Rayna Denison is tempted on all sides at the Tokyo Anime Centre
The Tokyo Anime Centre is almost impossible for a fan to get to. Not because it is particularly hard to find, but because you have to be able to resist Akihabara’s many other charms to reach it. Leaving the Electric Town Exit from the JR Akihabara Station (beware, the route is different from the Tokyo Metro!), you can easily see the UDX Building that houses the Tokyo Anime Centre. It even has convenient escalators to take you over the busy street below, straight to the Centre and its shop. However, you have to be strong enough to walk past both the new Gundam and AKB48 cafes. No mean feat, with their blinking neon and fantastically odd menus. And to get to the UDX building from the other side, you have to walk through Akiba’s heart, and the simplest route walks you straight through the Animate store, filled with floor upon floor of collectible anime merchandise. If you manage steel yourself to walk the length of Animate, out the back exit, the UDX building waits to greet you. But chances are good that manga and anime fans will find themselves deeply distracted along the way.
That said, the Tokyo Anime Centre can help to orient overseas fans trying to make the most of their visits to Japan. Happily, the Anime Centre has a plethora of fliers and information about forthcoming anime titles and events. Strangely though, a lot of the leaflets are not aimed at overseas fans. Even more oddly, the Anime Centre itself, which is up on the 4th floor of the UDX building at the top of a long escalator, does not have a lot of information about Akihabara. The leaflets are more about anime and manga museums, from information about the nearby Sanrio Puroland to specialist museums in far flung corners of Japan. And, last I visited, there was more in Japanese (and English) than other languages, with the Anime Centre’s website, many brochures and calendar available only in Japanese.
So, the Anime Centre is not really an international tourist information hub. With their newly opened shop on Floor 2 of the UDX building, however, things are improving. The shop seems geared towards merchandise for fan-favourite franchises, with Tezuka and Ghibli merchandise alongside Gundam and Shigeru Mizuki goods. And actually, given Akiba’s tendency to focus on the new, this “older” focus should be gratifying for long-time manga and anime fans visiting Tokyo. The Centre’s shop also has local Akiba maps with the main highlights clearly marked in a range of languages. The shop, rather than the Centre upstairs, then, is the best place to start if you are new to the Akihabara landscape.
As a result of the shop moving to UDX’s second floor, the Anime Centre is becoming more of an anime event space. For example, it is currently advertising an exhibition event based around Production IG’s giant robot anime Rinne no Lagrange (Toshimaki Suzuki, 2012). The Anime Centre is really just one room divided up between temporary exhibitions, a residual shopping area and a space for live events. In the back is a semi-circular desk with loads of leaflets and helpful Japanese employees, who will do their best to point you in the right direction. They also regularly have industry professionals, like voice actors, coming in to do workshops with visitors. There is even a little sound booth in one corner. The exhibitions are usually free, and you can get the Calendar of events online at http://www.animecenter.jp/calender/, but it is Japanese only. So, while the Tokyo Anime Centre has good things to recommend it, and is certainly worth a visit if you don’t know Akiba, there is so much more in Akihabara that the Centre’s pleasures are rather drowned out by its surroundings.
The Tokyo Anime Centre in Akihabara is open from 11am to 7pm. Closed on Mondays.