The Wowsabi Guide To Akihabara

akiba car

Bright, bustling, weird and wonderful, there’s no place in the world quite like Akihabara. The birthplace of otaku culture is teeming with adventure, and with so much to explore and so little time, where do you even start?

Well why here of course! 😉 We’ve put together a list of cool things to do and eat here, plus a few handy itineraries to help you plan your trip and maximize your time (and fun). Whether you have a couple of hours or a whole day, you’ll be navigating Akihabara like a boss.

 

What To Do In Akihabara

 
Quick links

 

Getting There

akihabara train

Chances are you’ll be coming through either one of the JR lines (Yamanote, Keihin-Tohoku and Sobu) or the Tokyo Metro Hibiya line. The Hyperdia website is really handy to find the cheapest and fastest route. The Google Maps app is great too.

Here’s how to get to our starting point at the JR Electric Town Exit:

 
start-map

If you’re coming from the JR line, just take the Electric Town exit. BAM.

From the Tokyo Metro Hibiya line, go up to the JR Akihabara Sta. District Gate exit, walk past Yodobashi Camera toward JR Akihabara station’s Electric Town exit.

Now that you’re there, let’s see what Akiba has in store for us!

 

Things to do in Akihabara

You can probably cover most of the highlights here in a day if you don’t linger too long at any one spot, but when you could easily blow through half a day in the cavernous Yodobashi Camera store alone, that’s a lot easier said than done!

It’s best to have a general plan, but don’t be afraid to drop a few things off the list to spend more time at a place that you like. After all, it’s all about having fun, not checking things off a list.

 

Random Akihabara Fact: About half of the otaku population are female, but many of them wouldn’t be caught dead being seen there by their friends or colleagues for fear of being labeled an otaku. So they usually go alone and often disguise themselves by wearing surgical masks, sunglasses or even wigs whenever they pop by for their nerdy fix.

If you only have half a day or a few hours, we suggest picking (at most) 2-3 places that tickle your inner otaku and take your time to fully enjoy everything there.

Remember to bring along your passport to benefit from the tax-free shopping at most shops for purchases 10,000 Yen and above.

Here’s a short guide to help you decide what to do in Akihabara:

 

Radio Kaikan

radio kaikan akihabara

This is where it all began – opened in 1962, Radio Kaikan was the first and only high rise in Akihabara, selling many Japanese people their first TVs, washing machines, and fridges.

It eventually evolved into an otaku heaven, selling video games, manga, figures, dolls and models. One of its most popular tenants was the original Kaiyodo flagship store that started the whole anime figure revolution selling Evangelion figures in the 90s.

After the big earthquake in 2011, the building was torn down and rebuilt, and while it’s lost a lot of its original charm (I feel it’s too bright and sterile now), it’s still a great one-stop place for all your anime related needs, especially if you’re on a tight schedule.

Almost anything you can find in the shops elsewhere you’re likely to find in Radio Kaikan. So if you only have time for one place, this is it.


Hours: 10am-8pm
Website: http://www.akihabara-radiokaikan.co.jp/
Map: https://goo.gl/maps/3uADVjL8Pfp


 

M’s

m's akihabara

Located on the corner just outside the Electric Town exit, M’s is one of Akihabara’s most famous landmarks with its big green sign. Inside you’ll find a full range of lifestyle products, from sexy cosplay sets to adult DVDs of every niche you can imagine (and many more you can’t!), to the latest in um… personal relaxation technology.

If it sounds a bit dodgy, don’t worry – it’s not. The lights are bright, the floors clean and the products neatly arranged. Most of the people who come here are young couples and giggling visitors just like yourself.

If you’re a girl, you can get up to 30% off on selected apparel if you’re willing to wear it and pose for a Polaroid picture that will go up on the wall.

But even if you’re not looking to buy anything, the store is heaps of fun to browse through. They also have a couple of “used” panty vending machines in the basement. Oh and show your passport at the cashier to get an instant 8% off most products, no forms required.


Hours: 10.00am-11.00pm
Website: http://www.ms-online.co.jp/ (NSFW)
Map: https://goo.gl/maps/Ys3svfLuWAM2


 

Maidreamin Maid Cafe

maidreamin maid cafe akihabara

The most popular chain of maid cafes in Akihabara is a blast. Expect super cutesy food, ridiculously energetic dance performances and a chance to channel your inner nyan.

It’s not the cheapest but it’s definitely one of the more unique and entertaining things to do in Akihabara. We were there last year with our friends Chris, Charles and Rachel and Jun and it was a complete riot! Although I don’t think I’ll ever recover from seeing Chris in a maid costume.


Hours: 11.30am-11.00pm (Weekdays), 10.30am-11:00am (Weekends and Public Holidays)
Website: http://maidreamin.com/en/shop/akiba_heaven
Map: https://goo.gl/maps/EybWBAQB8CK2

(Doesn’t show up on Google Maps for some reason, but the cafe is in the same building on the 6th floor. There’s plenty of signage – you can’t miss it.)


 

Kotobukiya

kotobukiya akihabara

Their main store in Akihabara used to be on the ground floor of the original Radio Kaikan, but after it was closed for reconstruction, Kotobukiya moved to their own multi-storey building just across the Chuo Dori.

Lots of neat stuff to check out here, from Final Fantasy plushies and Love Live wall scrolls to a whole floor dedicated to Star Wars stuff upstairs.

Look out for the sale bin at the front of the store – a couple of years ago I snagged a full Naruto cosplay set for only 2000 Yen, 80% off the original price!


Hours: 10.00am-8.00pm
Website: http://en.kotobukiya.co.jp/kotobukiya-akihabara-store-floor-guide/
Map: https://goo.gl/maps/vH2tF5xPhRE2


 

Super Potato

kirby hanging from the ceiling

If you grew up playing video games in the 80s and 90s, this shop will blow your mind. There are tons of classic and obscure games from the past, some of them playable on the demo consoles found around the shop.

It’s like a game museum where you can actually buy the stuff you like on display! Super Potato is so awesome we wrote an entire blog post on it. Read all about it here.


Hours: 10.00am-8.00pm
Website: www.superpotato.com (Japanese)
Map: https://goo.gl/maps/LwSepfd9XZM2


 

Mandarake

mandarake akihabara

You’ll definitely see this one walking down Chuo Dori – it’s the big, black brooding building a little further down from Super Potato. Inside is floor after floor of every game, anime and manga related merchandise you can think of, from classics to current favorites.

They stock plenty of second hand and used goods, manga, figures, original animation cels and some really rare and interesting stuff. It’s a great place to pick up souvenirs for your otaku friends back home.

And in case you’re wondering how to pronounce it, it’s marn-dar-rah-kay.


Hours: 12.00pm-8.00pm
Website: http://www.mandarake.co.jp/en/shop/cmp.html
Map: https://goo.gl/maps/jR3DMeoi4jF2


 

Don Quijote

don quijote akihabara

This hugely popular discount store is a jungle of shelves with lined with tens of thousands of products, from cosplay goods to food, electronics and furniture, all at low, low prices.

Besides the nice discounts, this particular Don Quijote is famous for being home to the original maid cafe @home and more notably the birthplace of the hugely popular J-Pop group AKB48, who still regularly perform in the theater on the 8th floor.

They also have the most ridiculously catchy theme song EVER.

 


Hours: 10.00am-5.00am
Website: http://www.donki.com/en/store/shop_detail.php?shop_id=98
Map: https://goo.gl/maps/3gAp7rwQPPn


 

Gachapon Hall

gachapon hall akihabara

At about 200-300 Yen a pop, these little capsule toys are SO addictive! From playful Pikachu figures that hang off your cup to bottle panties and butt-poking salarymen, there’s something for everyone. They make excellent gifts for your friends back home too.

While you can easily find gachapon machines strewn all across Akihabara, what makes the Gachapon Hall special is the old school Akihabara experience. Row after row of capsule toy machines line the walls of the old shop, with barely enough room to wiggle your way around and find something worthy of your coins.

There’s just something really satisfying about hustling your way around, cranking the machine, snapping open the plastic shell and seeing what you got!


Hours: 11.00am-8.00pm (Mon-Thu), 11.00am-10.00pm (Fri,Sat and eve of public holidays), 11.00am-7.00pm (Sun and Public Holidays)
Map: https://goo.gl/maps/FBcDKLQE2792


 

Taito Game Station

taito game station akihabara

Tired of looking at stuff and want a change of pace? Head on over the big red building with the space invader sign along Chuo Dori and try your hand at the crane games (or UFO catchers as they’re called here)!

Some say that they’re a scam, but we don’t think so. There’s a definite skill involved, and if you get the hang of it, you have a more than decent chance of bagging that super cute Gudetama plushie like we did.

Tip: Look for prizes (usually plushies) with tags that you can slip one of the claws into and snag on the way up.

Also, if you haven’t done it yet, you should try out the purikura booths! They’re cheap, fun, and make a great (and often hilarious) memento of your trip to Japan.


Hours: 10.00am-12.00am
Website: http://www.taito.com/gc/storelist
Map: https://goo.gl/maps/s6w5ZCY9dt22


 

Gundam cafe

gundam cafe akihabara

We haven’t been here before, but if you’re a Gundam fan this place is for you! The themed food is pretty cool looking, and they have a takeout section next to the entrance selling hot snacks like Gundam-shaped taiyaki in case you don’t have time to pop in.


Hours: 10.00am-10.30pm
Website: http://g-cafe.jp/english/
Map: https://goo.gl/maps/kvFJuu7s1Zo


 

Yodobashi Camera

yodobashi akihabara

Once you enter this giant Yodobashi Camera, say goodbye to the rest of your day. It’s humongous – floor after floor of cameras, home appliances, phone and computer accessories, toys, games, and even luxury watches that will seriously test your resolve to keep that credit card in your wallet.

While this Yodobashi is one of the most popular places in Akihabara, you can find them at almost every major area in Tokyo too, so if you’re visiting Akihabara and don’t have much time, feel free to give this one a skip – you won’t be missing much.


Hours: 9.30am-10.00pm (YY Gourmet restaurant floor from 11.00am-11.00pm)
Website: http://www.yodobashi-akiba.com/ (Japanese)
Map: https://goo.gl/maps/unAwtraMyYq


 

Where to eat

akiba ichi sushi

All that walking and shopping must be whipping up an appetite! If you don’t plan to visit the maid cafe, there are small cafes and restaurants on every block and most are decent. A lot of them have english menus too.

But if you want to save some energy looking for something to eat, we recommend the newly renovated Akiba Ichi in the UDX building right next to the JR Akihabara station. There are three floors of dining choices at decent prices. Look for it on the right of the JR Akihabara station’s Electric Town exit, up the pedestrian bridge.

 
obon de gohan yodobashi akihabara

Also recommended is the new YY Gourmet on the 8th floor of Yodobashi Camera. One of our favorite teishoku shops Obon de Gohan is there, along with many other yummy restaurants and cafes.

 

Where to stay

remm akiba view

 

Akihabara

Akihabara is one of the best places to base your trip in Tokyo – it’s only minutes from all the popular places like Shibuya, Shinjuku, Ginza, Tsukiji, Asakusa, Odaiba, Tokyo Disneyland and Disney Sea, and it’s also near Haneda airport.

And of course, staying here all of Akihabara is literally at your doorstep, so you’ll have more time to explore the area and less time wasted sitting on a train.

If you don’t know where to stay in Akihabara, here are a few of our favorite hotels in the area. They’re all very near the station, have great looking rooms and are very reasonably priced.

 

Remm Akihabara

remm hotel akihabara

Remm Akihabara’s location can’t be beat, right outside the JR Akihabara Central Gate exit. Besides the fantastic location, we love the hotel’s minimalist interior design and nicely appointed rooms. The city view from the upper floors are gorgeous at night, and there’s free Wi-Fi too. Rates are mid-range but great value considering the comfort and convenience.

 

Akihabara Washington Hotel

washington hotel akihabara

Akihabara Washington is right across the street from Remm. As with most hotels in Japan, the rooms are relatively small, but they’re clean, comfortable and conveniently located. A great backup option if Remm is fully booked (as it often is).

 

APA Hotel Akihabara Ekimae

apa hotel akihabara ekimae

Another good option near the station is APA Hotel Akihabara Ekimae, which means “in front of the station”. 24 hour front desk and free Wi-Fi in all rooms.

For more hotels in Akihabara click here.

 

Ueno

A lot of people like to stay in Ueno while they’re in Tokyo. It’s only a couple of stops away from Akihabara and has many affordable hotels that overlook the scenic Ueno Park, which includes the Ueno Zoo and Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum. Ueno station is a major train hub and is super convenient for zipping around town and to the airport.

 

Hotel Sardonyx Ueno

hotel sardonyx ueno

Interesting name choice aside, Hotel Sardonyx Ueno reopens to the public in July 2016 after a full renovation, so expect everything to be nice and new. The hotel is located in between Okachimachi and Ueno station on the JR Yamanote line, and there’s plenty of good food and shopping nearby.

 

Tokyo Ueno Hotel

tokyo ueno hotel

Although slightly further from Ueno station (8-10 mins on foot), Tokyo Ueno hotel is relatively cheap, and the bathrooms are bigger than the usual Japanese standards. A great choice if you’re on a smaller budget but still want convenient access to a major train hub.

For more hotels in Ueno click here.

 

Note that these links to Agoda.com are our affiliate links. Clicking and booking your hotel through these links not only gets you the best possible room rates, but you’ll also help support our blog (at zero cost to you).

We hope to be swimming in a pile of Yen from this, but who are we kidding – we’ll just barely cover the hosting bills, if we’re lucky. 🙂 Thanks for your support! If you prefer not to use our affiliate links, here’s a direct link to Agoda.com.

 

Suggested Akihabara Itinerary

akihabara street maids

All the itineraries start from JR Akihabara station’s Electric Town Exit, and are in their recommended order. After many (many) visits to Akihabara, we’ve found that these are the optimal routes, covering the most popular attractions with the least amount of walk time. You’ll essentially be making a loop around Chuo Dori and ending up back near the train station.

You can start at any time, but keep in mind that most places in Akihabara aside from F&B outlets close at around 8pm so the earlier the better.


2-3 Hours

Half Day

Full Day


We’ve tried to include some of the most interesting and popular places in Akihabara in this guide, but they’re really just the tip of the iceberg. Hundreds of interesting little shops line the tiny back streets just waiting to be discovered. If you have the time, we encourage you to venture down the basements and up the elevators to explore!

 

You know you're in Akihabara when… 🤔😂

A photo posted by Wowsabi (@wowsabiblog) on

Well, there you have it. We hope that this Akihabara guide comes in handy on your next trip there. Have fun, and may the otaku be with you! 🙂

If you found this guide useful, please share it forward!

 

Image credits: IQRemix, kentarou2014 and Lars_W

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  • Hanayo Koizumi

    Thanks! I appreciate the nice blog post. 🙂

  • Sandra Ybarra

    Thank you so much! we are going in Oct and your site is awesome and so helpful! Plus I am FWD this to my son if he has not already been to visit.

    • Hi Sandra! We’re thrilled you found the guide useful, and hope you have the most amazing time in Japan!

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