Akihabara: Otaku Capital of the World
During the day, Akihabara serves as Tokyo’s electric wonderland for every “otaku’s” shopping needs. West of the station you will find the historical “Electric Town” and the bulk of Akihabara’s eccentric character. The streets are brightly colored with a rainbow of neon lights and billboard advertisements featuring some of Japan’s most popular talent. Giant department stores filled with all the latest electronic gadgets and anime/manga goods reach into the sky above which really gives the part of Tokyo the feeling you are inside the biggest city in the world.
Techno City: Technology and Electronics
If you are looking for electronics, Akihabara is easily the best place to go. Kotobukiya (https://www.kotobukiya.co.jp/)or the enormous Yodobashi Camera (http://www.yodobashi-akiba.com/)on the east side of the station are sure to have whatever you need. These aren’t the only places to pick up your electronic goods though. If you take a peek down one of “Akiba’s” darker alleyways, you will find yourself transported to a completely different locale that reeks of 1980’s sci-fi mise-en-scène where the vendors all sell random electronic scraps and hardware perfect for building anything you can think of.
Amongst the strip of huge electronic stores is a thriving market of various anime goods as well. Akihabara tends to always be on top of their game by showcasing the latest and hottest anime/manga goods and services. You are bound to find whatever interests you including character models, plush dolls, or your favorite manga. Though there are many great stores for anime in Akihabara, and many of them will have their own unique stock of rarities, the best one stop shop for most who don’t have time to explore each nook and cranny is probably Akiba Cultures Zone (http://akibacultureszone.com/). My favorite way to buy anime goods is actually from the gumball machines (“Gotcha”) which you can find all over Japan. Akihabara is home to Japan’s biggest “Gotcha” machine store as well, which houses over 100 machines, each dispensing a variety of different toys (http://www.akibagacha.com/).
Akihabara also brags its wide range of variety of cafes. Stop by a maid cafe for a “cute” cup of tea. The Gundam cafe will satisfy any fan boy’s robot fix (http://g-cafe.jp/english/). If you have an interest in J-pop, the AKB48 Cafe & Shop is the perfect place to enjoy some high intensity, all girl, Japanese fun (Though I’ve never been interested in even going inside personally) (http://akb48cafeshops.com/akihabara/). These are just a few of the cafes Akiba has to offer. You can also find a number of other peculiar cafes around the area including a cat cafe and even an owl cafe.
Japan has always been of the front line of video game development. With the long running history of gaming in Japan, I strongly recommend you check out some of the insanely addicting arcades (or “game centers” as they say in Japanese). The Sega arcades (https://tempo.sega.jp/am/akiba-1/) are packed with not only your favorite collection of nostalgia, but also the newest selection of gaming entertainment. I’ve even seen a few VR arcades popping up around the area recently. Akihabara also has one of the largest crane game (“UFO Catcher” in Japanese) arcades around as well. The Taito Game Station (https://www.taito.co.jp/gc/store/00001802) is always packed and fun even if you are there just for the show. Each game offers the opportunity to win something so choose carefully and have some fun. For those of you wishing to bring the fun home with you, check out any of the video game vendors in the area. Stores like Super Potato (http://www.superpotato.com/) carry a huge selection of new and retro titles and consoles. This is definitely every gamers “heaven on earth”.
Wild Shopping at Don Quijote!!
If you’ve never been to Don Quijote before (A huge chain of discount stores in Japan), I recommend you check out the Akihabara branch. Not only is it the original home for AKB-48, it also carries a monstrous variety of anime goods, cosplay costumes, and just about anything you could imagine. Like their catchy theme song says, it’s a jungle of cheap and exciting goods (http://www.donki.com/store/shop_detail.php?shop_id=98).
Akihabara may not be the biggest district in Tokyo but it definitely has the most original character and style. Even if you aren’t interested in Otaku culture, Akihabara should be on your list of places to check out while in Tokyo. Who knows, maybe you’ll find a new hobby.