JAPAN - PART 1 Hello Tokyo

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. They train, battle, and protect on a daily basis. They are champions of good - living up to their title of "Heroes in a Halfshell." And their reward? A life in the sewers.

We normal humans work easy jobs in comparison. We sit at a desk for 8 measly hours a day, battling no evils, and yet we still demand time off. The Turtles never get that chance to escape. Vacation opportunities don't exist for mutants.

But, me? I'm no Ninja Turtle. Traveling is my favorite. I enjoy exploring the globe, experiencing different cultures, and chowing down on exotic cuisine. But most of all, I love hunting for toys. The thrill escalades when you're battling the language barrier and converting the currency in your head, all in the mayhem of a foreign land.

Recently, I ventured to Japan - a country steeped in culture and toys. It's also the birthplace of ninjas. That's right, NINJAS. If it weren't for Japan, the Teenage Mutant NINJA Turtles would be radically different, possibly nonexistent (*shudders*). The country plays a crucial role with our beloved characters and their origins.

I was relentless in my quest for Japanese TMNT merchandise. I combed the crowded streets of Tokyo, wandered the spiritual shrines of Kyoto, and navigated the twisted alleys of Osaka - all for the sake of Turtle Power.

Pack your bags for a radical, 5-part cowabunga-fueled trip to Japan. No passport required, dudes.


In New York City, confined quarters and a lack of personal space are the norm. It's an existence that I've navigated, and mastered, for years. But within minutes of maneuvering the squeezed streets of Tokyo, I realized all my years of experience were mere child's play. Japan's largest city is a constant onslaught of densely populated insanity. There are 13 different subway lines, countless skyscrapers, and vending machines everywhere. Not to mention the 13 million people who live there. How could I ever track down TMNT toys in a place this daunting?

Ignoring the jet leg, I hopped on a train to the bustling Nakano ward. A few locals suggested I visit Nakano Broadway, a 4-leveled shopping complex specializing in anime, manga, toys, and entertainment collectibles.

The place was a maze of tiny, endless stores. I wandered through each one, spotting continuous treasures through a mass of eager people (although I was the only 6 foot tall, blonde dude). I quickly learned having the word "sumimasen" in your Japanese arsenal is very helpful because you say "excuse me" a lot.

I was keen on only purchasing Japanese-specific mementos; avoiding any TMNT toys available in the United States. The first shop I entered was like a cramped bathroom at a rock & roll bar. But instead of eye-numbing graffiti on the walls, it was all toys! Somehow in this infinity of knickknacks and collectibles, I discovered my first Japanese TMNT trophy.

A keychain - the iconic souvenir. Being Japanese and TMNT, the item fit my parameters.

Leonardo holding a pie! How could I pass up such a silly souvenir?

The "Pizza Card" on the back of the packaging didn't reveal an ounce of worthy information for my Western mind. The foreign characters and Japanese TMNT logo were outlandish. The "Hero In A Half Shell!" tagline, in its imperfect English, also gave me a giggle.

I whipped out my wallet, ready to fork over a few yen for the keychain. I plopped the item on the counter. The store clerk eyed it suspiciously. Was I unaware of some Japanese toy-buying custom? He broke the silence and passionately hopped over the counter. He furiously dug through a jumble of toys as his nonstop, Japanese chatter filled the store.

Like a rabbit from a magician's hat, the man revealed a stack of very Japanese TMNT cards. 

I had never seen anything like these in the US. These cards were completely foreign, completely cool. Like a broken record, I repeated "arigatou gozaimasu" (thank you very much).


The cards showcase the Turtles in hilarious, yet bizarre circumstances. Shuffling through them, they progressively got funnier.

Success. I had found items that were both Japanese and TMNT. My crusade for Turtle toys had just started, but could I find more?

Next was one of the many Mandrake stores that occupy Nakano Broadway. This chain has many locations scattered throughout the complex.

As I bounced from store to store, the holy grail of toys began making an appearance - vintage TMNT action figures. Unfortunately, they were all American releases with hefty prices tags.

Their origin (and let's be honest, their cost) went against the credo I set for myself. I've never seen so many TMNT toys and felt so crushed.

After a few hours, I had covered most of Nakano Broadway to no avail. More gems were spotted, but they were all American. I felt like the Japanese toy gods were playing a sick joke on me - having a laugh while my hopes dwindled. I was in a temple of toys, but my prayers were going unanswered.

Good things come to those who wait. I couldn't help but chuckle when I uncovered not one, but two Japanese Turtle toys in the last store I stepped inside.


My mood immediately mutated from defeated to jubilant. Finally, vintage TMNT action figures with a swarm of Japanese characters enveloping the packaging.

No doubt about it, these toys were foreign.

I've seen countless TMNT merchandise over the years. But only in the Orient, did I encounter a Japanese Pizza Point. And these were worth 2 points each! Forget a stamp in my passport, this was much cooler.

The unopened, in-the-box figures were a steal compared to the hefty prices in America. My wallet felt proud shelling out the cash to take these toys back to the US.

I had conquered Nakano Broadway like a true ninja. A triumphant haul deserved a tasty meal. I sipped on piping hot green tea as a loop of infinite cuisine passed by. The celebratory meal of conveyor belt sushi left my belly feeling satisfied. The Japan toy hunt had just begun, but I had already emerged victorious.

NEXT: The voyage continues! In Part 2, I explore Tokyo's video game mecca, the Akihabara ward.



  1. The "Pizza Card" on the back of the packaging didn't reveal an ounce of worthy information for my Western mind. The foreign characters and Japanese TMNT logo were outlandish. The "Hero In A Half Shell!" tagline, in its imperfect English, also gave me a giggle.

    The pizza cards are part of a card game, obviously promo cards considering they come with the keychains. The card game is the one you posted right below it.

    Also Japan uses English all the time, just like how we use spanish loosely in southern areas.

  2. As Epic as PART 1 was, I can't wait for PART 2. I love travel blogs and toys so this post is the best of both worlds. Awesome finds bud.....

    1. Thanks! I feel the same way. Toy AND travel. Yes, please.

  3. I can't wait for Part 2! Def an awesome experience. One I'm glad you can share with us all. Now, hurry up with Part 2!

  4. That was great, and we have 4 more parts to go, this will be the highlight of my mornings at work for the week, thanks for taking us with on your vaction and search for the elusive Japanese TMNT toys.

  5. As much as I would like to visit Japan, that picture of the crowds got my heart pumping a little harder. I don't do well in Times Square during the holidays, so I'd probably start throwing people around there.

    I'd probably end up doing the same thing you're doing. Why would I go to Japan and buy stuff I can get at home?

    1. Hah! Yes, the crowds can be overwhelming. Although seeing you throw someone does pique my interest... Other parts of the country were much better. Maybe the upcoming posts will calm your heart down.

  6. Great article dude! Looking forward to the next post! I too embarked on this same quest when I was in Japan. Returned home with many treasures! I hate to say it, but you missed out those plushies at Mandrake. I've got a set myself and they are most definitely of Japanese origin.

  7. i Already have read discripsion of Night Ninja Raph(japanese version's named ニンジャラファエロ that you had bought at tokyo!)in other site.

    so i noticed that Night Ninja Raph's Description of japan has Subtle difference in US ver. because i'm japanese :)

    description of Japan version is a little short and simplified. 

    I wish your web site will have many more successful years!

  8. The first toy store was awesome - nooks and crannies full of goodness! My pic looks pretty good in there!


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