With its inexpensive electronics shops, maid cafes, and plenty of stores for all things anime and gaming, Akihabara is a geek wonderland. Or we should probably say “Otaku“. In Japan, an Otaku is a person with consuming interests, specifically anime and manga.
Embracing the cool and quirky culture of Akihabara, one of the fun things to do in Tokyo, provides a unique experience even for those not particularly interested in anime and games. So, whether you are a lover of this fascinating art, gaming, or curious about the over-the-top cafes and stores, continue on with our Otaku Guide to Akihabara!
- Akihabara: A Glimpse into the Otaku Wonderland
- Discovering Otaku Delights in Akihabara
- Tokyo’s Hidden Otaku Gems Beyond Akihabara
- Osaka: The Alternate Epicenter of Otaku Culture
Akihabara: A Glimpse into the Otaku Wonderland
Also called Akiba, Akihabara is one of the best-known spots in Tokyo, and really all over Japan, to find electronics and otaku goods like anime and manga, retro video games, card games, figurines, and collectibles.
You can also find other animation-related establishments like maid cafes where you can be waited on by smiley dressed-up girls, and manga cafes where you can read comics and watch DVDs as well as have WIFI access.
Located 18 minutes from Shinjuku Station on the JR Sobu line, or ten minutes from Tokyo Station on either the Keihin-Tōhoku Line or Yamanote Line, it is centrally located and easy to find.
Discovering Otaku Delights in Akihabara
Retail Therapy: Otaku Edition
Yodobashi Camera in Akihabara is a nine-story electronics emporium that sells all the tech products and gadgets one would ever want. From rice cookers to beauty products, Yodobashi Camera offers popular items for both local customers and travelers. Yodobashi Camera also offers brand-name fashion and a food court, making it easy to spend an entire day in this building. Located right in from of Akihabara Station, it’ll be easy for you to find on your trip to Akihabara.
Akihabara Gamers Main Store
Akihabara Gamers is a specialty store offering cute anime and animated movie-related collectibles. CDs, magazines, and other otaku goods fill the overflowing shelves. You’ll also find yummy cookies and cute mugs that will make perfect souvenirs. If you can only visit one place in Akihabara to grab your otaku merchandise, this should be it.
Akiba Cultures Zone
This six-story department store contains a vast number of shops dedicated to all things otaku culture. You can find subculture stores like ACOS, where you can find cosplay goods, and Rashinban and Animate that both offer anime merchandise. On the first floor, you can find the Akiba Culture Gekijo, a theater where underground idols hold live music shows. After you pick up your cosplay outfit, you might just see the next big idol in Japan performing.
Kotobukiya is a hobby shop specializing in figurines and models based on anime and manga characters. The three floors of merchandise make it the largest store of its kind in Akihabara. Plus, the elaborate model displays on each floor make it an excellent place for window-shopping if you’ve already exceeded your budget.
Cafes: The Otaku Hangouts in Akihabara
If you’ve never heard of a maid café, it can be a strange concept. But in Japan, there is a term “moe,” which describes cuteness, infatuation, and having a crush on someone or something. Moe is a well-known word in otaku culture, especially in Akihabara. A great place to experience moe first-hand is at a maid café, where the customers are waited upon by female staff wearing maid costumes and receive over-the-top service.
One of Akihabara’s most popular maid cafes is the At Home Café. The Maidreamin is an excellent place for travelers to first experience a maid café where guests are referred to as “masters” and “princesses.”
Map of Maid Cafes in Akihabara
The Gundam café immerses guests into the world of Mobile Suit Gundam, one of the most popular Japanese anime that features gigantic robots. You’ll see Gundam statues all throughout the restaurant, as well as other hidden surprises for Gundam fans. This café is a must-see for anyone interested in anime or the over-the-top Japanese experiences.
AKB48 Official Café and Shop
Another side of Akihabara is Japan’s famous idol culture. At the official store and café of AKB48 (Akihabara and Tokyo’s representative female idol group with 48 members), customers can browse the group’s merchandise, indulge in tasty AKB38-themed food, and watch music videos and special performances in the café. And don’t worry, you don’t need to be a superfan to visit. It’s a great place to get acquainted with Japanese pop music and celebrities.
Engaging Otaku Experiences
Arcades and Game Centers
Dotted all over Akihabara are many arcades and game centers where visitors can have fun playing crane and arcade games. Crane games have all kinds of rewards, from large stuffed toys of your favorite anime characters to mega-sized Japanese snacks and even electronics. Top game centers like Super Potato, SEGA Game Center, and Taito Center are within walking distance from JR Akihabara Station.
Akihabara Gachapon Kaikan
Gachapon are capsule toy dispensers that are extremely popular all over Japan. They can be found in malls, restaurants, shops, and train stations. But, the Gachapon Kaikan in Akihabara is an entire store made up entirely of these dispensers. Each gachapon dispenser costs anywhere from 100Yen to 500Yen. So grab a couple hundred Yen, find the dispenser you like, and see what comes out.
Kanda Myojin Shrine
When one thinks of geek culture, you don’t often think of shrines. But, because it’s easily accessible from Akihabara, a visit here is a great way to visit an important piece of Japanese culture while still being in the heart of otaku culture. Because of its proximity to the anime hub, the shrine offers unique anime collaboration merchandise such as Love Live! School Idol Project good-luck talisman. It’s not surprising you can also buy a charm that blesses electronic devices.
Tokyo’s Hidden Otaku Gems Beyond Akihabara
Akihabara isn’t the only place in Japan where Otaku can visit to get their fix.
In Tokyo, otaku should also visit Nakano and Ikebukuro.
The Otaku Appeal of Nakano
Nakano offers a slower-paced alternative to Akihabara’s busy streets while also housing an abundance of delicious ramen restaurants (some of which are arguably the best in the city). The famous Nakano Broadway is a multi-story shopping center.
At first glance, it seems like an everyday market with grocery stores and ordinary shops on the ground floor. But once you begin to climb, you’ll find over 250 shops filled to the brim with anime and manga-related goodies, including cosplay shops and video game memorabilia.
While Akihabara focuses on the most popular things, you’ll find older and more obscure anime in Nakano Broadway, making it the perfect place for the old-school otaku.
Unveiling the Otaku Side of Ikebukuro
Ikebukuro is another district in Tokyo that deserves a visit from otaku. Sometimes called “Little Akihabara,” it has similar features to the more well-known district like game centers, anime souvenirs, capsule machines, and cosplay stores. Two places, in particular, you need to visit in Ikebukuro is the Animate flagship store which has manga and anime goods filling eight floors, as well as Otome Road. Otome means roughly “maiden,” so most of these shops cater to Otaku gals.
Ghibli Museum in Mitaka
For fans of Studio Ghibli, the Ghibli Museum is an obvious place to visit. Located in Mitaka, just west of Tokyo, the museum offers a look inside the mind of Studio Ghibli founder Hayao Miyazaki and, as they call it, “a portal to a storybook world.” The museum combines the features of a children’s museum, technology museum, and a fine arts museum and is devoted to the art and technique of animation. There is a café, bookstore, rooftop garden, and a theater for exclusive short films by Studio Ghibli as well as replicas of the animated works so that you feel as if you’ve stepped into an animated movie.
Osaka: The Alternate Epicenter of Otaku Culture
If you can go further afield than Tokyo, otaku should visit the Akihabara of Osaka: Nipponbashi Ota Road. The Nipponbashi district is famous for the electronic stores that line the Nipponbashi Shotengai Shopping Street, or “Den Den Town.”
Exploring Nipponbashi Ota Road in Osaka is yet another highlight on the list of fun things to do in Osaka. It is just one block west of Sakaisuji, Den Den Town’s main street. Ota Road has shops for otaku, like anime and video game figurines and cosplay items. Some of the top spots to visit are the Super Potato for retro games and Wonderland Namba for Japanese Manga.
There is no shortage of places to visit in Tokyo and beyond for otaku culture. Even if you’re not familiar with otaku culture, Akihabara is an exciting and quintessentially Tokyo places that everyone should experience at least once.