I miss seeing the posters on the way down in to the underbelly of hell that is Mandarake in Shibuya. All of them have either been stolen or simply taken down. The seizure strobe lights are still there however, and after a day of walking the humid streets of Tokyo, you best hold onto the wall going down.
Hades greets you in the form of a disinterested college cosplay girl. You put your bag in the 100 yen locker and a rush of adrenaline hits you as you hope against hope that today, they put out some hidden gems for below online auction pricing.
Sing song anime soundtracks filter through the aisles of hentai manga and sweaty teen boys who inhabit the space in rows like expectant puppies at the beck and call of their mother.
The counter to the right is snaking with a group of quiet Otaku waiting to pay for their treasures, and the first row of glass cases on the back wall greets you after passing the bins of anime cells and costume racks.
Sounds and smells take a back seat as you gaze at the vintage cases, filled with hand scribbled price cards and hastily cellophane wrapped boxes.
“Ikura desu ka?” becomes your best friend and mantra.
Cases open, the whif of aging carboard, the musk of Bullmark vinyl. You know it all too well, but like running into an old lover on the street, the memories are raw and crisp… a paper cut that never closes.
You have arrived. Be it your first time ( we will be gentle) or your latest in a series of journeys over the past decade… all react the same way. The cases, regardless of what lays in them, is the great equalizer.
Miles away, you finally feel at “home“.