Akihabara (秋葉原), also called Akiba after a former local shrine, is a district in central Tokyo that is famous for its many electronics shops. In more recent years, Akihabara has gained recognition as the center of Japan's otaku (diehard fan) culture, and many shops and establishments devoted to anime and manga are now dispersed among the electronic stores in the district. On Sundays, Chuo Dori, the main street through the district, is closed to car traffic from 13:00 to 18:00 (until 17:00 from October through March).
Akihabara has been undergoing major redevelopment over the years, including the renovation and expansion of Akihabara Station and the construction of new buildings in its proximity. Among these newly opened buildings were a huge Yodobashi electronics store and the Akihabara Crossfield, a business complex with the aim of promoting Akihabara as a center for global electronics technology and trade.
Hundreds of electronics shops, ranging from tiny one-man stalls specializing in a particular electronic component to large electronics retailers, line the main Chuo Dori street and the crowded side streets around Akihabara. They offer everything from the newest computers, cameras, televisions, mobile phones, electronics parts and home appliances to second-hand goods and electronic junk.
A few chain stores such as Sofmap and Laox each operate multiple specialized branches along the main roads, while small independent shops can be found in the side streets. The only mega sized store is the Yodobashi Camera complex on the east side of the station.
Note that some of the electronics on sale are only intended for use in Japan due to voltage and other technical differences, Japanese language documentation and limited warranties. However, several stores also feature a selection of international models intended for overseas use, and most also offer tax free shopping to foreign tourists.
The character of Akihabara has constantly changed over the decades and continues to do so. In the last decade Akihabara has emerged as a center of Japanese otaku and anime culture, and dozens of stores specializing in anime, manga, retro video games, figurines, card games and other collectibles have filled the spaces between the electronics retailers.
In addition to shops, various other animation-related establishments have become popular in the area, particularly maid cafes where waitresses dress up and act like maids or anime characters, and manga cafes (manga kissa), a type of internet cafe where customers can read comics and watch DVDs in addition to having access to the internet.
Major Electronics Stores
Hours: 11:00 to 20:00 (some branches open from 10:00) Closed: No closing days
Sofmap operates five shops around Akihabara. Most of the shops are specialized in one type of product, such as mobile devices, computers, Mac products, used electronics and anime-related goods.
Hours: 10:00 to 18:00 Closed: No closing days
The Laox Main Store in Akiba offers the largest number of tax free items of all the branches in Tokyo. Hobby and game related products are available in addition to electronics, souvenirs and lifestyle goods.
Hours: 9:00 to 20:00 Closed: No closing days
Akky specializes in tax free goods and operates three shops around Akihabara Station. Akky sells a variety of electronic equipment for overseas use, including cameras, computers, televisions, DVD players and software. Some branches carry used or refurbished items.
Hours: 9:30 to 22:00 (restaurants from 11:00) Closed: No closing days
The Shinjuku based discount electronic store giant Yodobashi Camera opened its huge Akihabara branch in September 2005. Unlike most other electronic shops, it is located on the east side of Akihabara Station. This branch offers one stop shopping for computers, games, watches and cameras, and sells tax free and international models.
Maid cafes are cosplay themed restaurants where guests are served by waitresses that are typically dressed as French maids. In addition to serving food, the maids engage in conversation and games with the customers and treat them with the care and respectful language due to the master of a house. Maid cafes are popular with both men and women, and some cafes, like the @Home Cafe, offer English speaking maids.
Hours: 10:00 to 5:00 Closed: No closing days
Don Quijote is a discount store chain that carries everything from groceries and toys to electronics and high end fashion goods. The Akihabara branch is home to the girl pop group AKB48, who perform daily shows at their theater on the 8th floor of the store (typically 2400 or 3400 yen). There is also a branch of the @Home Cafe maid cafe on the 5th floor of the store.
Hours: 10:00 to 20:00
Radio Kaikan is one of Akihabara's iconic landmarks, and features more than 30 stores selling electronics and other anime related goods. Some of the famous stores include K-Books, Kaiyodo and Volks which sell all kinds of manga, models, toys, trading cards, figurines and collectibles. The building was torn down in 2011, was rebuilt, and reopened its doors in 2014 as a taller, ten story building.
Hours: 11:00 to 20:00 (from 10:00 on weekends and national holidays) Closed: No closing days
Super Potato sells all types of video games and video game consoles, and specializes in retro systems and games. Here you can find practically every game system ever produced along with a huge selection of used game cartridges, discs and game accessories.
Hours: 10:00 to 22:00 (upper floors 10:00 to 21:00) Closed: No closing days
Gamers sells a wide range of anime and manga related goods including movies, video games, CDs, stationery, software and character goods.
Hours: 12:00 to 20:00 Closed: No closing days
Mandarake, the self described "largest manga and anime shop in the world", operates a large branch in Akihabara. Specializing in pre-owned goods, it is a good place to find rare and collectible manga, figurines, dolls, posters, CDs, toys and other types of manga related goods.
Hours: 10:00 to 22:30 Closed: No closing days
The Gundam Cafe is themed after the extremely popular Mobile Suit Gundam anime series. The cafe serves gundam themed dishes and is decorated with art and themes from the series. A gift shop is attached and sells character goods and souvenirs.
Getting there and around
Akihabara Station is a busy station served by the JR Yamanote Line, JR Keihin-Tohoku Line, JR Sobu Line, the Tsukuba Express and the Hibiya Subway Line. Suehirocho Station on the Ginza Subway Line is located around the northern end of the district.
From Tokyo Station
Akihabara is two stations north of Tokyo Station by JR Yamanote or Keihin-Tohoku Line. The trip takes about three minutes and costs 140 yen. During weekday daytime, the Keihin-Tohoku Line skips the station between Tokyo and Akihabara, which shaves off a few more seconds from the travel time.
From Shinjuku Station
Take the JR Chuo Line (orange colored rapid service) from Shinjuku to Ochanomizu Station (10 minutes) and make a quick and easy transfer to the JR Sobu Line (yellow colored local service) for one more station to Akihabara (2 minutes). Alternatively, take a yellow colored train without transfer all the way from Shinjuku to Akihabara (17 minutes). The one way fare is 170 yen in either case.