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Once known as Electric Town, Akihabara is now a magnet for video games, anime, and manga hobbyists and many themed cafes.
We often get asked by friends and readers on Japan travel tips and itineraries so we try our best to share our Japan experiences on the blog. However, one city we didn’t have much travel content on was Tokyo. Why? Since Nami’s family only lives 7 miles (15 km) from Tokyo and 15 miles (23 km) to Shibuya, it never seemed like a “Japan travel destination” for us.
As we get repeated request for Tokyo travel guide, we spent 6 days this past summer in Tokyo exploring different wards, activities to do, places to visit and eat. This is just the beginning of our Tokyo travel guide and we’ll continue adding to these posts as we explore new adventure and experiences. We hope you will enjoy traveling throughout Tokyo with our family.
The reality is that it’s impossible to finish exploring Tokyo in 6 days, or even possibly a month. There are simply way too many options for dining, sightseeing, and entertainment! This is our first effort to share Tokyo with you and we hope you’ll enjoy our journey. There is something for everyone in Tokyo so pick and choose what your heart desires when you visit.
For the Tokyo travel guide series, we’ll share the following posts:
- Shinjuku 新宿
- Meiji Jingu 明治神宮
- Harajuku and Omotesando 原宿・表参道
- Shibuya 渋谷
- Roppongi 六本木ヒルズ
- Tokyo Tower (update) 東京タワー
- Ginza 銀座
- Imperial East Garden 皇居東御苑
- Akihabara 秋葉原
- Ueno 上野
- Kappabashi かっぱ橋道具街
- Tokyo Dome City 東京ドームシティー
- Asakusa (update) 浅草
- Tokyo Sky Tree (update) 東京スカイツリー
- Odaiba お台場
You might notice there are many areas/wards/stations we missed in Tokyo from the above list, like Tokyo Station. It’s because we simply ran out of time to cover and will add it in a future trip. If you have any specific requests, please comment below and we’ll try to add it to our future itineraries.
Akihabara Travel Guide
When we visited Akihabara, we had only planned to spend a short time there. Somehow between the hobby stores and the video game arcades, the hours went by quickly and we ended up spending half a day. Come join us as we explore the unique hobby stores, Don Quijote megastore, and Gachapon Hall in Akihabara.
Around Akihabara Station
When you first exit Akihabara station, it could be difficult to orient yourself. No worries, here’s a tip to find your way quickly, The main strip for Akihabara is on Chuo Dori (中央通り) to the west of the station. The east side of the station has the giant Yodobashi Camera store. If you see the Yodobashi Camera store, head in the other direction to get to Chuo Dori.
In case you’re looking for any type of consumer electronics including camera equipment, games, computers, or kitchen gadgets, Yodobashi Camera is a good bet as it’s one of the largest electronics chains in Japan.
As you walk to the west side of the station, the unmistakable neon lights, see through escalators, and anime billboards of Akihabara greet you.
In this area directly west of the station, the streets are lined with various electronics and hobby stores.
Akihabara Hobby Stores
As we peek inside many of the hobby stores, they are filled with clear cases featuring various comic and anime characters. I’ll be honest, as someone who grew up in Asia and has read an obscenely large number of comic books, there’s something magical and nostalgic about all these anime characters. It was difficult for me to suppress the urge to take some home.
There are small and large hobby stores, and the large stores like Volks Hobby Paradise had thousands of characters on display and each one was meticulously crafted with exact details.
There were characters from many anime but the most popular one by far is One Piece. Quite a large percentage of the display cases featured One Piece characters. The characters ranged from the lower range of 2,000 yen all the way up to 30,000 yen+.
Besides the hobby shops and various retail stores on the main strip, there are older malls lined with small stalls each specializing in a specific type of electronics or hobby goods.
Akihabara Video Arcades
There are many differences for life in a big city between the US and Japan. One of the big differences is the number of video arcades available. In Japan, there are large video arcades on the top floors of malls featuring the latest video games, casino machines, and UFO catchers. Akihabara takes this to a whole new level with entire building dedicated to arcades games including a few operated by SEGA.
To rewards our children for being such good sports and going everywhere with us, we made a quick pit stop at one of the SEGA video arcade.
Inside of most arcades, there are also many UFO catcher machines which offer a range of prizes from oversized snacks to stuff animals.
Akihabara Gachapon Hall (Capsule Vending Machines)
If you have been to Japan, you’ve probably seen Gachapon/Gashapon or the capsule vending machines. In case you’re not familiar, Gachapon is a vending machine where you put coins and twist the handlebar, and one of the random objects for the machine’s theme will come out. They used to be present in US supermarkets and pharmacy stores but you don’t see them as often anymore.
What’s so cool about Akihabara Gachapon Hall? It has 400+ Gachapon machines in 1 place!
At Gachapon Hall, their vending machine gives random objects a whole new meaning. Among the more exotic gifts you can get, they include glow sticks, BBQ beef intestine phone straps, and miniature microscope just to name a few.
Akihabara Don Quijote
Speaking of stores and random goods, no experience to Japan is complete with visiting a Don Quijote megastore. The one in Akihabara is 8 floors with 2 game floors, a maid cafe, and the AKB48 theater at the top.
So what is Don Quijote? It’s like a general + electronics + shoe + bags + most random things discount store ever. Here are just some of things they carry below.
Besides clothing, toys, and random home goods, they also carry coin banks with characters that pop out and grab the coins with their arms, fireworks, and shampoo. What’s fun and a bit frustrating at the same time is that the products aren’t really organized by categories so it’s a complete treasure hunt as you go inside to find what you’re looking for. Our family had a blast this summer visiting many Don Quijote stores.
Menya Haruka 麺屋はるか
After browsing all morning, we got hungry so we stopped for delicious Taiwan Maze Soba (台湾まぜそば) at Menya Haruka. We previously tried Taiwan style Maze Soba in Nagoya where it was first invented but it wasn’t that good. Since Menya Haruka is highly rated so we gave it another shot.
The store is quite small and only fits about 20 patrons.
Soon after we sat down, the noodles were served to us. To eat the maze soba, you maze-ru (which means “mix” in Japanese) the noodles and toppings together to enjoy the noodle dish. It turned out to be a great choice; the noodles were fantastic and the sauce was super tasty. Just keep in mind it’s very filling and heavy, and the garlic flavor is really strong.
Akihabara Themed Cafes
Lastly, we didn’t get a chance to do so but you can check out the several themed cafes in the area.
Akihabara is known for its themed cafes including Gundam Cafe, AKB48 Cafe, maid cafes, and animal cafes with cats and owls.
As always, thank you for reading our travel post. We hope you enjoyed traveling to Akihabara with us. If you are interested in reading about other parts of Japan, check out the post below read about our other travel experiences Tokyo. We’ll see you soon in our next travel post and tour the National Museums at Ueno.