15 August 2015 saw the opening of TokyoToys new store in the centre of Birmingham. The day saw over a thousand people descend to the Japanese manga and toy store, which included performances, cosplay, giveaways, Pocky and even a special cake from the Amazing Cake Company.
Situated on Corporation Street, it is the second TokyoToys store in the UK, following on from the first in the Trocadero centre in London. Co-owner Hideki, manager Jon and the staff of TokyoToys were still getting everything finished and cleaned in time for their 2pm opening.
Jon, aka the Pocky Ninja, is the store manager of the new shop. He explained that while the London shop did have some work done to it, the Birmingham one required an absolute overhaul. “We had to build entire new ceilings, new walls; everything you see in TokyoToys here is custom made,” said Jon. “We bodged things in different ways to make them work in a very unique way. Those plushie racks were completely made by the brothers of TokyoToys. This is all a learning curve, so we’ve learnt a lot.”
“Itachi is a big part of TokyoToys,” said Jon. “Basically, the three brothers of TokyoToys transformed this shop from a crumbling mess to this thing of beauty.”
“You better look after it,” said Itachi.
“I will, I promise,” laughed Jon as he bowed before Itachi.
“I’ll be coming to check on you,” added Itachi.
Asked if he’d miss the London store, Jon replied that he didn’t really have a major role there. “I’ve been in the background, doing other things, mainly Comic Cons, helping and running all of those. If Hideki was here he’d say that he’d fire me everyday. But he said, ‘We want to open a Birmingham store now. We think it’s time that you took the plunge and went on to it.’”
There was a huge queue of people waiting to get in, which ran all the way down to the end of Corporation Street, and at its peak even turned to New Street. To keep the crowd entertained, two staff in Pika Face T-shirts performed to the Pokémon ‘Dance Dance Dance’ track. Before the shop opened its doors, Jon announced that they would be offering 10% off purchases to all cosplayers and for every £10 spent customers would get to have a go on the tombola, offering them a chance to win a limited edition Pikachu Nintendo 3DS.
Latifah was the first person to start queuing outside the new store from 5:30am, along with her friends Ibrahim and Shafiqah who turned up at 6am. “I’m so passionate about TokyoToys,” said Latifah. “I had to come and make sure I’m the first one to be here!”
To mark the occasion Latifah had dressed up in an incredible costume made from strips of comic books and manga. “I do beauty pageants and I have to do an eco dress,” she said. “Because I love anime and manga I wanted to show that otakus are glamorous, they don’t just stay indoors, watching anime and playing games. I decided to make a manga dress to show that free spirit.” She was looking forward to purchasing a new phone case and a plushie once the doors had opened.
Gabrielle was the fourth person in the queue who revealed that the new store had received over 70 CVs in the past week “I just wanted to come and support Hideki. It’s totally worth it.”
Megan was the first one to actually make a purchase in the new store, who spent over £80 and was cosplaying as Oikawa Tōru from Haikyuu!!. “Oh gosh, it’s a great honour,” she said, upon being told that she was the first official customer. “I bought loads of sports anime trash and I won a tote bag and three badges.”
By 7pm there was still a queue of people waiting to step inside. Jon revealed that some people had been queuing for three hours. “We’ve apologised to them, they’ve said, ‘No, we don’t care, we’re happy to be here.’ It’s been absolutely amazing, it really, really has. I don’t want three hour queues everyday. It would be nice, but we don’t want that for our customers!”
As for how many people visited, it was estimated that there were as many as 1200 people. “I don’t have any words to describe it,” said Jon of the huge turnout. “Honestly, we were so overwhelmed with the support for TokyoToys. From 2pm to 4pm we had about 500 people. We estimate around 1200 people have been through the doors. We’ve had to have a queuing system for our entire opening time. It’s been mad all day.”
Jon added that they had initially panicked at the thought that more than 300 people might turn up. “We thought, ‘We’ll get the megaphone, we’ll do some dancing for them, we’ll keep them entertained.’ We were not expecting to keep people entertained for over six hours. We’ve gone through so much freebie Pocky just to keep feeding people.”
When asked about how the customers compare to the London shop, Jon replied, “Apparently, they’re better looking! But no, really there’s no divide. Anime fan, manga fan, we’re all in the same boat. We’re all here for the same reason, the same love, the same drive. We’re all a bunch of crazy people that all enjoy the same crazy things and we’re just here to help provide that service. Yeah, we’re a business, but at the end of the day, we do it because we love doing this.”
Looking to the future and the possibility of a third TokyoToys store, Jon revealed that discussions had taken place, but as for a location he was tight-lipped and said, “We’re not going to say where. We are thinking about it, we’ll see how this goes. Give it a year maybe and we’ll see what happens.”
Are you in our video of the queue outside TokyoToys?
Additional content by Heather Kincaid.