Any major city would be known to have special shopping districts that are famous for what they sell – and sometimes, how they are sold. These districts are located often within the heart of the nation’s busier spots, as they are advertised to be a consumerist haven; a stark difference from that of rural, quiet, and quainter zones.
Around the world, Japan is famous for producing high-quality products, technology, and equipment. It’s also known for heavily promoting entertainment cultures such as video games, manga, anime, and their merchandise, so it’s no surprise that they sell a lot of these items for reasonable prices.
One place stands out as being notorious for their stocks and sales of these products, (supposedly comparable to that of Akihabara) and that consumerist haven is Denden town, in Osaka, Japan.
What Exactly Is Denden Town?
Also known as “Nipponbashi” (日本橋), Denden town is in the Naniwa ward of Osaka in Japan. It’s an area that stretches along several streets, namely Sakaisuji Avenue, Ebisu-cho interchange, all the way to Nansan-Dori. As you venture down these streets, all you’ll see are rows upon rows of shops selling everything from toy collectibles, figurines, retro electronic items, and furniture.
Also Known As Otaku Town
Denden town is now a paradise for any pop culture geek, ever since places like Akihabara and Umeda have upped their tech game, drawing customers away from Denden town. This has become quite the phenomenon that sometimes, Denden town is called “otaku road” because so much of what it sells caters specifically to otakus.
An otaku is a playfully derogatory word for someone who focuses too much on an aspect of pop culture, obsessing in it so much that they forget to have a normal life and practice social skills. Thus, they become an outcast in their peer groups – until they make friends with other otakus.
Aside from having unique finds, Denden town is also known to be a place where you can haggle to bring down the price. Though not everyone is always successful, it’s good to try it.
Why Do the Japanese Call it Denden Town?
Most people refer to this area as Nipponbashi, but Denden town (でんでんタウン) is its colloquial name. It can also be referred to as “Denki no machi” (電気の町), which in English, literally means “electric town”. This district was fondly called electric town, simply because of all the electronics that were sold here throughout the decades, especially after the second world war. “Den-den” came from abbreviating the “Den” from “Denki no machi”, and repeating that word twice.
The History of Denden Town
Nipponbashi wasn’t always the name attached to this area. It used to be known as “Nagamachi” (長町) during much of the Edo period. It was renamed to Nipponbashi because of a bridge up north that crosses the Dotonbori canal, built in 1619. Curiously, though Nipponbashi bridge was first in being named as such, it is not located in the Nipponbashi district itself.
When the Meiji period rolled, it was no longer known as Nagamachi and was instead referred to its new name. Slowly, it became famous for selling different second-hand books. These second-hand books were a new phenomenon to Japan at that time, having just opened their doors to the world, and international trade.
A Guide to Denden Town in Osaka, Japan
Before you head to Denden town, prepare yourself with what you’re looking for, because you may spend hours going into different shops if you have no specific objective to accomplish. Then again, if you just want to look around, prepare to bring a lot of cash with you, because you may just bump into something interesting, and hard to find anywhere else.
To get to Denden town, head to its address, which is Namba, Nihonbashi, Ebisu, Osaka 542-0071. You can get there by subway. Find a line that leads you to Namba station (Nankai main line is one of them, and there are also 2 connecting stations; Osaka Namba Station and JR Namba Station), and it’ll only take you a 7-minute walk to get there. You can also take the Sakaisuju Line, exit through either 1A or 1B at the Ebisucho Station, and Denden town would be right by you.
Top Recommended Stores in Denden Town
- Nippombashi Information, also known as “Nippombashi Sogo Annaijo” should be on top of your list when you first visit Denden town. Found in 5-9-12 Nippombashi, Naniwa-ku, they offer different guides, maps (“Pombashi” map), and souvenirs (hand towels, shirts, clocks) themed in Denden town, all endorsed by Neon-chan, the district’s assigned special anime character clad in pink. It’s open from 11 AM to 7 PM every day, except Holidays. Its telephone number is 06-6655-1717.
- Are you a fan of retro games? If you are, Super Potato is a good shop to visit. Open from 11 AM until 8 PM, it blurs the lines between being a museum that displays such rare consoles, and an outlet that sells them, you can fulfill your video game collector’s fantasy here. Not to mention, the quality of what they’re selling is top-notch.
(What you might have to look out for, though, is how compatible they are with your system if you plan to take it home with you, wherever home might be. Japanese zones have different plugs and systems compared to those in the US or Europe, so your safest bet is to buy a handheld console.)
- As for stores that appeal to hobbies and collecting, there’s Volks Hobby Square, open from 11 AM until 8 PM, offering everything from figurines of airplanes, cars, military-themed collectibles, action figures, dolls, and others.
- Gundam, open from 10 AM until 8 PM, sells authentic Gunpla for fans and collectors of the anime and manga.
- K-Books is similar and has a varied range of choices with a specialty towards books – specifically manga.
- Comic Tora-no-ana (Namba Store), written in Japanese as “コミックとらのあな”, is extremely well-known throughout the country for selling top quality manga.
- This is the same for Joshin Super Kids Land (Main Store), open 10 AM to 8 PM, where they sell toys that are affordable and directed towards younger age groups. Hero Gangu Kenkyuko or “Hero Gangu Lab” concentrates on selling secondhand figurines – some of them so strange, you’ll never see anything like it anywhere else.
- Gee!Store Osaka is a little different in the sense that they sell cosplay materials and costumes along with the usual collectibles. It is open from 11 AM until 8 PM and is in 4-15-21, Naniwa-Ku, Osaka-shi, Osaka Nihonbashi.
- Yellow Submarine Namba Store, located in 3-8-23 Nippombashi, Naniwa-Ku, Osaka-shi, is a name that is well known in Japan. It is found in Denden town because it perfectly fits the theme of the place with their three different outlets; Namba GAMESHOP, Namba Store 3, and Namba Store. Within these three stores, you’ll find names such as Yu-Gi-Oh, Duel Masters, Pokemon, Battle Spirits, and others.
Places to Eat In/Near Denden Town
Walking around gets tiring, so after a couple of hours just looking through the interesting things that are for sale in Denden town, you’ll surely get hungry. Not to worry – there are many places in and around Denden town that you can have a delightful experience, both gastronomically, culturally, and even aesthetically.
After walking around for hours on end looking at the different shops and what they have to offer, you can head to Kuromon market for a hearty and fresh meal. They have a lot of specialty seafood and meat dishes here that have been renowned as some of the best in Osaka.
Mel-Café, A Maid Cafe
In Japan, a cafe isn’t just about having your coffee and a delicious bite to eat. It’s also about the ambiance, aesthetic, and experience of being there. Thus, the boom of theme cafes all over the country. One of them is found in Denden town, and is called “Mel-cafe”. Mel-cafe is a maid café, (“Meido kissa” or “meido kafe”), written as “メイド喫茶 / メイドカフェ” waitresses are dolled up in a maid’s uniform (cosplay), and act as though you were their master/mistress and give you special attention.
In Mel-cafe, the first thing you’ll see greeting you outside are cardboard cutouts of manga/anime characters. When you go inside, everything from the menu, café merchandise, and even the food are themed. They take special care to make your food look extra “kawaii” or cute, so expect some artful doodles made with a little bit of sauce (ketchup if you order omelet, chocolate if you order cake) strewn on your plate.
Maidreamin Osaka Nipponbashi OTA Road
A highly rated restaurant is Maidreamin Osaka Nipponbashi OTA Road, which has 54 reviews on TripAdvisor and is only .2 kilometers away from Denden Town. Just like Mel-café, Maidreamin Osaka Nipponbashi OTA Road Restaurant sells the cutest meals, with even more intricate drawings and designs on your meals.
The entrance fee will cost you 500 yen, and the average price you’ll be spending is around 1,025 to 5,010 yen. They’re open from 11:30 AM to 10:30 PM on weekdays, 10:30 AM to 11 PM on Saturdays, and 10:30 AM to 10 PM on Sundays.
How Does Denden Town Compare to Akihabara?
Akihabara in Tokyo is very similar to Denden town, though much bigger, and much more modern-looking. Denden town is significantly easier to navigate on foot, and is a lot quainter, selling even older models of electronics and collectibles.
Looks-wise, Akihabara looks seem to take itself more seriously and is thus more aesthetically pleasing, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’ll make for a better shopping experience. In fact, many shoppers report buying more items from their trip to Denden town compared to Akihabara. In the end, it depends on what’s nearest your hotel. Both areas sell essentially the same things – but if you’re in Tokyo, check out Akihabara. If you’re in Osaka, head to Denden town.
Other Things to Do in Denden town
Ranked second place in suggestions out of all the outdoor activities in Osaka, Akiba Kart Osaka is just .2 kilometers away from Denden town, this lets you take a Go-Kart all over Osaka for 3 hours, which can be an incredibly fun experience, especially if you throw in a friend or more in the mix, as well as some creative costumes. Its ratings by customers on TripAdvisor are mostly 5 stars and is reviewed to be very safe, and monitored by a skilled guide.
For those who like cooking, 0.4 kilometers away from Denden town is Sennichimae Doguyasuji Shopping Street, which sells lacquers, cutlery, cooking ware, and funky souvenirs, such as molds of different sushi. Most shops close by 5 PM, so if you want to explore the area for kitchen finds, you’d best go early.
Is Denden Town for You?
Otaku or not, Denden town is enjoyable for everyone but most enjoyable for those who are into this genre of pop culture. Even if you aren’t one to collect toys or know much about the virtual entertainment scene of Japan, it’s always good to learn something new. Travel to Osaka, check out Denden Town.