Things to Do in Akihabara: An Otaku’s Guide

Akihabara:  Geek Culture, Maid Cafes, and Electronics Galore

Akihabara is well known as the electronics center of Japan. While chain electronics shops can be found all over Tokyo, Akihabara has the highest concentration of stores. It is where Japan’s electronic product companies test their products on the domestic market. With limited edition products and special offers, it’s possible to snatch up a bargain or even pick up the latest invention.

Akihabara - Sega and Town Shops

beibaoke / Shutterstock.com

However, Akihabara has more to offer than electronics. The district is a hub of otaku (geek) culture, with stores selling games, manga (Japanese comics), and anime (Japan’s distinctive style of animation) goods.

Akihabara is also home to the maid cafe phenomenon. For the complete Akihabara experience, browse the electronics, pick up a souvenir or two from Kanda Myojin Shrine, and then relax in a themed cafe.

 

Shopping in Akihabara:  An Electronics Paradise

You don’t have to look hard to find an electronics shop in Akihabara. From the moment you emerge from Akihabara Station, uniformed staff members of the larger stores press flyers full of the latest deals into your hands, urging you to visit their store.

Akihabara - Electronics

Tooykrub / Shutterstock.com

Finding goods with English manuals or compatible items with non-Japanese electronics is difficult, though. Here are some stores that cater to foreign tourists.

 

Laox Akihabara: Main Store

A 2-minute walk from Akihabara Station’s Electronic Town Exit, the Laox Main store boasts a range of services for the foreign tourist, including multi-lingual staff, a tourist information center and offer duty-free shopping and foreign currency exchange machines.

Akihabara - Laox

Akihabara Laox
theendup / Shutterstock.com

Laox is a Japan-wide chain, with a wide variety of goods, including a selection of appliances designed for overseas use on the second floor. In addition to the main store, Laox has three smaller branches around Akihabara.

 

Opening Hours

10:00am – 7:00pm

Akihabara - UDX Building

Akihabara UDX Building
TK Kurikawa / Shutterstock.com

 

Akihabara Crossfield and Anime Center

Built in response to the Japanese Government’s intent to establish a global IT industry center in Akihabara, the Akihabara Crossfield consists of two high-rise buildings.

The Akihabara Daibiru building houses facilities for IT research and conferences.

The Akihabara UDX has more to offer visitors, with cafes, showrooms and event space.

It’s main claim to fame is the Akihabara Anime Center. Akihabara UDX is a short walk from Akihabara Station’s Electronic Town Exit.

 

Yodobashi Camera Mega Store

Yodobashi Camera’s Akihabara branch is a MASSI shopping complex, with restaurants and entertainment options throughout the building—including a batting center on the 9th floor!

Duty-free shopping is available for purchases over 10,000 yen. Take your passport with you.

Akihabara - Yodobashi

Yodobashi Akiba
Tooykrub / Shutterstock.com

 

Opening Hours

Yodobashi is open 9:30am – 10:00pm, with restaurants open 11:00am – 11:00pm

 

Sofmap

Sofmap has twelve stores around Akihabara, each specializing in a slightly different selection of products. Japan mostly uses PCs, but Sofmap stores have a range of Apple related goods. They also stock a selection of second-hand and used computers, games, and hardware.

Akihabara - Sofmap

Akihabara Sofmap
beibaoke / Shutterstock.com

This is a good choice for shoppers looking for a particular item who want the reassurance of buying from a reputable chain rather than an independent store. The main Sofmap store with the biggest selection of goods is a 4-minute walk from Akihabara Station’s Electronic Town Exit.

 

Opening Hours

11:00am – 8:00pm

 

Akihabara Side Streets

Don’t be afraid to leave the main street and explore Akihabara’s side streets. The legendary Akihabara Radio Center filled with tiny stores specializing in a limited range of electronics closed in 2013. The only way to get an idea of what the electronic district was like at its peak is to step inside some of the smaller, more specialized shops.

 

Where to Shop: For the Anime and Manga Fans

Akihabara - Doujinshi

 

Mandarake

Mandarake is a chain store that started as a retailer of doujinshi, fan-drawn comics featuring beloved characters from movies, games, and manga and anime series, and now sells a wide variety of second-hand goods.

For visitors wanting to complete a collection of anime or find doujinshi for a particular series, Mandarake is a must visit. Mandarake’s 8-story building has one of Tokyo’s widest selections of otaku goods at lower prices than its competitors. Make it your first stop, as you may save money by buying second-hand.

 

Opening Hours

Mandarake is open 12:00pm – 8:00pm. It’s a 5-minute walk from Akihabara Station’s Electronic Town Exit.

 

Animate (Girls Station Store)

Animate is another chain store, with floors stocked with new manga, anime and character goods. There are floors devoted to fans, with cosplay (the practice of dressing as a favorite character) items including uniforms and wigs, and art supplies catering to the doujinshi (self-published works) artist.

Akihabara - Animate Store

Lucian Milasan / Shutterstock.com

Animate sells doujinshi as well, but it is often more expensive and limited to recent runs featuring current series. Great if you are into the anime of the moment or a classic series that is still popular. However, this is bad if you’re a fan of older or less well-known series.

Animate Girls Station is 5-minutes from Akihabara Station’s Electronic Town Exit.

 

Opening Hours

Open 10:00am – 9:00pm

 

Kotobukiya

Kotobukiya is a conglomerate of smaller stores. Each floor has a different specialty. Stores on the first three floors sell goods relating to anime and manga, while the 4th floor has stores devoted to figurines of game characters and other non-anime/manga goods, CDs and DVDs. The 5th floor often has events going on.

Akihabara - Anime and Manga Products

TRAN THI HAI YEN / Shutterstock.com

Kotobukiya is 3 minutes from Akihabara Station’s Electronic Town Exit.

 

Opening Hours

10:00-20:00 (10:00am – 8:00pm)

 

ACOS

Acos specializes in cosplay goods, with a wider range of wigs, uniforms, and props, and a greater variety of prices, than those available at Animate.

Akihabara - Cosplay

Phillip Maguire / Shutterstock.com

Sizes are very limited, so foreign shoppers may find themselves only able to browse the clothing—but for the avid cos-player, even that is a learning experience (making the costume is half the fun anyway, right?).

Acos is a 4-minute walk from Akihabara Station.

 

Opening Hours

11:00am – 9:30pm

 

Kanda Myojin Shrine

A Shinto shrine might seem an odd addition to this list, but Kanda Myojin Shrine has adapted to serve the needs of its modern visitors.

Akihabara - Kanda Myojin Shrine

Kanda Myojin Shrine
beibaoke / Shutterstock.com

Kanda Myojin sells talismans directly marketed to Akihabara’s Electronic Town, with charms designed to protect electronic goods against harm. Kanda Myojin has adopted anime culture too.

Nozomi Tojo, a character in the Love Live! anime, was depicted as a Kanda Myojin Shrine maiden, and is now the official mascot.

Akihabara - Kanda Myojin Shrine Messages- Anime

beibaoke / Shutterstock.com

Kanda Myojin is an 11-minute walk from Akihabara Station’s Electronic Town Exit, or a 5-minute walk from the JR Ochanomizu Station.

 

Places to Stay in Akihabara

If you want to find some awesome places to stay in Akihabara, check out our “Best Places to Stay Near Akihabara Station” guide.

 

Places to Eat and Drink in Akihabara

Maid cafes developed alongside Akihabara’s otaku culture, and the two are now inseparable.

There are dozens of cafes in Akihabara’s main streets and corners, and they range in atmosphere and quality. Avoid the seedier places.

There may be rules in place about photographing or not touching the maids. Be sure to follow these rules.

 

Maidreamin

Maidreamin is a chain of maid cafes, with branches across Tokyo.

There are 3 in Akihabara, including the main store. Maid cafes offer personalized waitress service from a young woman dressed in an elaborate maid costume, who chats with customers and entertains them during their time at the cafe.Akihabara - Maid Cafes

At Maidreamin, this takes the form of performing anime-themed songs and dances, food decorated in true kawaii (cute) fashion by your waitress, and the chance to take a photo together for an extra fee. The emphasis is on cute, with the waitresses playing up their youth and innocence, inviting customers to forget their worries and join them in some carefree fun.

Maidreamin maid cafe Main Store is located on the 6th floor of the Sumiyoshi Building, 8 minutes from Akihabara Station’s Electronic Town Exit.

 

Opening Hours

Maidreamin – Akihabara Electric Town Exit (in front of Akihabara Station) store:

Monday – Thursday: 11:30am – 11:00pm

Friday: 11:30am – 5:00am

Saturday, Sunday, and National Holidays: 10:30am – 11:00pm

Website:  Maidreamin

Akihabara - Maid Cafe Worker

af8images / Shutterstock.com

 

Cure Maid Cafe

Cure Maid Cafe was the first permanent maid cafe. It has a slightly different atmosphere to other cafes, with less emphasis on cute, focusing more on evoking the atmosphere of the Victorian afternoon tea tradition.

The menu has a European flavor, and there is a wider range of teas available than usual in most maid cafes. Cure Maid Cafe is on the 6th floor of the Gee Store, a huge cosplay store 5-minutes from Akihabara Station’s Electronic Town Exit.

 

Opening Hours

Monday-Thursday: 11:00am – 8:00pm

Friday & Saturday: 11:00am – 10:00pm

Sunday: 11:00am – 7:00pm

Food services stop 1 hour before the scheduled closing times.

Drinks are served until 30 minutes before the scheduled closing times.

Website:  Cure Maid Cafe (Japanese only)

 

Gundam Cafe

The officially licensed Gundam Cafe caters to a different style of otaku. Gundam is an iconic anime series defined by huge robot suits, controlled by pilots and used to fight epic space wars. The series is not only incredibly long-lived, but it has a surprising fan base among Japanese people, many of whom grew up watching the series.

Akihabara - Gundam Cafe

cowardlion / Shutterstock.com

The Gundam Cafe, recognizable by the large model Gundam outside, offers food themed around characters and mecha (the giant robots). They have an English menu for foreign visitors.

The Gundam Cafe is a 2-minute walk from the Electronic Town Exit of Akihabara Station.

 

Opening Hours

10:00am – 10:30pm

Last order for food service is 9:30pm and drink service ends at 10:00pm

Website:  Gundam Cafe

 

AKB48 Cafe

AKB48 is an all-girl pop group formed around the idea of idols you can meet. The group’s founder opened a theater in Akihabara for fans to see the AKB48 members perform live every day and interact with them in person. Although the group performs daily, getting tickets to these performances is a matter of luck as they are distributed by a lottery.

Akihabara - AKB48 Cafe

Akihabara AKB48 Cafe
cowardlion / Shutterstock.com

If you are unlucky, then the AKB48 Cafe is a good alternative. The cafe features the music of AKB48, videos of the members performing their songs, a menu inspired by prominent member’s favorite dishes, and a store selling official AKB48 merchandise.

The cafe is located right next to Akihabara Station’s Electronic Town Exit.

 

Opening Hours

Monday-Thursday: 11:00apm – 10:00pm

Friday and the day before a national holiday:  11:00am – 11:00pm

Saturday:  10:00am – 11:00pm

Sunday and public holidays:  10:00am – 10:00pm

Website:  AKB48 Cafe

 

Is Akihabara Worth Visiting?

Absolutely. For electronics and anime and manga fans, you could easily spend days in Akihabara.

Akihabara - Anime

Takamex / Shutterstock.com

For everyone else, a trip to Japan wouldn’t be complete without experience a taste of Japan’s geeky side, and there is no better place than Akihabara for that. Make sure to balance out the consumerism with a trip to Kanda Myojin, considered one of Tokyo’s best shrines.

 

How to Get There

Akihabara is a minor transport hub in Tokyo, with Akihabara station served by three JR Lines (Keihin-Tohoku, Chuo/Sobu, and Yamanote) as well as the Tokyo Metro Hibiya Line, and the Metropolitan Intercity Railway’s Tsukuba Express.

Akihabara - JR Akihabara Station

bluehand / Shutterstock.com

From Tokyo Station using the JR lines, Akihabara is a 4-minute ride, costing 140 yen.

 

Insider’s Tips

Traveling with family? You might want to leave the folks behind for this visit. Unless everyone in your group is either a big fan of Japanese games, anime, manga or are electronics buffs, you may find your companions bored and ready to leave before you’ve explored all that Akihabara has to offer.

Some parts of Akihabara’s otaku scene are seedy, with the maid cafes, in particular, attracting the creepier varieties of people. Your mother or sister may find maid cafes uncomfortable. Yes, its a uniquely Japanese experience, but it’s worth talking with your traveling companions ahead of time to make sure you’re all on the same page before making plans.

Also, keep in mind that there are often strict rules about photographing maids, and those rules are in place to ensure the safety and privacy of the maids. Ask permission before taking a photo, and respect any rules against it. Maid cafes that prohibit taking photos of the maids are actually a good sign as it indicates that the girls are looked after and not exploited.

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