Akihabara is an area of Tokyo well known to lovers of games, anime and the Tokyo shopping scene. I’ve been lucky enough to spend a few days in Tokyo and every visit to Akihabara feels like the excitement of opening presents on Christmas morning – you don’t know what you’re gonna get but it might be something really awesome.
When you exit the main train station (which is a maze in itself!), you’ll hear Akihabara before you see it. Electro music emanating from crane machines, the chatter of locals and foreigners moving together as one mass, the rattle of a thousand capsule toy dispensers – the atmosphere of Akihabara is alien and yet feels familiar. There’s something magical here. I may be biased because I’m a bit of a nerd, but I reckon even if you’re not into manga, anime or gaming, this place will still blow your mind.
We try and visit every shop when we are in Akihabara, just because the stock can vary so much. It can also become repetitive – after a few hours you start spotting the same figurines and merchandise in all shops. This is why it really can be described as a ‘treasure hunt’ – once you’ve got past the crowds, the overflowing shop fronts and the same stock, you can find hidden gems and truly amazing loot that you simply couldn’t find anywhere else in the world. Whatever your vice – anime such as Dragonball Z or Sailor Moon, games like Final Fantasy or Fate/Grand Order or 90s icons like Gundam – you are guaranteed to find some amazing pieces in Akihabara. My suitcase is always jam packed with goodies when I leave Tokyo. Additionally, there are hundreds of arcades full of crane games, dance machines, photobooths, VR experiences and more.
The crowds of Akihabara can be very intimidating, but I promise its worth going.
There are hundreds of places to eat in Akihabara – including Western and Japanese cuisine, themed cafes (such as the Gundam Cafe) and crepe shops. The only place we’ve been that I would not recommend is Mos Burger. It is our experience generally that Japanese burgers aren’t great! If you like Japanese cuisine, you’ll be spoilt for choice in Akihabara. Set menus, ramen and sushi are commonplace – you can easily get lunch for two for under ¥1000 (around £7/$9). As with everywhere, there are of course more expensive and cheaper options – one of the qualities of Japan is that you can so easily find travel, accommodation and food options to suit any budget.
We haven’t ever visited a maid cafe – we intended to, but it felt kind of strange. Maybe next time..
For the Final Fantasy XIV fan like me, the Eorzea Cafe is a must. Be sure to get there early (opens at 11am) to secure a spot – it fills up fast! I particularly enjoy their cactpot draw for prizes.
In addition to anime goods and tasty food, Akihabara (like many other areas of Tokyo) has plenty of historical sites and shrines for those interested in traditional Japan. It’s well placed to visit temples like Sensō-ji (if you don’t mind a train ride or a long walk) and Kiyomizu Kannon-dō or smaller shrines such as Kanda Shrine.
It can’t be understated how much Akihabara has to offer – if you are ever fortunate to be in Tokyo, I urge you to spend a few hours here. It’s loud and crazy, but ultimately extremely rewarding. Is it the strangest place in the world? Probably not, but it is certainly one of the most fascinating.