We were in the Shijo Kawaramachi area of Kyoto for a few days, and we got curious about this shop that we’d always pass to and from our hostel. It was called Nobunaga Shoten. Now, shoten means bookstore, and yet the shop’s walls had cartoonish illustrations of the famous warlord Oda Nobunaga doing silly things that’d make him roll in his grave: in a maid outfit, singing karaoke, and so on. “BOOK,” “ANIME,” “COSTUME,” “DVD,” the signs proclaimed. What kind of bookstore – if it even was one – was this, anyway? Somehow, our gut feeling told us that it wasn’t an ordinary bookstore. So we stepped in and had a great laugh about how, frankly put, it was a sex shop.
If you think that M’s Pop Life, the 7-storey sex shop in Akihabara is impressive enough, you ain’t seen nothing yet. While Nobunaga Shoten’s Kyoto branch only has 4 floors, and its other branches in Osaka and Kobe don’t get higher than that, its selection is comparable to that 7-storey shop. Real estate being quite expensive in Tokyo, M’s Pop Life is actually quite narrow, with the merchandise stacked together and little room to move around if there’s a crowd. But what Nobunaga’s size lacks in length, it makes up for in width. Nobunaga Shoten is huge, and has enough room for customers to move around and freely browse the shop’s selection. In fact, a friend found M’s Pop Life unimpressive because the lack of space made it difficult to look around, but was satisfied with Nobunaga Shoten. We wish we could share photos, but taking photos inside the shop isn’t allowed!
Nobunaga Shoten is a bookstore only by a technicality, and is really more of – as someone put it – an adult goods supermarket. Only about half of its first floor is non-porn, with manga and magazines, but the rest is a sex lover’s paradise.Well, all those gravure (a term for photography that ranges from glamor to borderline or outright softcore porn) photo books and porn magazines also count as books, too, we suppose! And there are also instructional books for those who want to learn the fine art of lovin’, anyway. Other than magazines and instructional books, there are, of course, porn DVDs – lots and lots of them. You can buy some brand-new, but they also have rentals and used DVDs, which, of course, are cheaper. Watch out for their bundles and lucky bags – a friend once bought a package of 20 DVDs, 3 magazines, and 2 toys for only over ¥3,000, while another time, someone bought 12 DVDs for not more than ¥2,000! Japanese porn can have some pretty crazy titles and themes, so if you’re not really interested in buying anything, you can at least scour through the shelves and have a good laugh over a funny title. Some gems we saw were a series entitled “Fart Style,” and a DVD with women who were so much in the throes of ecstasy that they were making funny, possessed-looking faces. Really, if you want to have a glimpse of Japan’s wackier side, this is one such place for you.
There are also sex toys, video games (pornographic, of course), lingerie, costumes, and joke goods. If you ever wanted to be a sexy schoolgirl or maid, or to wear the striped panties that are frequently seen in anime, Nobunaga Shoten can help you fulfill your fantasies. They’ve also got all sorts of toys: from purported replicas of porn actresses’ nether regions to S&M toys.
Like most sex shops, Nobunaga Shoten’s customers are largely male. Female customers are, naturally, welcomed, but if you go alone, be prepared for the occasional looks of puzzlement or stares from some male customers. They most likely don’t mean any harm, and are just not used to seeing women exploring the shop alone. (Trust me, I went there alone once, and a man looked so shocked to see me there.) We’ve seen a few couples checking out porn and toys together, though – now that should make for an interesting date, to say the least! Yes, costumes and lingerie aside, there are also goods that will appeal to women: some toys, for instance, and porn that’s specifically marketed towards women (hint: the men are eye candy, unlike many men in porn).
So if you ever need some, uh, self-love in the Kansai area, you know where to go! Nobunaga Shoten has 6 branches in Osaka, 1 branch in Kyoto, and 1 in Kobe.