Imagine this; you’re walking down a crowded street in Tokyo, enjoying the sights. It’s late at night and the streets are coming alive with vibrant neon lights, traffic, and plenty of people out to have a good time. And then you see him, looming above you suddenly—the Moon King. A huge blue penguin wearing a Santa hat, sitting on a golden crescent moon. And he’s beckoning you to come into a magical store full of serpentine aisles packed with all kinds of goods from the floor to the ceiling, strange music blaring, and all the surfaces are oddly painted yellow.
What are we talking about? Well, it’s a very unique chain of stores scattered across Japan called Don Quijote, or DonKi for short! And we are going to tell you a little bit about how to visit DonKi successfully without getting too overwhelmed, and where to go to find some great otaku stuff along the way!
A Sensory Overload
It’s important to understand from the start that Don Quijote is a sensory overload, especially for first-time shoppers. It has a lot of small aisles that don’t follow any set pattern, weaving in and out and absolutely stuffed with products. While products are sorted by general use, you never know what kinds of things you will find all over the store. Because DonKi sells so many things, there are a lot of random items hanging on the ends of aisles, piled on displays, or thrown in bins. Because DonKi has really cheap prices for everything from toiletries and food or brand name watches and handbags, it’s almost always crowded. And when you put crowds of people into small aisles, it’s easy to get overwhelmed.
DonKi is famous for its theme music as well; that’s right, the store has its own catchy theme song, and it plays in the store a lot. You can absolutely count on it getting stuck in your head. If you’re a fan of the Yakuza game series, you might find yourself wondering when you hear this song how you already know it… and that’s because DonKi is featured as one of the in-game shops in the game, complete with its jingle!
No matter how overwhelmed you may be feeling when you first step into DonKi, just remember that it is all part of the experience. Keep pressing forward and let yourself get a little lost because you never know what kinds of treasures you may find.
A Hidden Otaku Wonderland
While it may not seem it at first glance, DonKi is also a great place to pick up otaku goods! You might have to do a bit of searching at some branches of the store, as they will be mixed around everywhere, but that’s just part of the fun. A few definite things you can find are character socks, stationary supplies, and phone accessories printed with your favourite characters. If you head to bigger branches, especially Shibuya and Akihabara in Tokyo, you can find entire sections of the store dedicated to otaku goods. At these locations, you can pick up figures, key chains, t-shirts, and more from a lot of different anime and games. You can usually find idol goods and Sanrio stuff, too!
DonKi is also known for selling cosplay. Be aware that a lot of the “cosplays” that are sold tend to be more generic outfits like Japanese school uniforms, but you can also find character outfits. DonKi is especially great for finding super popular otaku cosplay like Dragonball Z or Love Live, but you never know what you might be able to find. Plus, if you are in the market for school uniforms, well, look no further—DonKi has the best prices and selection.
One really special place that Don Quijote holds in otaku culture is the AKB Theatre located in the Akihabara branch, which was the original place that the famous idol group AKB48 performed. The theatre is still there and hosts regular shows, so if you’re looking to see an idol show, it’s a great opportunity to see it in a famous location!
Don’t let DonKi intimidate you too much when you first go in; and try not to get lost forever and never find your way out, either. If you are able to not just survive the experience but successfully navigate the madness, you may come out with a lot of otaku goods (and who knows what else!) that you never knew you needed until you saw it. A trip to DonKi is always a little bit of an adventure, and it’s a fun place to explore that you won’t want to miss if you’re in Japan. We especially recommend checking out the Akihabara location for the best otaku goods!
Have you ever been to DonKi before? Do you recognise it from its appearance in the Yakuza video game series? Would you like to go there someday, and what kind of stuff would you like to buy? We love to hear your comments and questions!