Back in March, I went on vacation to Japan with a few friends from college. It was an absolute blast and anyone that wants to travel internationally should defintiely put this wonderful country high on their list of places to visit.

I could go on and on about the many facets of Japanese culture I learned about while on this trip. Alas, this is Live and Let Diecast, so for this post I am going to focus on just that- diecast. Specifically, hunting for die-cast. To go along with this post, I discussed my trip with Dan, Ryan, and Lloyd on episode 12 of the Live and Let Diecast Podcast. So check that out if you haven’t already!

Before I dive in, you can see the diecast models that I purchased while there in this post. It was quite a hawl!

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Where do I even begin? The die-cast hunting in Japan absolutely blows everything I have experienced in the United States out of the water. The Tomica displays in big-box stores, incredible selections at specialized hobby stores, and inventory at second-hand shops are on another level. I spent significant time in 3 cities; first Hiroshima, then Osaka, and then Tokyo. With each city the hunting got more and more impressive. Even in the (relatively) small city of Hiroshima, a great selection of die-cast was never far away. So let’s start there, at the first and smallest place I found die-cast the entire trip- the Mazda Museum.

The shop at the Mazda museum was pretty small and their die-cast selection was somewhat limited. But they had plenty of Oversteer cars
for 1,500JPY (about $13 USD). That’s not exactly the steal of the century, but it is less than I have paid for them on eBay. Overall, a pretty good deal if you’re looking for these. Here’s a gratuitous picture of the main attraction at the Mazda Museum, for those that might be curious.

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Hiroshima had a few toy and hobby stores that had a fair selection of die-cast as well. It was in one of these stores that I found my first proper Tomica display. I suppose Tomica’s American counterparts release too many cars every year to really make this viable in our retail stores, but wouldn’t this be cool to see everywhere you go?

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And even Tomica Limited Vintage models got their own cases!

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They even had a display with some built 1/24 plastic model kits. In spite of the popularity of these kits in Japan (there were more stores that sold them than die-cast), this was the only time I saw a display with built models in it.

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That’s all the die-cast related pictures I took in Hiroshima. There were also a couple of hobby shops that had various things, including Tomica Premium and Dream Tomica offerings. But I’ll leave you with this image of the Hiroshima skyline. This was the only decent view I had out of a hotel room the entire trip.

On to Osaka. It was here that the die-casting really started to pick up. One of the more famous neighborhoods in Osaka, Dotonbori, is essentially a huge shopping district that has all manner of stores selling all manner of things. There is also a square where the buildings are covered with electronic billboards much like Times Square. But the first bit of die-cast I ran into here came from familiar territory.

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Yep, Toys R Us! Unaffected by the closures that were announced just before I left, this store had a decent stock of Tomica and American die-cast.

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Things started to get more interesting when I visited some of the hobby shops, especially Mandarake. Mandarake is a chain of second-hand shops in Japan that specializes in all kinds of hobby merchandise, from action figures to manga books to CDs. The Osaka location had a few cases of die-cast and there were defintiely some goodies to be found. But more on Mandarake later.

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Finally, it was in Osaka that I found my first Tomica Shop. It was also the biggest one I visited. Prices here were actually higher than anywhere else that had Tomica, but not by much. And of course there were plenty of the Tomica Shop exclusive models to be found. They were about twice the price of the basic models.

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On to Tokyo. Oh my, Tokyo. Already pretty excited by what I had seen in Osaka, my expectations were about to be completely blown away. But a stop at Gifu Castle between Osaka and Tokyo was in order. The view from this mountaintop fortification was breathtaking.

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OK, back to die-cast. The first die-cast store I found in Tokyo was a hobby shop called TamTam in the Akihabara neighborhood. This shop was split between model trains and cars, but don’t worry, there was plenty of room for the cars. (This picture, along with some others, is Kinja’d as I write this draft. If it doesn’t correct itself, just tilt your head to the left.)

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Inside TamTam was an incredible selection of 1/64, 1/43, and 1/18 models from a host of manufacturers. AutoArt, Ignition Model, Greenlight, Tomica, Kyosho, Auto World...they had so much. Ironically, the selection of American die-cast was much better than anything I’ve seen in the states, with a plethora of very recent releases available. Prices were about double what you would pay here though.

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Next, Akihabara also had its own Mandarake. While the Osaka location featured a couple of cases of die-cast, this Tokyo location had an entire section dedicated to model cars. Yes, please.

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There was also a consignment store that had sections of cases anyone could rent and set up with merchandise. There were a few vendors selling die-cast, but I only got a picture of this impressive selection of Kyosho.

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Speaking of Kyosho, F Models had a huge amount of them. This was also the only store where I found playworn models. They also had a good selection of basic Hot Wheels...at around $5 each!

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But what if you’re just getting out of a club at 5am and need to sate that die-cast craving? F Models has a solution for you- a freaking die-cast vending machine! With Kyosho and Tomica Limited Vintage!!! Open 24/7, of course.

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Still recovering from the good mind-blowing the vending machine dished out, I decided to visit a large department store called Yodabashi Camera. Their Tomica display was a little different than the others I had seen.

Not content with the mind blowing that had just occured at F Models’ vending machine, Tokyo had another trick up its sleeve in Yodabashi Camera. Now, let me preface this by telling you Yodabashi Camera is essentially Japan’s equivalent to Target. It’s a large department store that is a cut above your normal bargain bin store like a Walmart, but nothing too crazy. It has a hobby department, and it was there that I found...more Ignition Model, AutoArt, and Kyosho offerings than I could shake a stick at. Imagine walking into Target one day to find an entire aisle of $150 1/43s and $250 1/18s. Yeah, that’s what this was. Unbelievable.

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Finally, I had travel a bit outside of very center of Tokyo to find a couple more smaller shops. The first of these was a wonderful little shop called Ken Box in Tokyo’s Shinjuku neighborhood. This one had mostly vintage Tomica, with a few 1/43 and 1/18 offerings as well.

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Finally, the last stop on this epic die-cast journey was Minicar Shop Global, a small store right next to Tokyo’s Komagome subway station. This shop had a great selection of 1/43 models and was also the only place I found Tarmac Works.

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Well, thanks for reading through this whole thing and checking out the pictures. Hopefully it was worth your time! The die-cast was really only a small part of this trip. Japan is such an incredible country for so many reasons and I hope to return some day. Be sure to check out episode 12 of the Live and Let Diecast Podcast to hear even more about the trip, including some non-die-cast related subjects. I’ll leave you with this picture from a driving tour I did with my friends around the Hakone region near Mt. Fuji. You can just make out the peak of Mt. Fuji in the background through the clouds and haze. I drove the Elise, and it was fantastic.

Happy hunting, LaLD!