Ah, Mandarake - the first place collectors go before they`ve eaten, rested, or unpacked!
There`s a magical yellow sheet passed out at the stores, listing Mandarakes throughout Japan. It has the locations, store info, and little maps. By my count, I`ve made it to all but 1 or 2. If you`re a hard core toy nerd, it`s not a bad way to structure a trip around Japan. If you hit them all, that would be WORKING a Japan Rail Pass.
Anyway, so after I arrived in Fukuoka a few days ago, I stopped by to check out the local big M. It`s a nice store with very friendly and knowledgeable staff. One of them recognized me from the recent Ollie release in Nakano. Comeagain?? We chatted for a while, and as it turns out, the staffer had just spent a month in Tokyo to, get this, be part of the Mandarake homestay program!
What a sweet job. Not only do you get to be around toys all day, but you can spend a month working at a Mandarake in another city, and they`ll set up a homestay with another Mandarake staffer. That`s just flat out awesome.
There are two Mandarakes in Kyushu: Fukuoka and Kokura. Yesterday I took a train ride up to Kokura (about 45 minutes each way) to check it their branch. It`s smaller than the one in Fukuoka, and almost no indy sofubi, but Kokura makes an easy day trip, and there`s a nice castle (though it`s a reproduction built some 50 years ago). If you`re in Kyushu and short on time, I`m not sure I`d recommend the trip, but if you have 5-6 days in the area, then why not.
Incidentally, in Fukuoka, there are a couple of other otaku meccas: 007 and Maxim City (both on the same street). Kind of a free for all, flea market vibe, which makes a fun visit, but they`re not so geared towards serious collectors. There`s a similar mecca about 45 minutes from Kokura. When I have a chance, I`ll write up my complete Kyushu Toy Hunter`s Log, with pictures to boot.