In Store: Go figure
From pint-size commandos to miniature cartoon characters, Tokyo is a toy collector's paradise. Martin Webb brushes up his trinket trivia and checks out all the action.

At the very hub of Harajuku subculture heaven—Cat Street—is this spot for the cooler character collector. Finding funky figures that appeal to the Ura-Hara (back streets of Harajuku) set is big business, and nobody does it better than POOK et KOOP. What is deemed the most atsui (hot) or yabai (awesome) figure can change from week to week, and dedicated customers place orders in advance. So what's the current hot cookie? South London street brand SILAS' chief designer James Jarvis' recently released series "Juvenile Delinquents." Big brands like Disney, Hasbro and Star Wars and plenty of underground characters from Kubrik also make an appearance alongside rarities from the US and UK. Staples such as GUNDAM, AKIRA and Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas fill out the selection at the most fashionable figure store in town.
Open 11:30am-8pm. Cat Street, 6-15-9 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku. Tel: 03-5466-8504. Nearest stn: Meijijingumae.

Directly opposite POOK et KOOP, although not directly in competition, is ASTRO MIKE, a cuter and more charming character carrier. The beaming smiles of the staff hardly ever fail to put customers in a great mood, and harmless fun is the motif of this toy treasure trove. Well-preserved antique toys, dolls and tin robots, as well as trains and cars from the US and '60s Japan fill glass cases, and American character toys and goods line the shelves. For other blasts from the past, check out the rare Mickey Mouse watches, Star Wars figures and Smurfs, which are all good buys. The Simpsons badges, pins and figures might provoke a chuckle, and the rack of T-shirts is also worth a look. Exclusive items include Fidel Castro, who stands nobly in a glass case, yours for ¥28,000, and cult Hong Kong figure designer James Shu's new series (pictured), due for release in March. If ex-pat life seems lonely, make your way to ASTRO MIKE and get some buddies who don't talk back.
Open noon-8pm. Cat Street, 1F Hidano Bldg, 5-25-2 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku. Tel: 03-3499-2588. Nearest stn: Meijijingumae.

Nothing is more likely to get a figure otaku (nerd) worked into a frenzy than Star Wars. This veritable warp hole to the Star Wars universe is a cluttered combination of café, bar and figure store, all named after the dangerous saloon featured in the original flick. Coffee, alcoholic drinks and some snacks are available to sustain customers through exploratory expeditions of the vast collection of memorabilia—most new, but some original, very collectible and very expensive. Obsessed with the sci-fi series from the outset, Cantina's lively owner is an inexhaustible source of Star Wars trivia who is more than willing to share his knowledge with all comers. Cantina, home to a life-size Ewok, R2D2 and CP30, is also the venue for occasional celebrity visits, when for a small fee Star Wars enthusiasts can come face-to-face with their heroes.
Open Tues-Sun 7:30-11pm. 1F Asou Bldg, 1-28-6 Shoutou, Shibuya-ku. Nearest stn Shibuya, from the station turn left at Bunkamura.


American cult figure manufacturer Toys McCoy's Japan showroom boasts an impressive life-size Steve McQueen (The Great Escape incarnation) greeting customers outside the door. Inside is a veritable army of miniature soldiers bristling with assorted weaponry that defies description. The pleasant staff will guide you around the impressive collection of Steve McQueen figures and other Action Man-scale miniature musclemen, including Nazi soldiers, US Navy SEALs, Marines and Army Rangers complete with uniform changes, assorted rifles and other means of destruction. Mean-looking cowboy figures are on display alongside equally fierce-looking replica firearms. If none of the above takes your fancy, have a look at the inevitable assortment of the latest Star Wars figures lining the walls.
Open Tues-Sun 1-8pm. 1F Nagano Bldg, 3-21-2 Shibuya Higashi, Shibuya-ku. Tel: 03-5766-1703. Nearest stn: Ebisu.

This American collectibles shop is perhaps Tokyo's first toy store for girls. The vast selection of Smurf, My Little Pony, Snoopy, Kermit, Bambi and (of course) Star Wars figures is crammed onto shelves, hung from the walls and tacked to the ceiling. Plenty of items will induce involuntary squeals of kawaii! The highlight, however, may be the current best-selling collection of Troll dolls. Not only are there hundreds of Trolls in all shapes and sizes, but some of the little monsters have been given dreadlocks by the impish shop staff. Bins outside hold cute house slippers, T-shirts and some swap meet-style junk. Just beware of the three-foot Frankenstein lamp opposite the entrance.
Open 12-8:30pm. A1 Nagata Bldg, 3-27-17 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku. Tel: 03-3479-1262. Nearest stn: Harajuku, Takeshita exit on Harajuku Street, turn right at VOICE.


Step into '60s Japan at Billiken. Hiiromono (hero genre) characters such as Ultraman, Astroboy, and a vast array of repulsive Kaiju B-movie monsters await the visitor to this box of delights. Billiken's Kaiju and Ultraman figures are painstakingly hand-molded and -sculpted in the workshop behind the store, so each piece is a unique work of art. Alongside these miniature creations are hundreds of vintage Japanese figures encompassing every anime series and B-movie character imaginable. Dolls, toy cars, rockets and trains of yesteryear cram the shelves and cases, and most have an intriguing tale behind them. Special interest books, antique posters, placards and some inspirational pieces of '50s American memorabilia are scattered about the store. Billiken is the perfect place to go if you want to send your Japanese sarariiman friend on a trip down memory lane.

Open 12-8pm. 101 Minami Aoyama Green Heights, 5-17-6 Minami-Aoyama, Minato-ku. Tel: 03-3400-2214. Nearest stn: Omotesando, exit B1, turn left at Hunting World.

Photos: Brooke Wheeler