Whether selling or buying, Okinawa recycle shop a real bargain
Selling your old stuff and shopping for bargains is a one-stop shop on Okinawa. Manga Souko, a recycling store with three locations on the island, buys goods from the public and resells them, rendering a vast inventory filled with everything from musical instruments to clothes, watches, electronics and books.
Not only do they pay you well for your used goods, but also the second-hand products they sell are modestly priced.
At its core, Mango Souko is a shop for used goods. The massive inventory is derived mainly from buying products from individual sellers. But unlike pawnshops or thrift stores, Manga Souko is filled an endless variety of commodities of ensured authenticity and quality. Shopping there does not feel like your risking money for a potentially faulty product. It’s fun to explore vintage goods, exciting when you find a gem tucked away and economically justifiable when you see the individually priced products.
While, yes, there were toy figurines for 35,000 yen ($350), there were also name brand clothes selling for half of their market value. Uniqlo shirts for men, usually priced around 2,000 yen ($20) at their store in Ginowan, are only 800 yen ($8) at Manga Souko. The same comparison can be made with brands like GAP and Ralph Lauren.
Manga Souko’s clothing racks are dense and endless, so finding the worthwhile bargain is going to take time. But the store provides a lively environment in each categorized shopping area, an environment unique to the section.
For instance, the section for musical instruments is quite different than the section for sports. A wide array of songs being played on strategically placed speakers, coupled with the sound of employees tending to the horns and guitars, gives the instruments section a beat of its own. The sports section plays different songs, is also lit differently and organized differently. It is as if each shopping area is its own unique store.
But the unifying theme is one of energy, with a main speaker blaring fast-paced music, encouraging people to move and walk around, as they should. Every time I go to Manga Souko I find a new area to shop in, my last venture took me to the vintage camera section where I found a classic Polaroid camera for 1,000 yen ($10).
The overarching mystery of Manga Souko is how it has acquired its amazing inventory and how it sustains expansion on reselling goods.
Daniel Kanczel, who served in the Marine Corps and is now employed at Manga Souko, said the store has origins in mainland Japan but has opened three stores on Okinawa. The newest one, near Urasoe, opened last March.
He said that the store pays close attention to everything it buys. There are trained experts examining goods and looking for certain characteristics that define fakeness. But he also said that calculating the resale value is individual to the product and no clear formula applies to everything.
I decided to try the process out for myself. If one wants to sell, then they only need an identification card showing that they are over 19. While Daniel says the preferred identification is a driving license, military ID’s will suffice. I brought along some old shoes and a fake-name brand purse. They bought the shoes for 3,500 yen ($35) but rejected the purse with a receipt explaining why they classified it as a fake. Thankfully, my payback was in cash, not in store credit. Later, I saw my shoes selling for 7,500 yen ($75).
Financially, Manga Souko is thriving. With doors open 24 hours a day and dozens of employees running around, the halls are always filled and the shelves are constantly cycling new products. Inside, there is also an arcade and a snack section where streams of people shuffle through, playing games, eating food, and, eventually, stemming out into the shopping complex.
Of course, numerous “junk shops” are on Okinawa and the yield is sometimes disappointing. But Manga Souko is on a different level. Not only does the store buy your unwanted stuff, it also houses an inventory where everyone can find something. If you’re looking for a new guitar, a retro gaming console, a pair of shoes, or practically anything else, chances are, Manga Souko has it at its shops in Naha, Urasoe and Awase.