Tokyo - Akihabara
Akihabara, sometimes dubbed Electric city, is the otaku capital of the world. Otaku literally means obsessive and it refers to the millions of nerds who fill their days with gaming, collecting cards, reading manga and watching anime.
It’s recommended to visit Akihabara during daytime, as many shops close around 8PM and there are few good restaurants and bars.
On Sundays the main street called Chuo Dori is closed for car traffic from 13:00 to 18:00 (17:00 October through March). The street turns into an unoffical cosplay parade.
Arguably the biggest attraction in Akihbara is Yodobashi, a huge electronics store that spans 9 floors and has everything you could wish for.
The only problem: everything is in Japanese. So before you go and buy that new camera (with only 8% consumption tax, so prices are likely to be lower than in your home country) make sure to verify that the menu can be set to English.
What’s geekier than spinning a yoyo? At yoyofactory you can find thousands of different models and even a tiny yoyo museum, which is literally just two cabinets full of yoyos.
This shop reminded me of the TED Talk called My Journey to Yoyo Mastery.
Super Potato is the place to go for all your retro gaming needs. It spans 3 small floors with the top floor being a retro arcade. You could call it an unofficial retro gaming museum.
Prices vary a lot: Super Famicom (SNES) consoles and games are more expensive than more recent consoles such as Playstations and Gamecubes. For reference, I found a Playstation 1 for ¥500, a Nintendo 64 for ¥1600 and a Dreamcast for ¥4800. I guess it has to do with the retro factor and probably just the rarity of a brand new SNES.
I enjoyed playing my favorite arcade game Metal Slug at the retro arcade.
Walking the streets of Akihabara, you’ll see girls dressed in French maid costumes advertising maid bars. You can’t take pictures of them so you’ll have to be a bit sneaky about it.
A maid bar is a place where costumed girls will accompany you and treat you like their “master”. They will shout things like “Welcome home, master” as if you were coming from a long trip. You pay a certain amount of money to sip a drink or eat a themed ice cream while talking to the girls. Some maid bars advertise English speaking staff, such as a place called @home.
I never went to a maid bar so I can’t tell you much.
M’s is a 7 floor sex shop which you just have to visit for its weirdness. From vibrators to SM costumes to fake vaginas - they have it all. Watch Japanese businessmen casually checking out police costumes for girls and wonder where their thoughts are.
Hey! (Hirose Entertainment Yard)
Old school arcade machines at Hirose Entertainment Yard.
The best arcade in Akihabara. Hundreds of old school games like Galaga and Tetris combined with the newest offerings such as Street Fighter 4, Tekken tag tournament 2 and Midnight Run.
- See: Gaming halls
- Tokyo Anime Center in the UDX Building (4F): the name sounds good, but this is just a few TV screens and a small shop.
- Gundam wing café: overpriced drinks in a café that doesn’t really look themed at all.
- UFO catchers/Claw cranes: many arcades have these crane machines where you insert ¥200 in the hopes of grabbing a price. This is obviously a money trap that will only lead to a bit of disappointment. Many people believe the machines are rigged.