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.
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.
- Akihabara: Geek Culture, Maid Cafes, and Electronics Galore
- Shopping in Akihabara: An Electronics Paradise
- Akihabara Crossfield and Anime Center
- Yodobashi Camera Mega Store
- Where to Shop: For the Anime and Manga Fans
- Places to Stay in Akihabara
- Places to Eat and Drink in Akihabara
- Is Akihabara Worth Visiting?
- How to Get There
- Insider’s Tips
- Top Destinations in Tokyo
- Top Attractions in Tokyo
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.
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.
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.
10:00am – 7:00pm
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.
Yodobashi is open 9:30am – 10:00pm, with restaurants open 11:00am – 11:00pm
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Open 10:00am – 9:00pm
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.
Kotobukiya is 3 minutes from Akihabara Station’s Electronic Town Exit.
10:00-20:00 (10:00am – 8:00pm)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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
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.
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)
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.
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.
10:00am – 10:30pm
Last order for food service is 9:30pm and drink service ends at 10:00pm
Website: Gundam 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.
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.
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.
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.
From Tokyo Station using the JR lines, Akihabara is a 4-minute ride, costing 140 yen.
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.