On the 2nd and 3rd floors of San Center Plaza lies a stretch of shops catering to the geekiest of shoppers in Kobe. I’ve taken to affectionately calling this sweet haven Nerd Lane. Here, you can find many nerdy things to get your fix. If you tend to be weak of will when encountering the excitement of anime, video and card games, and manga merchandise, you should definitely consider setting a budget before you delve in too deeply.
Surrounded by many ガチャ and conveniently equipped with a change machine for your 1000円 bills, Animate is usually my first stop whenever I make a round of Nerd Lane. It’s located on the 3rd floor and has an associated cafe a short jaunt down the hallway (though thus far, I’ve not found any of their featured franchises fascinating). This is your go-to for popular merch recently released. If it’s super popular, though, stuff can sell out rather quickly. I recently went to buy a batch of the newest Sailor Moon stationery (because cute, functional things are my weakness) and all but a few things were already gone (Loft and especially Tokyu Hands are good backups for stationery; apparently no one thinks of the latter for whatever reason).
On the way from Animate, the first section of Volks houses cases of figurines and other goods you can purchase using a handy-dandy slip of paper (provided in-store; how exciting!). Some rather risque figurines that I find more hilarious than sexy, personally, are there, though apparently someone has complained recently: they’re now wrapped in opaque packaging so their goods are not bared for all to see. The shelves are often overwhelming and have little in the way of organization, but you can find rarer things for a reasonable price. There are also rumors of an R2-D2 nabe pot. Moving through the shop, you’ll then see a build-your-own doll section, a model (primarily of the Gundam variety) section, and a section with new-in-box items.
This arcade has the cheapest 太鼓の達人 (Taiko no Tatsujin) machine in the area, alongside Round 1. At 100円 per play, you can play twice as many times for the same price as at Namco next to the Hankyu station. Dissidia and crane games galore are also draws for me (though I’m not particularly good at either).
I’ve enjoyed looking around their stores in other cities, but this one seems predisposed to idol anime goods. That’s not my thing, though have at if it’s yours! Apparently there’s another on the 2nd floor somewhere, but I haven’t come across this (at least recently; I have a vague recollection of stumbling upon it outside of what I consider Nerd Lane).
The rest of the 3rd floor doesn’t hold many more shops I find interesting, but there are some great knock-off ガチャ machines. On the 2nd floor, there used to be a shop of nearly ancient goods, but it’s been shuttered the last several times I’ve ventured down the lane, so perhaps the shop owner and his Sailor Moon cells of which he was so proud are now gone.
This has a fairly eclectic selection of mostly Western toys.
Cramped but worth looking into. They have dirt-cheap figurines of dubious authenticity. Also, their online presence is not very good.
I rarely venture in, but there are plenty of retro games and toys that can give you whiplash from the 懐かしい feeling they’ll instill in you. I especially love looking at the old Sailor Moon toys that look atrocious and which I will never, ever buy.
Extremely overwhelming and with little in the way of sensible organization, this shop is nevertheless a great place to stop. They have some of the best prices. If you’re claustrophobic, it may be best to wait until it clears out, though.
While probably the most expensive option in Nerd Lane, Yellow Submarine has a great selection of ガチャ, so instead of inserting 100円 after 100円 and getting the same thing over and over again (“Dave Guy!”* ), you can simply buy what you want right off the bat (assuming, of course, they have it in stock). There are plenty of other goods as well. Once, shortly after returning from Tokyo one summer, I happened to find the Sailor Moon pen set I’d been looking for in their case and fell to the ground in excitement (are you sensing a theme here?). They have many 一番くじ if you want to further test your luck.
If, however, you decide the thrill of the crank really does it for you, there are a plethora of ガチャポン machines right across from Yellow Submarine, in addition to throughout Nerd Lane.
I haven’t found a whole lot here I’m interested in, but it’s still fun to look and the prices seem agreeable.
Should you find yourself in Kobe with time (and hopefully money) to spare, along with an interest in the geekier offerings in Japan, do visit Nerd Lane. You never know what wondrous, joy-bringing item you may discover.