So Akihabara or Akihabara Electric Town 秋葉原電気街, everyone talks about Akihabara all the time as if it’s some kind of holy place, but what exactly is Akihabara? Modern day Akihabara started off as a black market selling goods such as vacuum tubes shortly after World War II . A number of shops gathered around the Akihabara station of the Sobu Main Line. The line itself was built in 1894 and remains in service today. Those shops became what is now known as Akihabara Chuo Dori. The region has always been well known for capturing trends around Japan’s young, and the otaku trend seems to be the most recent trend that it has caught. Almost every store on the main street, Chuo Dori 中央通り, sells anime, character goods, games (anime and non-anime), computer parts or electronics. The main street is best for newly released extremely popular goods, while the backstreets are still home to some of the small dealers, where you can haggle prices, get used goods, or some rarer goods that have been long sold out on main street. Also, to accomdate the increasing number of foreigners shopping at Akiba, most of the large stores are all Duty Free stores. If your purchase exceeds 10,000 yen, present your passport at a Duty Free booth to get 5% off your purchase. So what places are great in Akihabara? Read on.!
Akihabara is served by three different lines: the Sobu Main Line, the Yamanote Line (well known for it’s green color, it’s also in my header image), and the Tsukaba express (the fastest private rail in Japan). The easiest way to get there if you are just visiting would be to take the Yamanote Line. Since the line travels in a circle around all the major locations in Tokyo, there’s no possible way you can get lost.
One thing worth noting is that Akihabara is not the ONLY place that is like this. There are three “holy places” for otaku in Japan. In order of scale: Tokyo Akihabara 東京秋葉原, Osaka Nipponbashi 大阪日本橋, and Nagoya Oosu 名古屋大須.
First stop, Yodabashi Camera! Yodabashi Camera features a huge section of cameras (who would have guessed!), video cameras, Audio Visual Equipment, personal electronics, and a VERY robust hobby, video games, and toys section. Yodabashi has been the bane of many of the smaller shops in Akiba, wiping out their business entirely. I, myself, ended up spending most of my money at Yodabashi as well. You should see Yodabashi almost immediately if you take the east exit out of Akihabara.
When spending at Yodabashi and the same as any major electronics manufacturer, keep this in mind. All the major stores in Akiba price match. My camera cost the same in Yodabashi as it did in Bic Camera, and as well as Sofmap. Also, when paying you also have two options. One, is the previously mentioned Duty-Free and get 5% off your purchase. The second option, what I did, masquerade as a local, and create yourself one of these.
The real sticking point is the address, just make sure your Japanese is reasonably fluent, and put in your hotel’s address to get one. What this thing does, is that for every full price purchase you make at Yodabashi Camera, 10% of that gets converted into points. 1 point = 1 yen. For example, I paid approximately 58,000 yen for my camera. Along with all the other bonuses, I got 6,011 points. The next business day, you are able to use these 6,011 points for 6,011 yen of stuff. The downside is that you don’t get the 5% off for duty free. Which one is better is up to you.
Next stop, Gamers Akiba Headquarters. Exit out the west end of Akihabara, and Gamers will literally be in your face. Probably, the best place in Akihabara if you are looking for official periodicals. There is little to no doujinshi here.
Gamers, like just about every large store in Akiba, is split into multiple stores. There is a “blue” Game ゲームshop. and red アニメ shop. Time for a bit of specialized vocab run down!
1F – 雑誌・新商品 - zashi shinshouhin – magazines and new goods of any category
2F /3F – Just CD’s and DVD’s, but 2F has the new goodies
4F – コミック - komikku – comics! Manga! (Naruto!)
5F - 小説 – shousetsu – light novels! (Shana, Louise no Tsukaima, Full Metal Panic!)
6F – キャラクターグッズ - kyarakutaa guzzu – Character goods (Posters, keychains, trinkets, etc.)
7F – トレカ デュエルスペース - toreka dyueruspeesu – trading cards and duel space (yugioh, pokemon, digimon etc.!)
5F – 女性向けフロア - josei muke furoa – Female Oriented Floor (Men stay out, no seriously, the floor is full of BL stuff, unless you’re an otaku that bends both ways and don’t mind being seen as such)
6F – ホビー - Hobby (this refers to everything ranging from plastic models to train sets, but in anime shops this always means FIGURES)
8F – イベントスペース - Event Space
Props to you if you recognized Digi Charat, Asu no Yoichi, Kannagi, Haruhi, and Hyakko from that picture
Next two stops! Walk North along Chuo dori and you will find these two gems! Animate and Comic Toranoana. Animate was the anime store brought up time and time again in Lucky Star. Comic Toranoana is the NO. 1 store for Doujinshi if you wish to purchase them. They specialize in all sorts of printed material, though they also have a health stock of CDs, figures, and the like. One thing they do have that other stores do not is a trade in section for Doujinshi, and a used doujinshi section. Doujinshi are rarely if ever reprinted, so if one is out of print, your best chance of finding it lies with this shop and maybe Mandarake.
Next, time for some electronics! Bic Camera/ Sofmap stores are all along Chuo Dori. They also have a similar points system to Yodabashi camera. Keep in mind, that SOMETIMES they are more expensive that small stores. Keep your eyes open at all times! They also have Duty Free. They carry just about any sort of electronic good ranging from cameras to home appliances.
If you head slightly North from Bic Camera/ Sofmap, you’ll come across the legendary Don Quixote Building. This building has karaoke parlour, pachinko, anime goods, electronics, and the top 2 floors are an arcade. Definitely worth checking out. To the left of it in the picture, is the Tsukumo building. They are probably the largest scale PC parts dealer in Akiba, though there are numerous back street stores that sell the same things for equivalent or lower prices.Other stores worth checking out, include Aso Bit Hobby, and some other stores that don’t seem to have a real name.
If you’re looking for an extremely cheap place to stay, you should check out Japan’s now extremely famous capsule hotels. They are a steal for 4,000 yen a night. Exit out the east side of Akihabara station, and then head north along Showa Dori, until you see this! カプセル = Capsule. The staff inside are largely English Capable, and they always have a sizable foreign guest contingent. They have some fairly strict rules, and men and women are seperated onto different floors. They also do not share washrooms, baths, or anything of the sort.
The capsules are actually fairly wide, a little over 6 feet long. It was a little short for me, but I didn’t feel claustrophobic at all. The capsules come with radio, alarm clock, TV, and a wall outlet. The capsules definitely reminded me of The Fifth Element though. I enjoyed staying there, and will probably stay there again, if I go to Akiba again.
Well there you have, it my guide to Akiba after my first visit. This is by no means complete, and I’ll be adding more spots the next time I go. Hopefully, I’ll be able to implement a map with it too.
I just realized I missed out any mention of maid cafes. There were too many in Akiba, and I sort of filtered them out. It’s unfortunate, but they do not really welcome non-Japanese customers