Akihabara is one of those areas that has gained international fame as a holy place for every anime fan to visit. Even though originally it was a place to get cheap household electronics and was home to the black market after World War II. From this time, the nickname Akihabara Denki Gai (Akihabara Electric Town) came about. The district later developed to be the center for Otaku culture as the electronics it was once known became more widely available. For people making the pilgrimage to Akihabara here are some shops and areas to check out while there.
Radio Kaikan is one of those one stop shops for all your needs. It spans over 9 floors with anime goods from figures to high end dolls. You can spend a good hour or two exploring the place and see if they have what you are looking for. On one floor, there is a section dedicated to real life idols as well as Love Live. I would recommend this place if you have a time restriction and want to get everything. The multi storied shop can be found near the Akihabara Electric Exit opposite of the area with the Gundam and AKB48 Cafes.
Mulan is one of those shops that if you want something from an UFO catcher, then they are most likely selling it for a set price. They also have a good variety of games, figures, and other miscellaneous items in stock. The downside is that you have to really look. There is no particular way they organize the stuff, but you can some pretty amazing things if you have the time to look. In the basement floor, it is a more organized figure room, but it is tight on space. If you are on a bit on the plus size then this place will be difficult to navigate through when it gets busy especially going up and down the stairs.
In an alleyway, next to the Sega building is this shop called Surugaya Specialty Store. You can recognize it by the blue exterior and the alluring anime figures on the first floor. The good about this place is the fact that it has a piece of everything as you ascend up to the other floors. The second floor is where you can get anime CDs as well as idol stuff. They also sell doujinshi, but it will take some time to find the one that you want, unless you can read Japanese. It is just a great location near Akihabara station and you can find some pretty old stuff if you have the time to look through it.
Kotobukiya is an alley away from the main Chuo Dori in Akihabara. There are 5 floors, but the fifth floor is only open when an event is held. The first floor is a good mix of very well-known series, which include Final Fantasy, Star Wars, Studio Ghibli, Marvel/DC, Monster Hunter, and Nintendo. The second floor focuses more on popular anime series like Love Live, SAO, Touken Ranbu, Tales Series, and Fate. On the third floor are model kits as well as the materials to design them. The 4th was a mystery, but it seems that for now a section has dedicated to Starts, but the rest of it was of something else. If you like any of the series mentioned above, then it is a place that should not be missed.
Super Potato and Retro Game Camp fill the soul with nostalgia. These are two places you can get old school games and consoles from the 80s and onwards. Super Potato spans over three floors, but the top floor is a game center where you can place old versus games like Street Fighter. Retro Game Camp is in a basement and is smaller than Super Potato, but there were some games there that were not in the other. The prices they had at both shops, it would be hard to not spend your well-earned money on all the games. The only downside is that almost all the games are in Japanese, so unless you know the language it may be difficult to play the games.
On the 7th and 8th of a building is a place called Yellow Submarine. It is a place where you can get goods related to card gaming like Magic the Gathering and Yu-Gi-Oh. The eighth floor has many board games and dice available. There were many different Dungeons and Dragons boards for sale as well as Japanese games. The 7th is where you can find all the trading cards. There are tables on both floors for you to play with your friends or complete strangers. If the tournament you enter allows cards in another language then it will be a great opportunity to get some cards. If you cannot find Yellow Submarine there is a branch of it located in the Radio Kaikan.
No matter where you walk in Akihabara you are bound to pass by a game center or two. The most notable ones are Sega, Adores, and Taito Station. There are a few without a name, but you can recognize them by the alluring UFO catchers. The UFO catchers are Japan’s version of claw machines, but instead of three prongs there are only two. Then on other floors are different arcade games that you can try. If you plan on playing a game over and over it is best to get a game card that saves your gaming profile. For example, the Tsum Tsum Arcade Game uses an e-Amusement Pass to save your progress and the Tsum Tsums you have purchased.
Where to begin on cafes? If you see a maid outside handing out fliers then you can be sure there is one nearby either in the building behind them or down the block. The two major maid cafes are Maidreamin and @home in Akihabara. There are others, but you’ll see the most advertisement from those two brands. If maids are not your thing then there are the Gundam and AKB48 cafes near the UDX Building. The Square-Enix Café was recently added to the Yodobashi Camera building and reservations can be made up to 3 days in advance. Then there is also the Good Smile X Animate collaboration, where their theme changes every other month.
Don Quixote or Donki for short is a one stop shop for various goods at reasonable prices. You can find costumes, anime goods, consumable products, kigurumi, Gundam models and car accessories. All of those items were on one floor. There are three other floors with goods to explore. On the 5th floor you can find the cosplay items like maid outfits. The downside to this Don Quixote is the fact that is closes earlier than the rest of the building. Still it is fun to explore all the floors and see what you can find in their shelves of temptation.
So many figures so little luggage space. If you live in Japan then you are lucky to not have to worry about lugging this stuff back to another country. Walking down Chuo Dori (the main street of Akihabara), chances are a figure shop or two will catch your eye. Some of the prices are reasonable enough, but if you want to find a better deal then be sure to thoroughly explore the shelves. In most shops, there are these glass containers with shelves of figures where sometimes it is neatly organized or complete chaos. Other times to save space they have these print out flyers of their most recent product and all you would have to do is bring it to the counter and they will go to the back to retrieve the item. It beats having to restock the shelves of popular items.
In some of the larger buildings you can find places known as Hobby Shops. These shops usually focus on military or model goods. For the military stuff, it is more related to this activity known as survival games. It is an activity that involves airsoft or paintball guns to capture the flag or see who the last man standing. As for model goods, it ranges from cars to military replicas. Depending on your interest you can find shops completely dedicated to them. From what I have seen the Tam Tam Hobby Shop is one of the bigger ones and is located on the Chuo Street. It is just a bit a walk away from Akihabara station.
There are plenty of restaurants to eat at in Akihabara. However, there is a great number of ramen shops all over the area. People have recommended to at least eat at one ramen place, but truthfully it would be better to go to the fried chicken (karaage) restaurant. It is a little pricey, but the meat is moist and delicious. If not, then exploring can lead you to places that serve Italian food or rice bowls. One good place is Atre Akihabara 2 because it has 5 floors of restaurants. This Atre is located across the Yodobashi Camera building. To avoid confusion, it is not the one at Akihabara Station near the AKB48 café. That one is known as Atre Akihabara 1.
Before the pop culture settled in, Akihabara was best known as a place to get cheap household electronics after World War II. Yodobashi Camera is the biggest and most known electronic store in the area, but if you were to wander around you can find alleys filled small electronic shops. There are some pretty good deals, but the electrons are not as cheap as it used to be. Since it has grown to be a tourist area as well as an IT hub the prices have fluctuated. You can still find some very useful electronics and computer parts, but it is best to compare prices before making the final decision to buy.
The UDX Building has appeared in the popular Love Live series and is the place where the Tokyo Anime Center is located. Truthfully the Tokyo Anime Center is small and you can be done in 10 minutes. The place to go is the UDX parking because on the weekend you can see fans with their Itasha cars. Then if you are hungry there is Akiba Ichi, which has a variety of restaurants. Another place to stop by is Akiba Info, which is the tourist information booth. There you can get some helpful maps of Akihabara in different languages or buy something from the shop. Currently they are collaborating with the Astro Boy series.