Akihabara is famed for being the electric town of Tokyo, where you can find all sorts of gadgets and electronics at one place. As someone who has a hard time spending on electronics, I thought Akihabara was irrelevant. Previously, my friends and I first headed there just to get halal kebab. Turns out there’s a lot more to Akiba than just electronic goods — it’s like Tokyo’s very own Neverland! During the my recent trip to Tokyo alone, I think we’ve returned to Akiba for at least three times.
The main street of Akiba is very lively. Apart from being an electric town, it’s also a hub for hard core gamers and those with high interest in anime and manga. If you’ve watched Densha Otoko, you’d know what I mean. The majority of people in the area are men and considering what their interests are, it’s almost a given that they’re a bit more casually dressed than the youngsters at Shibuya or Omotesando. They’d rather be wearing the latest Beats headphones.
Go to Akiba for the souvenirs
I am far from an otaku, but apart from the neon lights and the liveliness of the city, I often return to Akiba for souvenirs. There are a couple of duty-free department stores along the major road to choose from. My favorite is Laox, a multiple-floor department store selling all sort of goods — from electronics, beauty products, bidet toilets, toys, timepieces, jewelries to souvenirs.
The prices are okay compared to elsewhere and it’s more peaceful to shop there. Whenever you spend more than ¥10,000 in a single receipt, your goods are entitled to be duty-free, too!
Go to Akiba to play catch
One of the more prominent buildings along the main road is the red Club Sega Akihabara, reportedly the oldest Sega arcade in the area. I’m not sure what’s available on the upper floors, but the ground floor was filled with UFO Catcher machines. The prizes were no jokes — apart from really nice plushes, some of them contained high quality figurines. A game starts only at ¥100 that it can be addictive.
Apart from youngsters, we saw men and women in their working attires and briefcases at night, trying their luck with the catcher. Come to think of it, I don’t think they were depending on luck — they seemed like pros, calculating the distance and the right moment to press the buttons.
Here’s the thing about Japanese that makes this arcade business a big success — they don’t give up until they get what they want. I saw a lady who was trying to catch a One Piece figurine. She had to try more than fifteen times to get a figurine she probably didn’t want that much in the first place.
I know my brother would go insane if he ever reaches this place. He’d probably spend an hour or more at Sega before going to the other arcades around the corner.
Go to Akiba for toys, manga, video games and DVDs
The white department store on the right is a a great place to go to if you’re hunting for toys. It’s a figurines galore — the place where Reza got his Metal Gear Solid figurine and where I got my Lego minifigures. Also available on separate floors — volumes of manga, DVDs, cosplay costumes and clothings related to your favorite anime show. The store can be spotted if you walk the opposite side of the Sega Center, on the left, further down the road.
The streets behind that department store is like a pasar for gadgets and cool things — like this tumbler which looked like a real Canon L-lens, smartphones (though unlocking them may be a problem), donut maker for kids, fancy mouse and keyboards sold at cheap prices.
Go to Akiba for gadgets and electronic goods
At the electric town, you can find interesting electronics at every nook and cranny. From the main road to the alleys to the department stores.
The east exit of the Akihabara station leads to the massive Yodobashi-Akiba, an enormous electronics department store — the store which led me into buying my first real Audio-Technica earphones and made me consider a Macbook Pro. I’ve never found a store selling electronic goods exciting until I met Yodobashi Camera.
Not only do they have the usual gadgets, there are several floors catering to several things e.g. audio and visual, home appliances, luxury goods, toys, musical instruments etc. Ladies, you might want to see the beauty department. They have just about every tool to make you look even better!
Before buying electronics though, make sure that the voltage is compatible with Malaysia. Else, they’ll burn.
Go to Akiba for the maid cafés
Maid cafés flourish in the district (if you don’t know what maid cafés are, read about them here). Heavily made-up and dyed hair and dressed in fancy colors, these maids can be seen along the pavements of the main road, distributing flyers and inviting passerby to their café. Though I find their seemingly fake, shrill voice and smile disturbing, by Japanese standards it’s totally kawaii. They really buy into this.
I’ve never really tried going into a maid café, but this may make it easier for you to imagine:
Asna was totally intrigued by a maid she saw on the train:
“I love her whole outfit!”
Go to Akiba for themed cafés
The south side of the Akihabara station hosts the Akihabara Crossfield, very new and modern glass buildings. Just nearby the Crossfield — the AKB48 Café and Shop (if you’ve never heard of the idol group of 48 young girls that’s dominating Japan right now, click here) and Gundam Café. It’s interesting to note that the queue to get into the AKB48 Café was much, much longer than Gundam Café.
This clip pretty much sums up what you can find at Akiba!
Anyway, that’s as much as I remember — there’s a lot more to discover at Akihabara. It’s easy to spend hours here without you realizing, especially if you’re into these things and if you’re not, it’s easy for Akiba to suck you in! Taking a walk around Akihabara with Google Map is a good idea to get a feel of the place. Don’t miss this place when you head to Tokyo!
Read more about Akihabara by Tokyo Travel Guide.