Akihabara, or Akiba for short, is arguably one of the hottest places to visit during your stay in Tokyo. Known for its appeal to the otaku of Japan, Akiba is lined with shops filled to the brim with electronics, PC parts, video games, manga, and let us not forget, anime, and the sound of good old-fashioned fun floods the entrances of the many arcades scattered throughout the district.
However, as exciting as the area can be, it can also be just as overwhelming. For the first time visitor, this means that many of Akiba’s greatest gems may be overlooked. That’s why we’ve compiled a rough list of shops to help you make the most out of your first trip to Akiba. Though not large, you will want to free up at least an entire day to explore the area.
Photo credit: Maid @ Akiba by Miki Yoshihito
First thing is first, one of the essential must-have experiences while in Japan is the infamous maid cafe. Generally speaking, most maid cafes offer pretty much the same services. Waitresses dress up in frilly maid costumes and serve tea to customers while speaking in their cutesy maid cafe lingo. Customers can also pay to play games or have more personal conversation with the maids. Traditional maid cafe foods such as the ever popular omelette rice are available to snack on. Here are a few which are sure to satisfy the moe in all of you.
Cure Maid Cafe – While certainly not as niche as many of the maid cafes lining the streets of Akihabara, Cure definitely sticks to tradition. One of the first maid cafes in Akiba, Cure is definitely worth checking out, if only to say you’ve been.
Maidreamin Cafe Franchise – In contrast to Cure’s hidden presence, Maidreamin does everything in its power to make customers browsing the streets of Akiba aware of its many locations scattered throughout the electronic district. When you imagine “maid cafe”, you are probably picturing a place exactly like Maidreamin. Definitely a must-have experience while in the wonderful city of Tokyo.
Electronics Stores/All purpose
Photo credit: Akihabara by Danny Choo
Part of the allure of Akihabara is the incredible selection of electronics. In fact, the district is commonly referred to as Electric Town. Shoppers from all over the world come here to find unique computer parts, household appliances, as well as specialty parts. While there are seemingly infinite small shops scattered throughout Akiba, here are some of the most noteworthy (which all happen to be duty free).
Sofmap – Offering over 6 floors worth of all things electronic/otaku, Sofmap is very hard to miss. Everything from computer parts, to cell phone cases, to secondhand games/figurines, and to an entire floor dedicated almost entirely to headphones/earbuds can be found in this retail giant. Definitely worth checking out for anyone wanting to see all of the new nifty electronics coming out of Tokyo.
Laox – While Laox has an excellent selection of electronic goods, it also sells a wide variety of other merchandise. Housewares, hobby goods, and clothing to name a few. Laox separates itself from the rest of the competition with its incredible prices and wide selection of goods.
Akky 1/2/International – Very much like Laox in regards to merchandise, although this retail chain is a bit more foreigner friendly. It also boasts a fairly respectable souvenir section. There are a total of three Akky’s in Akihabara. Akky 1, Akky 2 and Akky International.
Robot Shops (VStone/Kondo/Tsukumo Robot Kingdom) – That’s right, shops dedicated entirely to robots. Robot parts, robot casings, robot paint, etc. You may not be an expert in robotics, but this is definitely a very essential experience during your stay in Japan. Some even host robot competitions. There are several robot shops throughout Akiba, and quite honestly they are pretty well hidden. However, it is definitely worth the search.
Anime & Manga
Photo credit: Mandarake Complex by Street Viewer
It’s virtually impossible to make your way through Akihabara without running into at least one anime shop. While they all are fairly interesting in their own ways, there are a few gems which bring the best of all anime shops under one roof.
Mandarake – Perhaps one of the more popular anime shops in Akiba, Mandarake is 8 floors of Otaku heaven. With each floor focusing on a different aspect of the anime genre, it is almost impossible not to find something interesting. They even have two floors dedicated entirely to hentai/yaoi.
Animate – Animate is a well known company specializing in selling all things anime. Very similar to it’s flagship Ikebukuro store, the Akihabara store is no less impressive. Plan to spend a few hours sorting through the impressive collection of anime goods.
K-Books – One of the largest collections of Manga under one roof, K-Books offers an incredible selection at very hard to argue with prices. Be warned, however, that a majority of the manga here is in Japanese.
Photo credit: Taito Station Akiba by Jaakko Hakulinen
Shopping and eating seem to be reoccurring themes in Tokyo. That’s why the handful of arcades in each part of the city can be an incredibly refreshing break from Tokyo’s intense shopping culture. Akihabara is no exception, and with tons of arcades lining its sidewalks one can spend hours playing all of the latest and best arcade games in Japan.
Taito Hey! – Taito is the largest chain of arcades in Japan. It’s almost impossible not to find one in every busy prefecture. Akihabara hosts the largest of these incredibly fun-filled gaming factories. All of the most obscure games one can imagine, along with the most popular ones, can be found in this multi-floor arcade.
Sega – Club Sega is very much like Taito. The main difference is Club Sega’s focus on claw games. Many Akiba-ites can be found here trying their hand at winning rare prizes. Tired of gaming? Take a step up to one of the upper floors for some super fun Purikura.
Super Potato – One of the longest standing game stores in Akihabara, Super Potato hosts perhaps the most impressive collection of retro games. Hidden on the top floor is a retro arcade which many Akiba-ites come to in order to relieve some stress and to have a good time.
While each of these shops are fun and unique in their own way, they are certainly not all that Akihabara has to offer. We definitely recommend taking the time to thoroughly walk the streets to find some of the countless gems hidden away within this electric paradise. Akiba is and will continue to be intimidating to newcomers. However once you’re able to sort through the madness, it quickly becomes one of the most pleasant places in Tokyo.