Akihabara of Tokyo. This place offers a large array of entertainment and electronics for various groups of people. Whether it is anime or manga, the latest (or not so latest) technology, maid cafes or other themed cafes, J-Pop idols, or games, there is a place for you in Akihabara (Akiba for short). Many have heard about. Many have gone. Many have been overwhelmed by the endless amount of stores that are there. Yes, it can be overwhelming, especially if you cannot read Japanese, so here are seven must visit stores in Akihabara to get you started on your Akiba adventure.
Of course, the first place that you can go is アニメイト or Animate. As you may have guessed by the sound of the name, this store is an anime shop. It has tons and tons of anime and manga related merchandise. From posters to books, to DVDs, Animate has all of your otaku needs. You can buy miniature figurines, fans with your favorite characters on it as well as their cosplay clothes, stuffed plush toys, notebooks, holographic anime cards, pens and so much more. The store is awesome, but beware of the gotchas in front. This will be addressed soon.
2. Gundam Cafe
Do you like robots? Do you like Gundams? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you should visit the Gundam Cafe. It is located in Akihabara Square next to the AKB48 Cafe at the DiverCity Plaza. You can go there and get the ultimate Gundam experience as you eat and drink. The menu includes beef or seafood stew served inside a bread bowl, cheesy basil flatbread pizza, spicy chicken jambalaya and various alcohol and nonalcohol drinks. The fun part is that they all have interesting Gundam related names. Even the restroom will give you an interesting Gundam experience.
3. AKB48 Cafe
If robots and Gundams aren’t quite your thing, try going next door and visit the AKB48 Cafe. AKB48 (short for A-Ki-Ba or Akihabara 48) is a massive J-Pop group full of Girls and it’s arguably one of the most popular J-Pop groups in Japan. If you want to enjoy chocolate flavored cafe style drinks have some delicious food, buy AKB48 merchandise and watch super kawaii J-Pop idols dancing around on stage, this is the place for you. Inside, you can experience events with certain members of the group, but beware. The lines may be very long, so get there early.
4. Maid/Butler Cafes
The one thing other than anime many people associate with Akihabara (and is still very related to Otaku culture), is Maid or Butler Cafes. These cafes feature kawaii (cute) maid girls or kakkoii (cool) butler guys who will call you master and mistress or princess and cater to your every need. They are essentially cafes, but with an Anime twist that is uniquely Japan. Usually, maid girls will walk the streets and hand out flyers so the cafes aren’t difficult to find. Popular maid cafes include Maidreamin and HoneyHoney. Go and eat some omu rice while enjoying chats with maids.
As previously stated, Akihabara is a huge hub for the latest electronics. If you are a tech nerd, surely you will want to visit Yodobashi and the surrounding areas. Near Akihabara station, the colossal, 9-story technology building has many kinds of tech merchandise inside. On the first through fourth floors, you can buy cell phones, PC products, tablet accessories, camera products, watch repairs, audio equipment, and appliances. On the remaining floors you can buy games, toys, books, bikes, music, clothes, and food, and play golf. There is a lot to do in one building, but the fun doesn’t stop here.
6. Gatcha Pon Hall
A very fun (but dangerous) store to visit is ガチャポン会館 or the Gatcha Pon Hall. All throughout Japan, you may see machines with spherical capsules inside. The capsules hold randomized prizes for anyone who dare try the Gatchas. You can get awesome prizes from cute figurines to stickers and key chains. It costs about 100 to 500 yen. The Gatcha pon hall is lined, floor to ceiling and everywhere in between, with Gatchas. It’s called gatcha because it will get you as soon as you try it once. When you walk in, you will feel your wallet start to empty.
7. Club SEGA
Number seven is the SEGA Mega Arcade as some like to call it, but the actual name is Club SEGA. It’s a 6-story building just past the green bridge that’s filled with arcade games (mainly claw machines). If you are a hardcore SEGA fan, you will really enjoy the 5th floor of Club Sega. The 5th floor is dedicated to the awesomeness of SEGA games. You will even find gacha machines inside, but considering if you intended to spend money to play games, specifically claw machines, you might as well spend it on the machines that are guaranteed a prize.
8. The Retro Game Store
Saving the best for last, store number seven is called The Retro Game Store. This store will have any 90s kid feeling very 懐かしい (natsukashi, meaning nostalgic), and yearning for the past. The store sells old game systems like SEGA Saturn, SEGA Dreamcast, GameCube, and others. If you are a Pokemon fan, you can find Japanese versions of all your favorite classics. Many people love games. Playing the Japanese versions is just another great way to study Japanese. The games are relatively cheap and the store is not difficult to find. Just follow the awesome retro Legend of Zelda music.
Taking in the hustle and bustle of Akihabara is a lot of fun. The place is lively during the day and the night, so take the time to enjoy both the day and the night scene (especially Akiba Bridge). But fair warning, unless you enjoy being squeezed into compact spaces like a sardine, don’t try to arrive or go home on any 6 o’clock hour trains. Many have learned about packed Tokyo trains the hard way, but at least they experienced the awesomeness of the electronic hub, the nesting ground for otakus, and the home of well-known AKB48–Akihabara, Tokyo, Japan.
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