[Interview 2018] Let's enter the World of Mandarake - Akihabara
Mandarake is one of the symbols of Akiba, with shops all over Japan and known not only among the Japanese but also by all those who are passionate about games, figures, anime and much more. Let's find out more with the interview with Yamamoto Shinya from Mandarake's PR department.
There is no animation, entertainment and modeling enthusiast in the world who does not know Mandarake.
It is one of the icons of Akihabara and in recent years it has developed by incorporating genres and products ranging from modern antiques to playful antiques.
For anyone who has been to Akihabara, the building is easily recognizable because it stands out for its black color and its height, a "paradise" for Otakus and non-Otakus alike, where you can find anything that whets your passion and a point of reference for the curious and interested in the Otaku culture of akiba and Japan.
Mandarake is divided into 8 floors, each of which with a theme of its own, well organized and above all full of everything an otaku or enthusiast could want, and even what they didn't know they wanted :D .
For those few who don't know what he does and who he is, a brief explanation. Mandarake deals with the purchase and sale of products related to entertainment, modeling and collecting. You can bring your own used things that will be checked and possibly purchased from the shop, which will then put them back on sale. It is divided into 8 floors as mentioned before, with different types of products, to lose a whole day :D.
Before moving on to the interview, let's see what the various plans have in store for us. The ones you see concern the Akihabara office, the other Fukuoka, Kokura, Osaka (2 Umeda stores and central Osaka), Nagoya, Sahra, Utsunomya, Sapporo and 4 Tokyo offices ( Shibuya, Nagano, Ikebukuro and Akiba). Some stores specialize more in some topics than others.
FIRST FLOOR (Vintage games, used reception desk) :
SECOND FLOOR ( Material for cosplay and dolls ):
THIRD FLOOR (Manga, posters and other publications):
FOURTH FLOOR (reserved for doujinshi, light novels and adult material)
FIFTH FLOOR ( doujinshi, BL novel and BL manga):
SIXTH FLOOR (CDs, DVDs, Blu-rays and Games):
SEVENTH FLOOR ( Games and Cards ) :
EIGHTH FLOOR (various games):
Now that you have an idea of what Mandare is and what you can find behind it, let's move on to our interview with Mr. Shinya Yamamoto.
Mauro: Can you tell us, what led to the birth of Mandrake? (why it was born, a little history of the brand to date).
Yamamoto: Regarding the story of Mandarake, initially the president of the company ran a used book and comic book store together with another enthusiast. This partner then quit the business and he continued on his own, realizing that customers greatly appreciated being served by staff who were just as passionate and gender-informed as they were themselves, and that the business could rapidly expand. He thus founded the main office in Tokyo, Nakano Broadway.
At the time, used book trading businesses used to establish purchase and sale prices based on the individual customer and his appearance without creating patterns and actual price notifications. This involved behaviors such as buying used cars at lower prices from people who seemed to need the money and therefore would have been satisfied anyway.
To counter this somewhat unpleasant behavior, Mandarake began to decide the price aimed directly at the object itself and its quality and to set up real tables of prices, data and so on. Mandarake was also the first used comic book store in the nation, and when this was first noticed and featured in a newspaper, a long line formed in front of the store the next morning.
Mauro: What is the philosophy that distinguishes Mandrake? (company philosophy towards customers and its employees).
Yamamoto: About Mandarake's mentality and ideal It's a matter that should mainly concern every business, but obviously the main purpose is to satisfy the customer. There are obviously different requests and needs, but respecting this concept is the basis. At Mandarake we primarily want to satisfy customers when they come to sell their used goods by giving the goods a favorable price for them too and then we want to resell them at prices that also make the buyer satisfied. It seems like a very simple concept, but it's actually a difficult and painstaking job, so much so that other similar businesses fail to imitate it.
Mauro: Was the idea simple for the Japanese to bring their things they are fond of or that they had to resell? Today in Japan I noticed that it is quite common, but at the beginning of your business? Let's talk about the 80s right?
Yamamoto: There are obviously people who don't want to part with their rare and precious things. However, in case of having to part with them, rather than throw away the objects collected with such passion, many prefer to entrust them to a place where they are evaluated and considered for their actual value by expert staff.
Mauro: Mandrake isn't just vintage or modern games, there are figures, we find manga, anime, music CDs, cosplay and much more. Were these activities added together with the inception of the shop or integrated over time?
Yamamoto: At first Mandarake dealt with manga and in small quantities also with doujinshi (private publications written by fans and not published by official publishers), but the main product was manga.
Mauro: Your chain now has many stores scattered throughout Japan, with online sales presence and a name known to all enthusiasts. How will I be the Mandrake of the future? Are you thinking of even radical changes in the management and face of the stores as we know them now or will you keep the current style? (automation or robot service).
Yamamoto: As for the future, we will look for new methods to be able to reach and satisfy as many people as possible.
Mauro: Imagine that I'm a Japanese who comes to resell, what do I do for the sale? Can you explain the procedures? (These will then be the subject of the recording and photos obviously without affecting anyone's privacy).
Yamamoto: In our stores there is the "kaitori", literally "buy and collect", which is the place where we buy goods from customers. Those who wish to resell their goods can take them directly to this section of the shop, it will then be necessary to show an identity document for data control.
Mauro: For those who are not Japanese or non-residents, could you resell them in your shops? Maybe he won a few games or figures too many, or something.
Yamamoto: Certainly, even foreign customers are welcome at the kaitori as long as they have any identity document with them (obviously also from their country, the passport is ideal). Unfortunately, we don't buy goods shipped from overseas, so once someone who wants to sell something is in Japan, they can bring their things directly here to Mandarake (if you want to know whether your goods are purchased or not, or what the generic price might be before bringing them here during the trip to Japan, the request section is available on the site, currently only on the Japanese home page but you can also contact us by generic email via the English home page.)
Mauro: How are the evaluations you give done? (current market, you also rely on how high shops do or whatever).
Yamamoto: The staff working at Mandarake are mostly people who are very passionate about something, so much so that they want to make it their job. There are many enthusiasts and collectors who obviously have their own basic knowledge, but who study every day to improve themselves and attribute the appropriate and updated price to the goods.
Mauro: Mandrake also sells toys and vintage products that are highly sought after and of a certain value. What are the products that today's Japanese look for with the most interest?
Yamamoto: I can't answer precisely as it depends from person to person, it can be said that the main requests are oriented towards the anime and manga that are all the rage at the moment, but many are looking for things they can only find at Mandarake as we deal also a lot of rare goods and of any era.
Mauro: What difference do you notice between the Japanese customer and the foreign one? (in terms of purchasing behaviour, such as products, quality, product preparation).
Yamamoto: It is often the foreign customers who are the most passionate. In fact, since these are goods not for sale abroad, many probably consider the moment they are in Japan a unique chance to put their hands on what they have wanted for a long time.
Mauro: The question that many ask, can I work in one of your shops? And if so, what should be done? (we are not talking about Japanese but about foreigners, residents or not).
Yamamoto: Anyone can work at Mandarake regardless of their education or nationality, the important thing is the strong passion of wanting to devote themselves to their passions for anime, manga, etc. For foreigners, as in all jobs in Japan, a non-tourist residence permit is obviously required.
We sincerely thank Mr. Yamamoto Shinya who, with the help of his staff, allowed this interview by helping us with the questions and his translation. Special thanks also go to the AKihabara Office and the staff working there who allowed me to take pictures for our article and Mr. Takeshita Norihiro in charge of the Akiba office.