See also: Best Things to Do in Tokyo
Often dubbed as the Otaku capital of Japan, Akihabara (more commonly referred to as Akiba) is one of the most vibrant and pulsating areas of Tokyo. From the eccentrically dappled multi-storey shops to animated cafes, this electric town is abuzz with pop culture pastimes. As Tokyo’s epicentre for everything electronic, the neighbourhood was celebrated as a niche destination for the longest time. It is safe to say that a cautiously premeditated and deliberated metropolitan revolution has poshed the area up over the recent years. Every other day, a new high rise, an open plaza, or an eatery spreads out in and around the station. On that note, here are the best things to do while in Akihabara, Tokyo.
Shop high-tech gadgets at Yodobashi Camera
Akihabara is renowned for being the seat of Otaku culture in the world. It indeed presents us with an opportunity to explore and get to know the underground shopping scene prevalent here. This is particularly instrumental as the district is arguable the best place to shop for electronic gadgets.
Now that it has been put out there, one of the best places to go on a gadget spree is at Yodobashi Camera. This major retail chain is perhaps the biggest and most famed electronic store in the area. With an impressive selection of products coupled with competitive pricing, you certainly will not be disappointed. Situated towards the east of Akihabara Station, the electronic megastore stands at a soaring height of about nine floors. From consumer electronics to casual fashion, this place is a one-stop-shop for everything you will ever need.
Have a unique experience at the Maid Café
One of the bewildering yet amusing things to do in Akihabara is to visit a maid cafe where the guests are treated as ‘masters and mistresses’. As of Japan's representative subcultures, this is fast gaining grounds.
The hosts are cafe staffs dolled in pretty outfits. Since the cafe employs sufficient amount of maids, have no worries when it comes to finding a staff whose personality speaks to you. As you are ushered into the store you would be welcomed with the ringing of a bell that is normally followed by a chorus of ‘welcome back’. Once you are cosily seated, the menu will be carefully explained to you ensuring that you are at ease even if it is your first time visiting a maid cafe. The guests can even click commemorative pictures or engage in fun games with them.
Kanda Myojin Shrine-Tokyo’s Geekiest shrine
Nearly all Akihabara endeavours entail futuristic or at least modernistic interactions. If you have had enough of blinking illuminations and suffocatingly dense crowds, waste no time and hop on to Kanda Myojin. One is sure to step back in time by paying a visit to this shrine whose roots go back to as early as the tenth century. This tranquil space offers the much-needed respite from all the neon and niche sleave of the area.
Often dubbed as a “geeky shrine” owing to its computer chip shaped omamori, people flock here for offerings prayers for improved business prospects, happy marital life and lifelong prosperity. In a nutshell, the shrine
is a breather from the visual overboard of the backdrops.
Marvel at the unique finds at Chuo Dori
March out of Akihabara station and you will set foot at Chuo Dori, the main street with a never-ending procession of shops. Specializing in anime and hobby goods, this shopping artery runs through Ginza, the square of the capital’s bourgeoisie.
This shopping avenue is massively popular with tourists. However, on the weekends, the area transforms into pedestrian rapture as the street gets sealed against traffic. In conclusion, this boulevard is a must-visit if you want to take time and orient yourself prior to travelling around all the alleyways that branch out from this access road in addition to the retail activities they have in store.
Shop till you drop at Don Quijote
This outsized shopping complex is the ultimate stop for the shopping fanatic in you. One of its largest branch is at the Chuor Dori wherein you get pretty much everything your mind can conjure into existence.
Have a unique experience of Ninja training at the Dojo
For an unequalled, wholly immersive ninja experience, hop on to VR Ninja Dojo. They provide for a fun opportunity to train as a ninja. The participants are provided with ninja costumes and are put under the guidance of a master ninja. Here, if you so wish, you can even have your new skills put to test. The players are also inculcated with a number of fighting techniques like the swordplay, shuriken and various other mystical techniques.
Go-karting through Otaku in disguise
If you are an ardent follower of otaku-inspired social handles, you might have already come across the countless images of people driving around the streets of Tokyo clothed as characters from Mario Kart game. Despite the fact that it is an activity that sprawls across the whole of the city, it is worth trying for an experience. If you have your mind set on taking part in this activity, we highly recommend making prior arrangements. You can always book your ride in advance with companies like MariCar. However, if you reaching out for a same-day alternative, you will have to book as soon as you get there. Tickets fill in quick! Bear in mind that you should have an international driving license to engage in this delightful activity.
Have a slice of retro Tokyo at the Manseibashi Station
Deriving its name from the closeby Manseibashi bridge that served as a linking space between Kanda and Ochanomizu, this hidden gem is a true phantom station of Tokyo. After its recent renovations, the station has been converted into a commercial space called mAAch ecute. Although there have been large scale renovation, the authorities have made it a point to preserve the space in its original glory. The red brick interior really accentuates the historical feel of it. This space has been accommodated with sufficient shops and restaurants to give you the best experience. The mAAch ecute is a wonderful space for anyone and everyone in search of experiencing the retro aesthetics of Tokyo by a canal.
Indulge in cosplay at the Studio Crown
While cosplay (more widely known as costume play) is a performance in itself, it is an amusing hipster pursuit for the Japanese. Taking this confidence by their stride, the Studio Crown sets an arena for its visitors at their cosplay photography studio. They offer to rent out costumes and wigs with which you can show off around the streets of Akibahara. They also make available staffs that dole you up in their best costumes and makeup, and this facility can be made available on demand. The Polaroid you bring home in this attire will certainly add up as a souvenir.
Check out Gachapon halls for a cheap thrill
If you are something you something that is uniquely Japanese but doesn’t want to splurge, visiting a capsule toy corner would be recommended. Gachapon is a name that catches everybody’s attention. This unique phenomenon of selling Japanese playthings in capsule form has garnered quite an amusing reaction from people all around the world. When it comes to Akihabara, there are limitless stores with walls ruled with vending machines. Such stores have come to be called gachapon halls. These machines spit out toys that come in the form of plastic eggs. Cracking them open will reveal a toy inside. They are often subversive, marvellously crafted and comical.
Go on a half-day gaming and adventure tour
There would not be a better way to explore the district’s deep-rooted love for Otaku culture than to go on a guided local tour. There are numerous agencies that offer such fashionable half-day touring that introduces some of the prominent classical and hidden Otaku spots. You will be assisted by a local veteran who will help you through the whole process and ensure you get the best of the deal.
Give into the endless arcade centres
One may not venture far-off in Akihabara to take pleasure in the bursting supremacy of the Japanese gaming arena. In fact, this serves as the phenomenal ground-zero of arcade culture. Hirose Entertainment Yard is one among the most famed ones of its kid. On top that, there are a great number of Sega arcades where you can have your desired vintage games. Even though Sonic and Pac-Man no longer beguile the users who are accustomed to PlayStation and Xbox, it is absolutely worth trying for the aesthetics of it.
Shop at the largest manga and anime store in the world- Mandarake
Boasting of multi-storeys of everything manga and anime, Mandarake is the decisive vendors when it comes to Akihabara otaku culture. With some great checkouts and finer displays, it has everything from cosplay and dolls to manga and a wide array of exciting toys. As the largest store of its kind in the district, it is also largely considerable for its accommodating and English-speaking staff. With all that being said, you will very little or no trouble navigating your way through the building.
Revive and relive your childhood at Super Potato
Gone are the days of 8-bit gaming or the time when Sonic was the leet. Dropping by the Super Potato is sure to take you back to the memory lane when everything translated to merriment and laughter. Although the name is quite out of the ordinary, the storehouses all the good oldies. Even if you are not particularly interested in buying anything, we recommend coming here to bow before the shelves of your bygone formative years. And you might as well bawl into that pack of tissues you have.
Sega Game Center
The Akihabara landscape is dotted with Sega arcade buildings wherein you can find all the good old video games that start as low as ¥100. You can always try your hand at one of the UFO crane games to get yourself a beautiful anime statuette or an endearing plush.
Link up with gaming enthusiasts at Yellow Submarine
This store is more than just a shop specializing in board games, toys and card games. It sets a striking assortment of original, innovative, old and rare cards. You can always head here if you feel like socializing with fellow gaming fanatics.
Tokyo Anime Centre- A gala of all things anime
If you want to be astounded by a maze of everything anime, it does not get better than Tokyo Anime Centre. Here, you can be a child again and relive your fantasies. With an extensive selection of merchandises, souvenirs, and reading materials, this place has it all.
Go on a hunt for rare figurines at Radio Centre
We recommend gracing the Radio Centre not only for treating yourself with some rare model figures but also for exploring and understanding the rich Otaku history of the district. This sixty-year-old shopping arcade is dotted with retailer units that specialize in the trade of electronic components.
Browse the markdown discard at an electronics shop
Although the dynamic of Akihabara is fast evolving, the area will always be renowned for low-cost electric goods. You will see a countless array of stores that sell discounted electronics. So whenever you come across a bin of marked down items, be quick to grab them. Burrowing through them could be exceptionally fun and moreover, land you with products that are not so bad after all.
Gaze at the anime cars parked along the streets
While in Akihabara, you may just as well wail away your time counting the anime cars that dash through the streets. As a rather idle restyling of the archetypal maid-counting game, you will spot quite a number of cars (that displays scantily-dressed anime girls or mecha characters) parked along the roadside.
Have your J-pop girl moment at AKB48 café
Divided into three sections, the AKB48 café would be an experience to remember especially if you are someone who is a fan of J-pop. The theatre is where you can view and enjoy a live performance by the band. The tickets for the same can be procured from the counters by the street. However, if you are someone who is just dropping by, the bar could be a fun way to grab a drink while watching the performance of the band in the outsized television screens. Although the food is not satisfyingly great, the place is frequented by couples, teenage girls and even older men. This café is also where you will find an excessiveness of memorabilia, merchandising and complementary bits and pieces that will make for the cheesiest keepsakes.
Get robotized at Gundam Cafe
As a themed café centred on a famed animated robot, Gundam Café is fast becoming a Japanese youth culture fixation. At this place, you can order anything and it will return with fragments that bear close semblance to this robot. Even the plates are designed like robot heads and help in getting on with the aesthetic action.
Akiba Fukurou- an inimitable animal cafe
Akiba Fukurou is a marvellous place to share the moment with delightful owls in the heart of Tokyo. Animal cafe industry has been expanding in the past few years in Japan, where guests can watch and touch animals. This owl café since opening in 2014, has been sensationally popular among both Japanese and foreigners, and it even allows for picturing your favourite moments with them. As a word of caution, be wary of using flash photography as it can scare the owls. The fee is fixed at 2,000 yen/1 hour
Take a breather and visit the 2k540 Aki-Oka Artisan
If the buzzing crowds are starting to wear you out, take a break and stroll along the trails of Yamanote Line leading up to Okachimachi Station. Here, you can, without doubt, explore an artisan alleyway- the 2k540 Aki-Oka Artisan. The latter is a fascinating little place that is replete with crafts, creativity and coffee experience that is out-of-this-world
Slurp dripping noodles from Yasubei
If you are feeling famished after your sightseeing adventures, ramen is the answer. You are definitely missing out on so much if you come to Akihabara and not try out a newer addition to the ramen style cooking- the tsukemen or the dripping noodles. Yasubei is one of the most well-known and celebrated tsukemen chains in the whole of Japan. With thick and flavourful noodles coupled with palatable soups that go along with it, you will need more of it.