Most overseas visitors to Tokyo have one thing on their mind – Squeezing in a visit to Akihabara. Akihabara or Akiba as locals often call it, is famous for its electronics shops. Akihabara is filled with hundreds of shops selling electronic items.
One can find large electronics retailers as well as tiny stalls specializing in electronic components. You could buy anything from the latest gadgets, televisions, mobile phones, computers and home appliances to used appliances and gadgets.
Camera hunters can find just about any model and make in Akihabara. For overseas visitors thought, the electronic appliances however lucrative are not of much use owing to voltage differences. But some stores have select models which can be used overseas and some may also offer duty free shopping to foreign tourists.
Chuo dori is the main street where most big stores are located. Part of the road is closed to vehicular traffic for certain hours on Sunday.
In recent years, Akihabara has been emerging as a mecca for Japan’s anime and manga lovers. Locals refer to this as centre for Japan’s Otaku culture (die hard fan). Many shops here sell merchandise related to popular manga and anime characters.
Many Japanese people (of all age groups) like to collect character goods which may include tiny figurines, toys, cards, stickers, video games, books etc and Akihabara caters to all their needs. On Sundays, one can also spot cosplayers (people dressed as anime characters) frequenting the Chuo dori, much like Tokyo’s other cosplayer centre- Harajuku.
Akihabara is also associated with “Maid cafes”- where waitresses dress up as anime characters or maids and “Manga Coffee shops” where visitors can read comics and watch DVDs to their hearts fill.
For instance, Gundam café is themed after the popular Mobile suit Gundam anime series. Gundam themed dishes are served here while the interiors are decorated with art and themes from the series. Character goods from the series are sold in the gift shop.
Next door is the AKB 48 Café and Shop, which as the name suggests is themed after the popular idol group AKB 48. Food inspired by the idols is served here and the gift shop sells character goods. The café has a theatre where select members of the the idol group perform during specific performance times. However don’t expect to walk in for the show as prior reservations are required.
On a recent visit to Tokyo, we just drove past the Akihabara area since it was a rainy day. But the area was crowded nevertheless. No wonder Akihabara is also called “Electric Town” or “Gamer’s Mecca”
Access: Akihabara is centered around Akihabara station on the JR Yamanote, Keihin-Tohoku and Chuo local lines. Akihabara is also within walking distance of Ueno station.