Akihabara Electric Town
Tokyo’s Akihabara Electric Town is Japan’s best-known marketplace for electronic equipment. Even if you have no interest in buying anything, browse the stores for a fascinating glimpse of products that will likely become popular in the next several years. This district is also increasingly known for its gaming and manga shops, with comics appealing to young and old readers. As evening falls, find yourself in a blaze of neon as Akihabara’s skyline becomes a popular attraction in its own right.
Start your visit by walking along Chuo Dori, the main street running through Akihabara. Notice Yodobashi Akiba, a nine-floor electronics store towering over the entire district. Browse the store’s mindboggling selection of TVs, washing machines, computers and appliances; this landmark store provides a great introduction to the kinds of products you’ll see throughout Akihabara’s countless other electronic shops.
If Yodobashi Akiba had an anime and manga equivalent, it would be the Mandarake. This eight-floor store is packed with DVDs, comics, toys and other memorabilia dedicated to various comic and TV show characters. Spend some time looking through this enormous collection alongside some of the city’s most avid anime and manga fans.
After checking out these major stores, explore smaller stalls specializing in specific electronics and equipment. Chat with the staff, who are usually extremely knowledgeable and often speak English quite well. Visit a game bar and play a retro video game or stop for coffee in one of the district’s famous maid cafés, where the waitresses dress up as fantasy characters.
Akihabara Station is a major stop on several JR lines. You can also reach the area by taking the Ginza Subway Line to Suehirochō Station. Visit on Sundays when the main street is closed to pedestrian traffic and many locals engage in “cosplay,” doing their shopping while dressed as their favorite characters from comics or TV. Don’t leave Tokyo without getting one look at Akihabara Electric Town after nightfall, when the neon glow of shop lights adds to its unique atmosphere.