A Guide to Akihabara: Best Shops and Places, Hidden Gems, and Things to Do in Tokyo's Electric Town
Any fan of Japanese culture, whether that be anime, manga, games, or even music, has heard of Akihabara, an area of Tokyo known as a veritable mecca of “Cool Japan.” From electronic appliances to computer parts, video games, manga, and more, Akihabara has it all! Today we will be looking at a selection of the best places and shops in Akihabara, some well known and others more obscure, to help give you a well-rounded guide to Tokyo’s most famous pop culture center.
Mar 24 2023
How to Get to Akihabara
There are five different train lines you can use to get to Akihabara, making it easy to access from pretty much any part of the Tokyo metropolitan area: JR Chuo-Sobu Line, JR Keihin-Tohoku Line, JR Yamanote Line, Tokyo Metro Hibiya Line, and the Tsukuba Express.
To save money on transport, we recommend using either the JR Pass or Tokyo Subway Ticket, both which can be bought online. Alternatively, consider getting the Suica transport card which can be used on both JR lines or the subway.
You’ll need reservations while in Japan. See our writers’ top picks!
First, Explore the Famous Akihabara Street of Chuo-Dori
Chuo-dori Avenue is Akihabara's main street and one of the first destinations for any new Tokyo traveler. With just one stroll through the street, you can quickly knock out some of Akihabara's best shops, though we personally believe the real charm of the area lies off the beaten path. Part of the fun is the exploration, so instead of us listing specific places to visit on Chuo-dori, we hope you'll visit and see the sights for yourself.
Check Out Some of the Best (Most Popular) Shops and Places in Akihabara
BOOKOFF Akihabara Ekimae Store
BOOKOFF is a nationwide chain that mainly deals in used books and manga, and also offers a selection of used DVDs, CDs, video games, and more. Used items in Japan are usually in quite good condition, so BOOKOFF is a great way to hunt down something you're looking for and save a few yen. The Akihabara location is particularly worth visiting due to its large selection of used electronics in addition to printed media. Try wandering through the many shelves until you find something that strikes your fancy!
You’ll need reservations while in Japan. See our writers’ top picks!
Yodobashi Camera Multimedia Akiba Store
Yodobashi Camera is a chain that mainly stocks electronics of all kinds. The store in Akihabara is particularly well known for its size; with 8 floors and a basement level stocked with everything from computers to vacuums, HD TVs, and even fax machines (yes, those still exist in Japan!), it is a great place to get souvenirs and new high-tech electronics to bring back home and impress your friends. If you're not interested in electronics, they also stock popular cosmetics, delicious snacks, and even children's toys, making it an amazing one-stop shop for any of your shopping needs. If you show your passport with a tourist visa, you can enjoy duty-free purchases as well!
GIGO arcades are present throughout Japan, and there are multiple complexes found along the main street of Akiba. Claw machines, rhythm and beat games, and everything from retro video game corners to Japan's latest and greatest arcade fare can be found here. You can spend hours trying your hand at all the games here, but it can be just as entertaining to glimpse the hardcore gamers in their element.
It should be noted that smoking is allowed indoors on some of the floors, so be prepared for potential culture shock if you're from a country where indoor smoking is banned. In addition, snapping a photo is allowed, but taking videos within the arcade is prohibited, so please be mindful of the rules. Some popular games even require you to sign a form and wait in line for your turn, so if you see a crowd of people, look out for a sign up form nearby.
Whether you're looking for anime merchandise, manga, or the latest games, animate has you covered. While the flagship store is in Ikebukuro, another one of Tokyo's otaku paradises, the one in Akihabara is well worth seeing as it covers two different buildings, making it one of the larger branch stores in Japan. Apart from endless rows of merchandise and gacha machines, you'll find an event space and even a themed cafe.
Kanda Myojin Shrine
With nearly 1,300 years of history, Kanda Myojin Shrine has been worshipped by both the general public as well as notable figures such as shogun (military dictator) Ieyasu Tokugawa. Today, it is most known for its Kanda Matsuri, a festival held every odd-numbered year in May where a parade is led from the shrine and through Tokyo's central districts such as Nihonbashi and Otemachi, drawing in crowds from all around. Many people also visit for its unique omamori charms, which are often themed around popular anime or even technology to match Akihabara's eclectic, geeky culture. No visit to Akihabara is complete without buying one of these charms to take back home!
Dive Into the Akihabara “Underground” by Checking Out Akihabara’s Hidden Gems
Super Potato Akihabara Branch
Any fan of retro video games will surely be enchanted the moment they step into Super Potato. This used video game shop has three floors of software and hardware, including rare and limited edition items from the likes of Nintendo, Sega, Sony, and more. On the top floor is a retro video game arcade where you can revisit an age gone by awash in the beeps and bloops of childhood memories.
Mandarake Complex Akihabara Branch
Mandarake has a number of locations across Tokyo, but the Akihabara branch, with its imposing, all-black exterior, is perhaps the most impressive. This location features eight floors full of antique toys, independently published manga, video games, and more.
As we mentioned above, buying used goods in Japan is usually an affordable way to get a hold of rare items, and Mandarake caters to both this bargain-hunting crowd and the hardcore collectors who are willing to drop a considerable sum for the rarest items to complete their collection. Walking the jam-packed aisles of Mandarake is an adventure in itself, and around every corner is a new oddity or surprise waiting to be discovered.
Akihabara Gachapon Kaikan
Gachapon is the Japanese name for vending machines that dispense capsule toys. You'll find these vending machines all throughout Japan, but particularly so in Akihabara. One location in particular, Gachapon Kaikan, or Gachapon Hall, is known as the holy land for gacha enthusiasts. Gachapon Kaikan has been in operation for over a decade, and the whole store is packed with gacha machines sure to meet everyone’s tastes. From cute and wacky to cool and handy, the collectibles available in these are machines make for great souvenirs for yourself or friends back home.
Akihabara Rare Vending Machine Corner
At first glance, this innocuous little street filled with vending machines may not seem so special. However, if you take a closer look at what's actually being sold, you will understand why this corner of Akihabara has generated a bit of buzz in the past. A standard selection of drinks are sold next to stag beetles, batteries, bells, and other things that don't start with the letter B! If you'd like to read up on this oddity and other bizarre vending machines across Japan, please have a look at our roundup of 10 off-the-wall vending machines in Japan!
Go Through This Checklist of Top Things to Do in Akihabara
Street Go Karting Experience in Akihabara
What better way to explore the sights of Akihabara than on a go-kart? This wild experience is rare to find in any other part of Japan, let alone overseas. A guide will accompany you all the way, so you can cruise Akihabara's streets knowing you're in safe hands. You'll also get many opportunities to take all the photos you want, whether it be of the streetscape or you and your friends, family, and the guide!
*Note: You must have an international driver's license. Costume rentals were also temporarily suspended due to the pandemic.
Find Unique and Bizarre Electronics and Treasures at Akihabara's Junk Street and the Akihabara Parts Market
On a treasure hunt for electronics and parts? While the aforementioned stores do hold some treasures, it's Akihabara's Junk Street and Parts Market where you'll find the true hidden gems. Many are sold at bargain prices, and even if they aren't, they're sure to be far more economical than anything you can find back home. Make sure to carry cash, as many of the stores don't accept any other form of payment.
Maid Cafe Experience at Maidreamin Tokyo
Maid cafes have long been one of the iconic representations of Japan's quirky modern culture. To get a taste of it, just step into Maidreamin, where waitresses in cosplay maid outfits will serve and entertain you to the best of their abilities. Though they may not speak much English, their hospitality and cheerful attitudes goes beyond language barriers. Snap a souvenir photo of not just the maids, but also the adorably decorated food and drinks. They'll even give you a complimentary gift for your visit!
Snap Some Great Pictures at Akihabara's Top Photo Spots
On Sundays, the street closes to all vehicles, making it pedestrian heaven. Chuo-dori is at its busiest then, as most Japanese have Sundays off. Contrary to popular belief, this makes it the best day to take photos that truly capture the essence of this lively part of Tokyo. If you've ever seen photos of Akihabara's streetscape, chances are it was taken at Chuo-dori on a Sunday!
Sunday pedestrian-only times:
October - March: 1:00 pm - 5:00 pm
April - September: 1:00 pm - 6:00 pm
*Might be cancelled on days with bad weather.
One look at the above photo should make it clear why Mansei Bridge is such a good photo spot for capturing Akihabara's streetscape. Nearby, you'll find plenty of stores and eateries, so after you're done snapping a few pictures, why not explore and then sit down and admire the view while chomping down on some delicious food?
Don't Miss Out on All of the Best Places in Akihabara!
Even with all the locations mentioned in today’s list, there are still many more stores and surprises waiting for you all over the streets of Akihabara. If you are a fan of otaku culture, you may find yourself coming back again and again during your stay in Japan.
Recommended Hotel in Akihabara: Akihabara Washington Hotel
Title image: InfantryDavid / Shutterstock.com
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The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.