've pointed out, there are other places to get Sanrio goods in the city, but if you want something really upscale, like a diamond necklace in the famous cartoon cat's likeness, this is where you want to stop. Tread carefully though; Times Square is crowded, and for someone who isn't a frequent visitor to NYC, it can be a bit overwhelming. Of course, if you're searching for a gift for either yourself or an excited little Hello Kitty lover in your life, it's worth it.
Puppia and Hello Kitty Shop
28 East 33rd Street
If you're looking for Hello Kitty goods but aren't looking to go to Flushing or face the crowds at Times Square, this is another good option. The store sells a lot of cute merchandise for dogs (hence Puppia), but it also stocks a large selection of Sanrio products. They may not have all of the items that the official Sanrio store boasts, but if you're looking for more typical Hello Kitty fare like hair clips, jewelry and stationary, they've got you covered.
Uniqlo 5th Avenue
666 5th Avenue and 53rd Street
This ultra-stylish clothing retailer features printed T-shirts with cartoon characters, including Hello Kitty and sometimes anime characters. Uniqlo also has locations on 34th Street and downtown in Soho.
91 Second Avenue
The last time we looked for Toy Tokyo, we nearly erupted into a panic when we couldn't find it at its old St. Mark's Street location. Fortunately for everyone, Toy Tokyo had simply moved a few blocks, as chock-full of toys old and new as it ever was. The name is slightly misleading, since the shop doesn't feature only Japanese toys-actually, the inventory is a mixture of a little bit of everything, from The Simpsons' figures to giant plush toys to fashion dolls of Panty from Panty and Stocking. Finding the anime toys sprinkled around the store may take some effort, but that's half the fun of it; we like to think of it as a treasure hunt.
If you're not ready to break the bank buying a bunch of PVC figures or mecha toys, the shop always has some of the latest lines of low-priced, blind-box anime minifigures to choose from, so there's something for every price range.
Another comics store that is no slouch in the anime merchandise department, Forbidden Planet is a much beloved center of all things sci-fi and fantasy near Union Square. In addition to plenty of manga, they also have lots of toys and small collectibles like keychains featuring your favorite characters. Also, FP happens to be located right near The Strand (828 Broadway) NYC's largest used bookstore; The Strand doesn't have that much in the way of manga (at least, it didn't as of the last time we stopped by), but it's still an awesome store and worth visiting after FP if you want to make a day of it in Union Square.
Videogames New York
202 East 6th Street
There's no shortage of places to buy video games, but if you're specifically looking for imported anime tie-in games (like the Fate/Stay Night PSP titles, or the Eyeshield 21 game for the Nintendo DS), this is your stop. In addition to stocking Japanese games old and new, this place also has tons of used games for older systems like the PSX and Dreamcast that would otherwise set you back a fortune on online auction sites. A tiny little store in the Village, this place has more games than even seems possible, and that's only what we saw; lord knows what kinds of stuff they might have safely bundled away in the back.
Aji Ichiban USA
37 Mott Street
Sometimes, we all need a little candy, and that's what this store is all about. Though they do sell Japanese candy, Aji Ichiban features treats from all over Asia, including Thailand; of course, since the shop is located in Chinatown, there's a lot of Chinese candy as well. They have a good selection of gummies and dried fruits, Asian specialties like candied ginger, and even savory munchies like beef and pork jerky. Of course, for the less adventurous, they have some plain old American candy for sale too, but where's the fun in that?
Elizabeth Center Gift Shops
15 Elizabeth Street (between Bayard and Canal Streets)
When New York otaku say "you can find that in Chinatown," this is what they're talking about. While the Elizabeth Center no longer has as many shops as it did years ago, there are still several stores selling all kinds of anime merchandise. One thing to keep in mind though is that some stores may carry unlicensed goods, or even counterfeit pieces. You'll probably want to check out this mecca of all things cute anyway, but be on the lookout for anything that looks like it could be a knock-off.
25 Murray Street
If you've ever been intrigued by those breads filled with different fillings that some anime characters seem to live on, this Japanese bakery has those, plus more complex pastries for the discriminating sweet tooth. Japanese bakeries, as seen in anime like Antique Bakery and Yumeiro Patisserie, often take primarily French ingredients and approach them with a uniquely Japanese aesthetic, and this Tribeca eatery presents a great opportunity to experience that without having to get on a plane.
131 Thompson Street (between Spring and Houston Streets)
If you've ever watched a festival episode of where the girls get dressed in beautiful, classy summer kimonos (called yukata) and thought "I'd love to own one of those," Kimono House in Soho will take care of you. The store sells new and used kimonos, obi (sashes), tabi (divided socks), and accessories. Don't worry: they can teach you how to put it on too!
118 Prince Street
If you like toys at all, circle kidrobot in red on your itinerary. You won't find Gundams or licensed anime PVC figures here, but this art toy specialty shop sells all kinds of things that hit the sweet spot for anime fans: a lot of the product lines are heavily inspired by Japanese pop culture. Little robots, adorable "chibi" characters, tiny plastic ninjas, and vinyl figures galore await you at this most unusual toy store. As a bonus, they have a lot of small, inexpensive toys, so even if you're all tapped out from the likes of Kinokuniya, you can still afford to pick up a toy for yourself-or for a toy-lover back home.
455 Broadway (Between Grand and Howard Streets)
Muji doesn't sell anime, but they sell just about everything else. A Japanese retailer specializing in simple yet elegant designs, the store offers quality skin products, apparel, housewares, accessories, and so on. If you've got some items on your shopping list that aren't anime-related (and we don't judge), you may want to see if Muji has what you're looking for. We picked the Soho location just for fun, but if your plans take you elsewhere, there are also locations in Time Square (620 8th Avenue, The New York Times building) and Chelsea (16 West 19th Street).
35-32 Union Street, Flushing
Located just across the street from Flushing High School, Anime Castle is the real deal. Not only are they loaded to the gills with anime and manga, which you'd expect, but they even have some downright obscure titles that you just don't see elsewhere, including yaoi. Their selection of toys and other collectibles is more haphazard, but if it's merchandise you're looking for, check out their nearby warehouse location in Mineola, Long Island, which is filled with PVC figures, wallscrolls, plushies and other goodies. The two stores can also swap inventory pretty quickly, so if they don't have something you want in the Flushing store, don't hesitate to ask if they have it at the warehouse; you may be able to get it very quickly.
If it's manga you're looking for specifically, Anime Castle should probably be your first stop; you will find manga tucked away in various Flushing stores, but it's usually in Chinese. Of course, if you can read Chinese, more power to you!
15617 Northern Boulevard, Flushing
One of many Sanrio hotspots in NYC, this is the place to go when you simply must have a Hello Kitty Welcome Mat. However, while plenty of stores have some Hello Kitty merchandise, what really impressed us about Banzai was how much stuff they had featuring Sanrio's lesser-known characters as well, like adorably grumpy owl Badtz-Maru. The store has plenty of non-Sanrio Japanese products, including cooking utensils and stationary, but if you're like us, you'll come here in search of that hard-to-find Badtz-Maru refrigerator magnet.
155 Plymouth Street
(between Pearl Street and Jay Street)
Part bookstore, part toy store, part art gallery, this hip Brooklyn destination will likely keep you browsing for a good while. Zakka has anime figures, vinyl figures, graphic T-shirts and plenty of gifts, but their real specialty is art and design books, in both Japanese and English. If you're interested in graphic design, typography or architecture, be sure to check out Zakka's book selection: they have titles you may not find anywhere else.
Brooklyn Botanical Gardens
455 Flatbush Avenue
If your NYC trip happens to be scheduled for early spring, you may want to hit the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens Cherry Walk. BBC has hundreds of Japanese cherry blossom trees (called Sakura in Japanese), and they bloom throughout the month of April in a most spectacular fashion. Try to reenact your own romantic scene with beautiful pale pink petals swirling all around you- or just enjoy the gorgeous scenery.
595 River Road, Edgewater, NJ
Should your trip to the NYC area extending to neighboring New Jersey, Mitsuwa Marketplace is a no-brainer; in fact, it's so neat it may even cancel out the annoyance of having to go out to New Jersey in the first place (we only kid because we love!) The largest Japanese supermarket in the U.S., Mitsuwa has not only every Japanese food known to man (both of the sit-down-and-eat variety and the take-home-and-make-it-yourself variety) but practically every kind of Japanese product you can imagine, from natural cosmetics to electronics, and even stuff for your car. Of course, Mitsuwa also has plenty of anime and manga, but you could have guessed that, right?
If the above isn't enough for you (perhaps because you're planning a massive anime tour of NYC the likes of which the world has never seen- in which case, go you!) check out chopsticksny.com for even more shops, Japanese restaurants and other really neat places we didn't have room to include. It's New York City, after all: there's a lot to do.
Anime That Takes Place in New York City
The Big O seems to take place in NYC, that or itjust happens to have many landmarks and buildings which are very similar.
Baccano! takes place in NYC.
Chrono Crusade also takes place in NYC.
Red Garden is set in NYC.
Eden of the East is not only set in Manhattan but is quite accurate when it comes to building references.
Detective Conan is set in New York City.
In the first Read or Die OVA there is an battle over lower Manhattan.
The 1983 feature anime film Genma Taisen features one character who is young gang member from NYC who joins a team of psionic warriors.