Wonders of Akihabara: A Travel Guide for those Who are Prepared to be Lost

Akihabara offers varieties of products and services that is not only for practicality but also for entertainment. It boasts hundreds of electronic gadget shops that will satisfy the inner geek in you and if you want to be even more geeky than you already are, you can enjoy the other world of Akihabara: the entertainment, from mangas, night novels, figures, costumes and yes, maids—Akihabara indeed have it all.

*How to Go There

Akihabara is very accessible as Akihabara Station is home to 3 lines of JR East, namely Yamanote Line, Keihin-Tohoku Line and Chuo-Sobu Line. Tsukuba Express and subway Tokyo Metro Hibiya Line also has a stop on Akihabara. Other means of transportation are viable but trains are the most accessible as it connects Akihabara Station to other stations around Metropolitan Tokyo and outside.
>Guide from Narita going to Akihabara: If you are really that eager to go straight to Akihabara, there are trains that connect Narita International Airport to Akihabara. You can take the Narita Sky Access going from any terminals of Narita International Airport and stop at Keisei Ueno Station. From there you may choose to take the subway, Hibiya Line going from Keisei Ueno Station to Akihabara Station (which is 2 stations away) or transfer to Yamanote Line going to Akihabara Station (also 2 stations away). You may also elect to choose a different manner to go to Akihabara on any means that you know. http://www.hyperdia.com/en/ website is a great help in planning your route in Japan as it shows how long the travel is, the price for the train tickets and it gives you other options to decide what lines to take.

*Gadgets for the Geekier You

Akihabara is famous for featuring different kinds of gadgets from robots to cameras to vacuum cleaners. For someone like me who got into Japanese culture through my own addiction to Anime, seeing normies (normal people) simply doing their usual routine as they buy appliances for their households or personal use surprised me. Anyways, for those who are interested to know where you can grab those eye-bulging breaking deals for gadgets, here’s the places I saw that can help you:

>Yodobashi Camera
This gigantic outlet is the place to be for all electronic gadget enthusiast. Haggle away to your dream camera or phone as some of the prices there are open for negotiation. You can also check if their gadgets are legit as you quiz their staffs. Amazingly, Yodobashi’s Staffs knew their products more than their Facebook and mail passwords, they knew the camera I'm looking for more than I did, and I've spent a week reading about them!

Unfortunately, prices in Tokyo is still expensive in comparison to other countries, I advise checking your countries’ prices first to see if it is cheaper in Tokyo before purchasing, we wouldn’t want you to hate the place just because of one bad deal. Also, most of their maps and guides are in Japanese with a little bit of English so be ready to google translate your way around it and just ask around when you get lost.
>Sofmap, Yamada Denki and Llaox

There are also other stores that focuses on gadgets (not specifically for gaming/ collectors items) in general. Some of them pops out here and there around Akibahara such as Llaox, Sofmap and the oldest one which is Yamada Denki. Most of the items in Japan are specifically for Japan use only (even their plugs are different) but they do sell other items from Duty Free (some of which you wouldn’t be able to get on their actual duty free).
>Chou Dori
The main street in Akibahara was called Chou Dori. Here, you can still see the remnants of the old Akibahara where they still sell old radios and parts, this is the original place where they got the name “electric town”. Chou Dori is the best place to haunt for those old and collector’s item games, having the varieties of shops both big and small, each of them displays unique games and game consoles/ hobby shops whether already digital or still analog.

*Otaku’s Haven or Heaven?

Now popularized through its excessive themed cafes (maid cafes being noticeably the most popular of them all), Mangas and Lightnovels and even Figures, Akihabara is now more than the Electric Town we once knew. Akihabara is the home for all Otaku’s looking for another friend with mutual interest (or maybe seeking for another pair of waifus or husbandos—the 2D ones, I know and I don’t judge). It is a place for Cosplayers, Anime Enthusiast, Manga readers and Collectors (even with any specific/unique taste). For those who have been dreaming to go there for otaku purposes and who had finally got the chance to do so, here’s my recommendation of places you should probably check out:

With its eight story of product stores selling various items related to otaku culture, it is hardly imaginable to be able to finish strolling in Akibahara for a day. Yes, this may not be the best place but I can consider it the biggest mall for collectibles. It also has 16 original stores of which has different otaku obsession featured to satisfy anyone’s taste.

>Gachapon Kaikan
I think you can even see this in Animes, Gachapon vending machines are everywhere, but this one in Akiba has more than 450 Gachapon machines lined up for those who are curious, wants the experience and hardcore collectors. Their items range from characters to ramens and it can be a good souvenir for your friends if you’re a little low on budget.

Speaking of being low on budget, another way to save without sacrificing your inner otaku is to go on liberty. Liberty stores are second hand shops for Dvds, Cds and Blu-rays. Most of the time, the items there are almost good as new because most the people who sell their items at liberty are usually otaku themselves so they really take good care of the items.

Finally having its third store in Akibahara, Animate caters anime merchandise focusing on female crowd. Although, Animate’s main branch is in Ikebukuro, it is a fresh breather for Akibahara’s more male oriented crowd. Animate’s selling point are romance novels or mangas (shoujo) and homoerotic love stories ( YAOI ) which is commonly known as boys love.

If you want to deviate yourself from the usual mainstream manga and light novels such as one piece and Naruto, Taco-che is a small underground shop that offers comics and mangas from dark artist and small-press creators together with some limited editions.
>Akiba Culture Zone
A new seven story specialist stores that sells anime merchandise, figures, second hands, replica of firearms and other items that mixed both otakus and normies alike. In its basement, you will also be able to see a showcase of vintage kits collection for otakus.

>Cospa Gee Store
This is for those first timers or those who simply can’t be bothered in making their own costume for cosplays (hardcore cosplayers create their own). They sell cosplays items from head (wigs) to toe (specific boots) down to their weapons.

Gamers has anime merchandise focusing more on the seasonal animes, latest magazines and other related materials. It is one of Akiba’s crowd favorite.

>Toranoana Store
Toranoana Store is the home of Doujinshis (Self-published mangas) and probably the most known one. It is composed of 3 buildings (A, B, and C) each selling different kinds of items. Building A is for Doujinshis, building B is for Cds, Dvds and Blu-rays and Building C is Sofmap which is an electronic shop.

*Café All-You-Can

I am making a separate category for Cafés because, Akibahara has a lot of these. Once you get starting walking there, there’s literally a line of maids handing flyers for a certain maid café. The list that I would be giving is more of the popular ones that I know of and some other type of cafes. Here it is:

>AKB48 Café
AKB48 is one of the famous J-pop female idol group which is composed of 48 members. The café’s menu is said to be made by the members and most of the items that are being sold there are AKB48 inspired. Even their waitress is dressed at an exact copy of their costumes. AKB48 has a huge fan crowd and curious tourist tends to go there to see how it functions.
>Gundam Café
Usually packed no matter the day is, Gundam Café is one of the most popular café in Japan . Clad in their modified Gundam uniforms, the waiters/ waitress serves Gundam themed food and special themed lunches inside a very chic interior Café. They also sell Gundam related goods including café exclusives.
>Cat Café
For Cat/ Animal lovers, one of the rising themed cafes in Akiba are the Cat Cafés. Try to enjoy your coffee while petting or hugging cats of different breeds. You can even play with them as they also have toys and catnips around the Café.

>Maid and Butler Café
Maid and Butler Café has the most numbered café in Akibahara. You can see them everywhere and for good reason. These cafes play with otakus’ fantasy of a Master-Maid or Lady-Butler relationship (they even call you Master or Miss/Lady). Just try not to cringe on their magic words or chants that you are to follow and don’t forget to obey the café rules as they tend to differ on each café. You can also pay for additional fee for taking pictures with your butler/maid.

Mashiiro xoxo
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