Tokyo Series: Exploring Akihabara
Located in the Chiyoda ward of Tokyo, Akihabara is known as the Electric City and the centre of Otaku culture. This was by far my favourite place to explore in Tokyo, so much so that I had to come back twice. Akihabara is a must see for all your anime, manga and gaming needs. Sundays are especially great because the main streets are closed off to cars between 1PM - 6PM, allowing you to roam the streets freely. One thing I did notice about Tokyo is that a lot of shops tend to open much later (10AM - 11:30AM), so make sure you plan accordingly.
SHOPS note: be aware that the prices of goods vary significantly from store to store, so if you are trying to be money savvy, be ready to mentally note the prices of your favourite figurines while you explore. I've seen variations up to $20 for the same figurine in neighbouring shops! note 2: Here I've named a lot of well known shops that are fun to browse in, but I highly recommend venturing into the streets and exploring the smaller shops if you are looking to purchase. They are often cheaper because they house out of season goods. I can't recommend any specifically as they mostly had Japanese names, but they're not hard to find.
Radio Kaikan Location: 1 Chome-15-16 Sotokanda, Chiyoda City, Tokyo 101-0021
Hours: 10AM - 8PM This was my favourite building to see all sorts of anime, manga and gaming related goodies. I highly recommend it as I spent about 2-3 hours in here alone. This building is made up of 10 floors, and is filled with several shops ranging from figurines, toys, keychains, and trading cards which surrounds the main escalator. The first few floors are largely figurine based, with a lot of really cool pieces for you collectors out there. However, figurines can be found nearly everywhere in Akihabara, so be sure to shop around before purchasing (Photo 1).
If you're tired of spending money on Gachapon machines trying to get a specific pod, there are actually shops here that individually sell the majority of what's currently out on Gachapon machines. The prices are slightly marked up, but at least you can guarantee getting what you want (Photo 2)! There are also a few shops dedicated to airsoft equipments, with some guns modelled exclusively after your favourite games. I took a photo of Joker's gun from Persona 5 below (Photo 3). One of my favourite finds in here was the entire set of Fire Emblem Heroes stands. In true Gachapon style, you can try your luck at 13 different sets (all containing around 10 characters each) to try and grab your favourite heroes for $3.50 a box. I bought volume 3 (Easter Edition), but out of the whole set I ended up with 3 Catria and 0 Camilla. I also picked up the classic Ryoma and Olivia stands from the individual sales - It was $6 for Ryoma and $3.50 for Olivia (Photo 4).
Robot Robot + has a really cool section of classic and old Tamagotchi's including the old school Pocket Pikachu, to the new and rare Eevee Tamagotchi that was released early 2019 (Photo 5). Last but not least, don't forget to take the stairs for bonus views from the building (Photo 6)!
Here are some similar shops I highly recommend checking out if you liked Radio Kaikan:
Akiba Culture Zone Location: 1-chōme-7-6 Sotokanda, Chiyoda City, Tōkyō-to 101-0021 Hours: 11AM - 9:30PM
Animate Akihabara Location: 4-chōme-3-2 Sotokanda, Chiyoda City, Tōkyō-to 101-0021, Japan Hours: 10AM - 9PM
Hobby Paradise Location: 1 Chome-15-4 Sotokanda, Chiyoda City, Tokyo 101-0021, Japan Hours: 11AM - 8PM
Gamers Location: 101-0021 Tokyo, Chiyoda City, Sotokanda, 1 Chome−14−7 Hours: 10AM - 10PM
Location: 3 Chome-11-12 Sotokanda, Chiyoda City, Tokyo 101-0021 Hours: 12PM - 8PM This one wasn't really for me, but it is known to be quite popular. This building is rather cramped, with 8 floors of mostly retro toys. It's actually quite expensive (for some of the things that other shops still carry in store), but they also carry a lot of rare goods you might not find anywhere else.
1: This is where they do buy backs and checkouts. There are several displays of old school toys and figurines found here. 2: This floor has a large selection of doll themed merchandises - from body parts to clothes. You can also find some cosplay goodies here as well. 3 - 5 : These floors carry manga and comics, with the latter floors holding 18+ content which are separated by gender. 6: This is where you can find your old school video games from cartridges to DVDs and PCs.
7: Contains all your favourite retro toys, figurines and rare trading cards from Magic the Gathering, Yu-Gi-Oh! and Pokemon. 8: This is where they house all the newer toys.
Don Quijote Akihabara Location: 4 Chome-3-3 Sotokanda, Chiyoda City, Tokyo 101-0021 Hours: 9AM - 5AM This is a well known tax-free discount store found throughout Tokyo. The Akihabara location is one of my favourites because it contains all the merchandises you know and love found at Don Quijote, but here you have additional floors for crane games, arcades, and cafe entertainment. Don Quijote is a great place to get lost in because there is just so much to see. There's always something new in every corner, with prices ranging as low as $1 snacks to $10,000+ Hermes bags. I actually bought my rose gold Vivienne Westwood necklace at the Shinjuku location for $179USD, and found the exact same one at their flagship store at Harajuku for nearly $300USD.
Floor Guide - this particular Don Quijote starts at floor 2.
2: Here you can find Japanese snacks, drinks, and cosmetics.
3: Contains a variety of clothes, shoes, bags and toys.
4: Contains various second-hand brand names (LV, Gucci, Chanel, you name it), contact lenses, and several home related products.
5: This floor is a cosplay paradise with several maid cosplays that were extremely reasonable in price. I believe they were actually the same ones worn on the top floor of their maid cafe. 6: This floor is filled with crane machines and arcade games. 7: The last floor is reserved for their maid cafe.
Bic Camera Location: 4 Chome-1-1 Sotokanda, Chiyoda City, Tokyo 101-0021 Hours: 10AM - 9PM This building houses everything you can possibly need in one. Like most shops in Tokyo, they are several floors high, with each floor usually selling a particular theme. Bic Camera not only sells electronics, but also make up, figurines, games, toys, luggages and literally everything you can think of in between. Unfortunately when I went, it was half an hour before closing so I only got to explore their gaming level on the upper floor. Here I found my cute cat piano (on sale for $9.50 from $12 each), and a Japan exclusive DS game called Monster Hunter Diary ($65 new on Amazon, $10 used here). They also have some exclusive DS on sale. If you are hyping up for the 2020 Olympic, you can find official Olympic merchandise on the gaming floor. Pro-tip: show your passport for tax free 8% off your purchase and pay with your Visa for an additional 5% off.
セフィロティックツリー (Sepherothic Tree) Location: 3-chōme-8-15 Sotokanda, Chiyoda City, Tōkyō-to 101-0021 Hours: 11AM - 8PM Low key and away from the central buzz of Akihabara is a cool little store call Sepherothic tree. This small shop houses a lot of street wear infused with anime culture, bringing together some really cool collaborations and unique pieces. Reasonably priced for their quality and design, you can typically find pieces ranging anywhere from $35 for a T-shirt to $80 for a hoodie. I'm wearing an oversized top from them on the right.
note: while it's great to do your research on where to eat, sometimes reviews can be quite misleading and you often find the hidden gems from finding restaurants on your own. For instance, I tried a restaurant with nearly a 5 star review out of 3000, but it was extremely westernized and very much a tourist trap.
7th Floor Restaurant Ekimae Plaza Building Address: 1-18-18 Sotokanda Akihabara Ekimae Plaza Bldg 7F, Chiyoda 101-0021 Tokyo Prefecture Opening hours: 11:30AM
This was one of the restaurants we went to spontaneously, and I have to admit it was actually my favourite meal of the whole trip. The name was in Japanese so I can't say for certain what it was called, but it encompassed the entire 7th floor of the Ekimae Plaza Building. Set up like an Izakaya, the interior also looked rustic and Japanese. Although we arrived minutes after opening, there was still the scent of cigarettes lingering - it wasn't strong, but I suppose be weary if that's bothersome to you because it likely becomes worse throughout the day. The food however was amazing. There was a set lunch menu to choose from and I ordered the tempura rice bowl set, which also came with Soba noodles. I've never had tempura done so crispy and light in my life. The shrimp and fish was extremely fresh and soft. I don't like pumpkins, but after trying it like that, I absolutely devoured it. The soba noodles were light and refreshing, the perfect compliment to the main meal. We also opted for some appetizers and got the Calamari and Karaage (fried chicken), which again were fried so perfectly and tasted incredibly juicy and fresh.
天ぷら ひさご (Hisago) Location: 4 Chome-14-1 Sotokanda, Chiyoda City, Tokyo 101-0021 Hours: 11AM - 3PM, 5PM - 11PM
Located in the Akiba Ichi / Akiba Square amongst two other floors of incredible restaurant, sits this gem Hisago. This particular one can be found in the corner of the 3rd floor, featuring displays of their famous big tempura bowl combo. You already know I can't get enough of Tokyo's tempura sets. I believe this picture of deep fried goodness speaks for itself. It also comes with rice, corn salad, pickles, and miso soup on the side. Peep more photos from reviewers here.
Arcades can be found more or less in every corner of Akihabara. They all contain similar enough games to be ranked quite equally, and to be honest, they all begin to feel like the same place at some point. After exhausting ourselves from shopping, we usually spend the rest of the day arcade hopping. For most places, you'd find the first few floors dedicated to crane games ( which generally cost 100 yen per play or 500 yen for six plays. However, I noticed busier locations like Shibuya are 200 yen per play). Most arcades have floors for shooting/racing/combat games, and a separate floor for musical games (watching them play is mind blowing). Purikuras (photo booths) are either found on the next floor or off to the side by the arcades. Pachinkos (medal gambling games) usually have their own floors as well, and are more often than not a smoking zone. Only a few arcades have VR options. My favourite games from the trip was Mario Kart, Midnight racing and Tekken 7, especially when a challenger appears to kick my ass. note: most games are in Japanese only, very few have the option to change into English. With that being said, most games are fairly straight forward, with the exception of strategic games that vary from mini games to mini games.
View below for the big arcades founds in Akihabara.
Adores Akihabara Location: Chome-13-1 Sotokanda, Chiyoda City, Tokyo 101-0021 Hours: 10AM - 11:30PM
Hirose Entertainment Yard Location: 101-0021 Tokyo, Chiyoda City, Sotokanda, 1 Chome−10−5 Hours: 10AM - 11:45PM
Sega Akihabara Building 3 Location: 101-0021 Tokyo, Chiyoda City, Sotokanda, 1 Chome−11−11 Hours: 10AM - 11:30PM
Sega Akihabara Building 4 Location: 1 Chome-15-9 Sotokanda, Chiyoda City, Tokyo 101-0021
Hours: 10AM - 11:30PM Super Potato Location: 1 Chome-11-2 Sotokanda, Chiyoda City, Tokyo 101-0021 Hours: 10AM - 8PM
TAITO Station Location: 101-0021 Tokyo, Chiyoda City, Sotokanda, 4 Chome−2−2 Hours: 10AM - 11:30 PM
Tokyo Leisureland Location: 1 Chome-9-5 Sotokanda, Chiyoda City, Tokyo 101-0021 Hours: 10AM - 12:55AM
Other things to do
Gachapons: You can find them nearly everywhere on the streets, but here in Akihabara you can even find storefronts dedicated to these little machines.
Gundam Cafe: If you're a fan of Gundams, head over to the Gundam Cafe by Akihabara station. Here, you can eat a themed meal and drink lattes with Gundam exclusive designs. Don't worry if you missed out on this location, because they also have one in Odaiba.
Square Enix Cafe: Much like the Gundam Cafe, you can enjoy a Final Fantasy themed meal here.
Mocha Cat Cafe Akihabara: My favourite cat cafe chain has a location in Akihabara. Although I didn't personally get to visit this specific location, I've thoroughly enjoyed the way they conduct their cafes. This chain has the fanciest cat cafe in all of Tokyo - but I'll go into depth about the cat cafes in a separate post.
Maid Cafes: Definitely not something for me, but Akihabara does house a lot of maid cafes. You'd usually find these girls advertising their cafe out on the streets in their cute little maid costumes from the morning to late at night. You can watch videos online about this if you are unsure if you want to include this in your itinerary.