The Savvy Guide to Tokyo's Geek Wonderland
The word ‘otaku’ is used to describe somebody that is obsessed with a particular hobby, often referred to as a geek or a nerd. Akihabara is the otaku capital of Tokyo and is easily accessible on the Yamanote line. If you are curious about the geek culture of Japan then this is the place to come!
Affectionately known as ‘Akiba’ you will find the most electronics stores in any one district in the world sitting alongside maid cafés, multi-storey buildings selling manga (Japanese comics) and figurines of all your favourite characters.
A maze of glaring neon lights and pulsing electronics, it is easy to get lost in Akihabara.
Here is our guide to help you make the most of your visit to this exciting part of town:
As you exit Akihabara station, take the ‘Electric Town’ exit and you will see Radio Kaikan on the left-hand side. This fascinating shopping mall sells a range of geeky goods, both new and second-hand, for hobby enthusiasts. You will see avid collectors of playing cards lining up to purchase the missing items from their collection.
If, like me, you are interested in dolls then don’t miss floors 7 and 8 where you can purchase everything you need to make your own doll. They have a wonderful collection of dolls on display and it is a really fun place to browse around. There are also lots of figurines of famous manga characters on sale. Visitors to Japan love to come here and marvel at all the character goods they associate with Japan.
Sega Game Center
There are two large Sega game centers on chuo-dori (the main street) where you can play a range of arcade games from UFO catchers to Taiko drums and the global phenomenon Dance Nation. You can also step into the famous Japanese photo booths and have fun making some purikura— or photo stickers.
This is the largest manga store in Akihabara. Located on the main street just along from Don Quijote, it is easy to find and fascinating to browse around. If you fancy a bit of ‘cosplay’ you can purchase everything you need to dress up as your favourite manga character. You will also discover some eye-watering products aimed at the adult erotica market that are great for a giggle!
Super Potato Retro Game Center
A visit to Akihabara would not be complete without venturing into this incredible game center dedicated to retro games from the 80s and 90s. A little difficult to locate for non-Japanese speakers, it is tucked away on a side street behind the two large Sega game centers on the 3rd, 4th and 5th Floors of the Kitabayashi building. The 5th floor has a range of games consoles for you to play and an array of retro sweets and snacks to munch on while you play. Here is how to get there:
A maid café is a casual dining restaurant where you will be served by wait staff dressed in maid costumes. With a plethora to choose from in Akihabara, you can take your pick as you walk through the streets. Most of them will ask you to pay a cover charge or have minimum order requirements. The maids will play games with you at your table and you can pay for a photograph with them if you wish. There will also be small performances or shows from the maids at set times of the day.
These cafés are great fun and an interesting glimpse into the otaku culture of Japan.
In my experience, the food is surprisingly good. Most of them provide kawaii or cute dishes presented in the shape of cute animals such as bunnies or teddy bears.
Akihabara is a fascinating place for anyone with an interest in the pop culture of modern Japan and a bucket list item for both residents and visitors alike. Don’t miss it!