A Bara Manga Fan's Guide to Tokyo
Long before I was able to visit Tokyo, I've already been a huge fan of gay manga, or as it's appropriated in Western culture, bara.
After years of reading doujinshi and following my favorite Japanese artists on Twitter and Pixiv, I've had a chance to buy and see the real thing in print! Finding them, however, wasn't that easy on my first visit, so here are some stuff I've learned where to find and buy a copy of your favorite bara manga.
Mandarake is a huge chain of stores carrying used anime and manga products, collectibles, and fan-made merchandise. The BL section in each store carries manga and doujinshi by well-known artists.
Mandarake has several branches in Tokyo: Nakano, Akihabara, Shibuya, and Ikebukuro, with an online store shipping both domestically and internationally.
BIG GYM is a well-known gay adult specialty shop based in Tokyo carrying adult video, leather goods, merchandise, and apparel. BIG GYM also carries a good variety of doujinshi, calendars, magazines, and back issues of manga anthologies that are not available in other shops. Some notable gay artists whose works I've seen only in-store include Inuyoshi, SUV, and TAMA.
BIG GYM has physical stores in Ueno and Ikebukuro, with an online store shipping domestically in Japan. Note that physical stores exclusively cater to men, so female clients might not be able to enter.
Some artists get to publish their work, and their anthology becomes available on major online stores like Amazon Japan.
If you are lucky enough to be able to visit Tokyo during these event dates, you can meet and buy from the artists directly!
Comic Market (Biannual, August & December)
Comic Market is arguably the largest doujinshi event held twice a year in Japan, bringing hundreds of thousands of attendees throughout its 3 days. Summer Comiket is usually held on the second week of August, while Winter Comiket is held on the last 3 days of December. Both are held at Tokyo Big Sight in Odaiba.
If you follow your favorite artists on Twitter or Pixiv, you'll easily be able to know if they'll be holding a booth at the convention, along with the date and location.
Yarou Fes (Annual, June-July)
Yarou Fes is a smaller but still fairly large doujinshi event in Tokyo, but the theme is more geared towards the male-to-male niche. Yarou Fes is usually held on a Saturday in June or July at Ota City near Haneda Airport.
With this, you are more likely going to see a higher percentage of gay manga here compared to the more diverse Comiket. Many artists and circles like SUV, Terujirou, Takaku Nozomu, YANAGI, Kijima Hyogo, have attended the event. BIG GYM also held a booth at past events.
Tips On Getting Your Doujinshi
Buy online ahead of your trip.
A good tip that I always give to anyone I know visiting Japan is to do some online shopping before your trip. It saves a lot of browsing time when going around Tokyo.
Place some online orders on Mandarake, Amazon Japan, or even BIG GYM and have it delivered to your hotel, but be sure to ask your hotel first if they can receive packages for you.
Ask for help.
If you're looking for a certain artist's works in a store, don't be shy to ask the store clerk for help. Have a photo of the doujinshi or the note down the artist name. More often than not they can take you to the right section immediately.
Buy plastic covers.
There are slip-on plastic covers for almost every standard size book sold around most bookstores in Japan. Most doujinshi and manga are sold in A5, A4, B5, and B6 sizes. Best to stock up on them.
Have cash ready.
Some stores accept credit cards and Suica, but most only accept cash, so be sure to have cash on you.
In conventions, be sure to have lots of 50, 100, and 500 yen coins as most booths hardly carry change for large bills.