All anime fans have heard of Akihabara once in their life. It’s the ultimate goal to live the dream and walk down through colorful streets filled with signs of our favorite 2D characters. This district is known as the Electric Town of Japan and there are all sorts of treasures and new discoveries waiting for you.
While I cannot make this a full documentary of my experiences there, I can give some tips and maybe hit you with some inspiration to take yourself on an adventure to this energetic little town.
One of the first places that you should check out in Akihabara is the arcades. As someone who hasn’t played in a video game arcade since he was six… I managed to relive some nostalgia as a strapping young whippersnapper now. Club Sega and Taito Station are two spots that I would recommend visiting if you wish to get a taste of joystick gaming. My only two complaints are that there are people who actively smoke in these environments, so you will have to bear with the lingering smells. And second, it can become crowded and cramped on the weekends. If you want to a more thorough look at the arcades, I’d suggest checking it out during the weekdays when the kids are at school and the adults are at work. After hours are when the arcades start coming more to life.
The unique part about the arcades is that there are multiple floors of gaming genres. On one floor, you’ll have UFO catchers to grab figurines. Then on another floor, you’ll have arcade stations dedicated to fighting games such as Blazblue or Tekken. Then on another floor, you’ll even have people playing card games or even rhythm games. One of my favorite experiences wasn’t simply playing the games, but watching fellow Japanese gamers enjoying themselves in their own environment. It just goes to show that language of gaming is universal.
2. Hobby Stores
Yes, yes. The main reasons why people come here is to find some legendary anime swag to show off to their friends. While it would be nice to thoroughly go there all of the shops there, it’s more fun to have an adventure for yourself and make some discoveries. The Super Potato is a place worth checking out as it has decades of video games dating back to the NES to the more recent with the PS4. Animate has over six floors of anime merchandise such as magazines from NewType, music CDs from popular anime titles such as Idolmaster or Love Live and mountains of manga with various titles as far as the eye can see. Due to the fact that these stores can be busy on the weekends, it’s good to check things out on the weekdays to find what you’re really looking for.
One of the biggest gift shops I visited was known as The Akiba and it is 10 floors of hobby goodness for all kinds of otaku. Varying from Gundam models, to military hardware and so on. You might want to pack a nice pair of hiking shoes when you go there. You’ll definitely get your days’ worth of exercise.
And there are no worries if you’re nervous about paying for items as a foreigner. The employees are very commentating and will go out of their way to make sure that you have a nice and smooth purpose at their store. Customer service in Japan is top of the line with their hospitality.
3. Shrines and Restaurants
Chances are that you want to grab a quick bite while you’re exploring Akihabara. I would recommend getting some good eating at a place called the Gundam café. All mecha fans will enjoy a nice meal with the Gundam openings playing in the background and the aesthetics with various Gundam pictures on the walls of the restaurant. There are other places such as KFC, Macdonalds or Carl’s Jr that you can visit if you're on a budget and want a taste of fast food.
Also I would suggest checking out the Myojin Shrine for a pleasantly spiritual experience. Fans of Love Live will consider this as a holy ground as seen in the actual show.
While I wished to explore more of Japan, my adventures in Akihabara proven to be a good start of what I hope to be many more. It felt like a never-ending anime convention. Hopefully, this had given you some inspiration to come down and check out this piece of paradise for yourself. Happy travels!