Leonardo, the Original
Akihabara, Tokyo, Japan
By Valentin "What a Shop" Bueno
I usually find hobby shops in foreign places using magazine ads. I did that in Italy and France and especially Japan. Leonardo of Tokyo has always had a large presence in the pages of Model Graphix and Model Art magazines. They arrange trips for customers to places such as the armor museums (Kubinka (Moscow), Bovington (England) Patton Museum (USA)) and the two major local manufacturers (Tamiya and Hasegawa). Wouldn’t it be nice to go on one of these trips! I have always had an image that Leonardo would be this great big hobby shop in the Akihabara area of Tokyo. I wasn’t disappointed.
Leonardo is a ten minute walk from the Akihabara JR station. Exit the station from the Denki-gai exit and head straight for the main road one block away. Turn left and head east under the tracks until you come to a freeway viaduct. You should see a subway entranceway/street underpass to your right. Go down the stairs and cross the street underground. When you emerge from the pedestrian underpass you will be on a very little street. Go down this street, past the jog in the street (see the map for the jog) and keep going until you see another major street. Leonardo is almost all the way to the intersection of the little street and the major street on your left. In the header photo above, Akihabara station is waaaaaay to the left.
Go up the three little steps and the first metal gray door on the left is LEONARDO. Upon entering the store you are greeted be a three-meter tall shelf full of all the latest releases. Leonardo has everything from 1/35 scale dogs from France to the latest Kombrig kits from Russia and everything in between. You could easily spend a few hours lost in the shelves.
The store consists of two floors. The first floor has all the ship and car models, paints tools glues and such. At the top of the stairs to the second level is the armor room. Wall to wall armor kits, old and new, rare and common. Pass through the door on the opposite side of the room and you enter the aircraft room. This room is huge and vast. All the kits are arranged by manufacturer. Hasegawa kits are all together in one area, all the Academy, and so on. You will find among their stock some very old and hard to find kits. I saw many old Airfix, Hasegawa, Matchbox, Aoshima, Heller, and Revell kits. I was in utter shock.
One area of the aircraft room was sectioned off and had books and magazines galore. Many of these magazines looked old. I wasn’t sure if they were reference or for sale, so I left them alone. I didn’t find all that much in the way of aftermarket items. Maybe I missed that section of the store.
There is a display case along one wall with 1/700-scale ships and others. I was too much in a daze to remember what other models were on display. I know only about the ships because I photographed them. The other thing I remember about Leonardo was the large number of fish tanks scattered about the store. One huge one in the armor room, one downstairs and a smaller one in the aircraft room.
In the end, I only picked up a set of 1/35 scale dogs and a 2002 Tamiya catalog (currently in residence at the Pacific Hobbyist). As one of the last REAL plastic model shops still carrying plastic models of real items (not Gundam or R/C) I highly recommend this as a must stop in Tokyo.