- Akihabara (Tokyo) – When a typical fan thinks about buying figures and other related anime merchandise in Japan, he or she probably first thinks about Akihabara. It is often hailed as the anime mecca of the world, and in many ways it absolutely fits the bill. When I first visited Akihabara, in January 2013, I was thrilled with the adventure and sense of exploration. I plunged head first into buying all the figures that interested me at the time. What I did not realize however, was the truth that it is incredibly expensive and overpriced. In fact, you can be hard pressed to find a good deal at any of the stores located there. Years later, I am convinced Akihabara is a tourist trap for foreign visitors and an escape for local citizens. It serves two very different purposes depending on the demographic. There are much better alternatives to Akihabara when you are looking for a discount.
- Den Den Town (Osaka) – Den Den Town can be best described as a smaller version of Akihabara that is located in Osaka. It resembles Akihabara in that it is lined with many different figure stores and arcades. While it is generally less expensive across the board compared to its counterpart, the figures are still overpriced. It is absolutely worth visiting for the experience alone, but it is plagued by the same problems as Akihabara. It provides real locations where a fan can hunt for figures, but it does very little in terms of making you feel as if you found a good deal.
- Various Secondhand Stores – Having been in Japan for almost two years now, I never get sick of the sheer number of palaces where you can find anime merchandise. What is especially nice is the fact that secondhand stores in Japan will almost always have a section dedicated solely to figures. Oftentimes I was pleasantly surprised at the selection available. The two downsides are that the figures will not be new and the selection is incredibly random because it is entirely based on what the seller brought to that particular store. With that said, it is a nice feeling finding something that you want to buy that you didn’t expect to find at a good price.
- Amazon Japan – Arguably the single greatest avenue to purchase figures is Amazon Japan. If you currently reside in Japan, it is an invaluable resource. Not only is the shipping incredibly fast, the prices are significantly better compared to actual stores. Amazon Japan is usually my baseline when I am comparing in-store prices. The only negative comment that can be made about this site is that it is not the cheapest option available. With that said, it makes up for the price differential with shipping speed and overall seller reliability.
- Yahoo Auctions Japan – This site is far and away the cheapest option I have personally come across when it comes to buying figures. For the most part, the accounts are private sellers and as a result, the prices are below average. With that said, there are a few notable drawbacks to using Yahoo Auctions. It can be a lot more difficult to set up an account when compared to Amazon, mainly due to the lack of English options available. Furthermore, new accounts are heavily prejudiced against. When I was first starting out, my bid was withdrawn by the seller two different times because he or she didn’t trust my account. It can be said Yahoo Auctions Japan protects the seller more than the buyer. It being an auction site, you also have to deal with the fact you are never guaranteed an item unless you utilize the “Buy It Now” button from some listings. Unlike Ebay, the listing does not automatically end when time expires depending on whether or not there was a recent bid. If a bidding war develops in the closing minutes, more time will be added to the auction until one party eventually succumbs to the price. With all that said, if you can be willing to look past the flaws with the cheaper prices in mind, this will be your best option in that regard.