Hands down, Akihabara is the center of Otaku culture! Every year, millions of people from around the world flock to Tokyo like pilgrims making a holy journey for all the shopping, food, and fun that Akihabara has to offer.
The best thing about this area is that no matter what fandom you belong to, you can find it here! Big-name merchandise shops and individual collectors have their wares for sale. You can also find comic books and DVDs not yet released in your country. Or, if you’re not interested in shopping, hit up the arcades to while away the hours.
With electronic stores, anime shops, and themed cafes galore, it’s easy to spend a full day in Akihabara! But which shops will cater to your needs? Where will you break for lunch? And what are some sightseeing spots worth checking out? Here’s our guide on everything to see and do.
Akihabara is in the heart of Tokyo just a few minutes north of much-loved destinations like Ginza and the Tsukiji Fish Market. The easiest way to access the district is to take the JR Yamanote Line to Akihabara Station, but you can also reach it from Iwamotocho Station.
Most of the action happens around Chuo-Dori Street outside of the Electric Town exit. You might feel tempted to go as soon as you land in Narita Airport, but try to save your voyage until the weekend. On Sundays, the road closes off to car traffic, making it easier for you to dash from shop to shop. You’ll see street performers, cosplayers, and maids out on the streets on Sundays.
In the West, arcades have fluctuated in and out of fashion, but they’re a mainstay in Japan! Game centers—as they’re called in Japanese—are often several stories high and have different types of machines on every floor. You can also find small arcades inside of shopping center complexes. In Akihabara, they’re on almost every block of Chuo-Dori, but if you’re looking for the best ones, check out these places!
Do your fond childhood memories include playing Mario while drinking a Hi-C Ecto Cooler? At Super Potato, you can relive the 80s and 90s, when PlayStation and Game Boy were becoming household names. You’re sure to exclaim, “Natsukashi!” (so nostalgic!) as soon as you enter.
The third and fifth floors are a paradise for any vintage lover. The skinny aisles are a treasure trove of games and equipment that you can’t find anywhere else! You’ll also spot rare merchandise and toys like stuffed animals, soundtracks, and keychains that you can browse to your heart’s content.
There are four Club Segas in Akihabara, and each boasts distinguishable characteristics and arrays of video games. You can always bet on seeing UFO Catchers on the first few floors, while the rest is up to the particular building. Sega Building No. 3 and No. 4 have a wide selection of things to do, while No. 1 and No. 2 cater to hardcore Otakus. Do yourself a favor and check out all four!
If you’re more of a gamer than an anime fan, you might enjoy Building No. 4’s classic arcades or No. 3’s VR games. The newly renovated Building No. 1 is the fanciest and most modern of the three, with spacious floors offering fighting and shooting games. Diehard anime nerds can’t miss No. 2, where the female staff dresses in cosplay, and the UFO Catchers have limited-edition merchandise.
If there’s anything negative to say about game centers in Japan, it might be that some of them have too many UFO Catchers and purikura photo booths. For an atmosphere that might feel more like home, head over Taito HEY (Hirose Entertainment Yard).
The second floor and up have late 90s era titles like Street Fighter, Tekken, and Tetris. What draws people here, though, are the Gundam Versus games and Gundam Pod. Both are a little hard to pick up, especially if your Japanese is rusty, but insanely fun once you get the hang of them!
Tokyo Leisure Land isn’t the biggest arcade in Akihabara, but it houses the latest releases. It also tends to be the least crowded among the game centers on Chuo-Dori. There are five floors to explore, one of which has the obligatory UFO Catcher and purikura machines, but the others are entirely video games.
Each story has a different theme. The second houses rhythm games, including DDR, Beat Mania, and Taiko no Tatsujin. The third has fighting games, and while you can find a few older releases, most are the latest versions of series such as Guilty Gear and Arcana Hearts. The fourth and fifth floors have MOBAs like Tekken 7 and the Lords of Vermillion interactive card game.
If you’ve gotten enough of the virtual world, take it to the real one by playing a survival game at Asobiba Akihabara Field. These types of game fields are usually in the suburbs, but in Akihabara, you can pelt your friends with an airsoft gun in between sightseeing.
There are three zones to choose from that model after a forest, an abandoned building, and an urban area. After putting on your protective gear, you can practice at the shooting range before the action begins. The gameplay is typically either capture-the-flag or survivor style.
The real reason why every Otaku wants to go to Akihabara is for all of the stores. If you’re a serious collector, you can find rare, out-of-print, vintage, and mint condition goods among the many aisles and shelves. Casual shoppers will also feel overjoyed by all the merchandise they can find from their favorite shows, video games, and comics. Here are the places we suggest to get started on your spree!
Animate is Japan’s largest retailer of anime, video games, and manga in Japan. Worldwide, there are 117 shops, and two of them are in Akihabara. All Animate locations sell movies, comic books, and other related goods. However, specific wares can vary by location and what’s the most popular anime and manga in Japan at the time.
For the most part, you’ll find mainstream titles on the lower floors and offbeat manga and doujinshi the higher you go. Note that Animate specializes in merchandise that caters to women. If you aren’t interested in these kinds of genres, you can find something more your pace at just about any other shop in Akihabara.
From humble beginnings, Mandarake is now one of the world’s biggest consignment shops for manga, music, and toys. There are well over twenty Mandarake shops in Nakano Broadway and one seven-story complex in Akihabara. The Akihabara location has stacks of second-hand manga on the first floor, but if you don’t read Japanese, you might be more interested in the collectibles on the upper stories.
Mandarake shops might sell used items, but they have very high standards on what they’ll accept. Many of the goods you’ll see will still be in the box or like-new condition. You can find figurines of familiar characters from the Marvel, DC, and Star Wars universes. Or spring for a gaming system, a rare Gundam model, and more!
If you’re short on time and don’t want to rifle through the stacks for luck-of-the-draw items, head to Radio Kaikan. A one-stop-shop for all your needs, there are over nine floors inside of the shopping complex. Naturally, you can find figurines of characters from Japanese video games and anime series, but there is also plenty of merchandise from universes like Marvel, DC, and Harry Potter.
There are both official merchandise stores like Kaiyodo and rental showcases where individual collectors sell. Even if you prefer your merch to be in mint condition, don’t overlook these, because it’s possible to find rare or out-of-print action figures.
If you love bishojo (beautiful girls), the Akihabara Gamers store is a must! The seven stories carry an array of items dedicated to your waifus and their voice actresses. You can find magazines, CDs, DVDs, and more. There are even snacks and sweets you can buy as a souvenir.
The first few stories mostly have manga and light novels. The third floor is a collaborative area between Akihabara Gamers and the Kadokawa Group publishing company. The higher you go, you’ll find a diverse selection of stationery, mugs, keychains, T-shirts, and more with alluring and cute illustrations.
The Surugaya Specialty Shop is an iconic store for gamers. It mostly deals in used and retro games, and supposedly, they set the standard for pricing across all second-hand dealers. Surugaya outsources their products from people all over Japan, and their stacks can include anything from the seedy Super Maruo to standards like Animal Crossing.
The organization goes by system, genre, and name. If you’re up-to-snuff on your kana (especially katakana), you should have no problem finding what you want. Otherwise, expect to dig. Most Japanese people don’t collect international versions of games, but even if you use a geo-locked system, Surugaya is a great place to browse through.
As the heart of Otakudom, it’s no surprise that several animes have taken place in Akihabara. Shows like Night Wizard, Di Gi Charat, and Etotama use Akihabara as either inspiration for or the actual background setting.
On some occasions, you can spot real-world locations with ease. Two of the most currently popular Akihabara animes are Love Live! and Steins;Gate. Both use places that are easy to find and serve as poignant plot devices.
Otonokizaka Academy might be fictional, but the areas between Kanda and Akihabara Stations are genuine! You might immediately recognize Electric Town as it appears several times throughout the series. There are even more places where you can take a picture or recreate your favorite scenes.
You can see the inspiration for Homura, Honoka Kousaka’s home, near Ogawamachi Station. In reality, Homura is the beloved Japanese confectionary shop Takemura. If you go here while they’re open, try the Age-Manju or Anzu Cream.
A three-minute walk from here takes you to the Shouhei Bridge, where the members of μ’s often meet up or discuss critical matters. Hanging a left from here leads you to the Otoko-Zaka stairs, where you can run off those wagashi you ate earlier, just like μ’s.
At the bottom of the stairs is Kanda-Myojin Shrine, where Nozomi Toujou lives and works as a shrine maiden. So many Love Live! fans have made a stop here that the shrine now sells t-shirts and other merchandise from the show.
Steins;Gate takes place in Akihabara in 2010, and you can see many locations throughout the district that still look the same as the show’s scenery. Walking around Akihabara Station, you might notice some familiar sights, like the lockers where Okabe and Moeka found the IBN 5100 and the staircase where many scenes took place.
The most recognizable landmark, though, is Radio Kaikan, where Okabe and Mayuri attended Nakabachi’s seminar, and where the time machine lodges itself. Radio Kaikan went through renovations in 2014, and it looks different from how it appears in Steins;Gate, but it’s still worth a photo-op.
Further out into the neighborhood, you can find Akiba Shrine, where Ruka/Rukako lives. Near here, you’ll also see the Kanda Fureai Bridge, where Okabe met Rukako on their date. The steps at the end of the bridge that is away from the shrine also happen to appear during Mayuri’s death montage in episode 14.
If you want to combine your Steins;Gate pilgrimage with a maid cafe experience, head to Cafe Mailish—the real-world inspiration for May Queen Nyan-Nyan. Every detail, down to the maid’s uniforms, looks identical to the show. You can even order a serving of omelet rice with the message 「世界がヤバい！！」(“The world is in danger!!”) written in ketchup. The only noticeable difference is the corner where you can pick up Steins;Gate goods!
You probably have an image of what a maid cafe is like, but depending on which shop you go to, your experience might be different from your expectations. Maid cafes predominately cater to male Otakus by treating customers as employers rather than patrons. Instead of welcoming you to the store with the typical cry of “Irashaimase,” the servers at maid cafes say, “Welcome home, sir/ma’am.”
Maid cafes have become so wide-spread that shops use competitive tactics to attract customers. These include dishes made to look like cute animals, games, and singing and dancing. If you go to a maid cafe, be aware that most have a cover fee, require you to order food, and entertainment like games and shows can incur additional charges.
Among the most well-known maid cafes is Maidreamin, which has 7 locations in Akihabara alone. The maids create a kawaii world with their bubbly personalities, songs, and food preparation. Take a deep breath before you enter. The spectacle begins as soon as you walk in, whether you’re ready or not!
Your server will plop animal ears on your head almost immediately, and she’ll guide you through a menu with dishes made to look like teddy bears, cats, and dogs. When the maids aren’t serving customers or taking care of the dining room, they’ll invite you to play games and put on musical numbers.
@Home Cafe claims to have the cutest maids in Akihabara. While we can’t confirm or deny that, we can say for sure that it’s one of the most popular! Over 600,000 people visit every year for the unique atmosphere, and to meet the lively staff who speak in voices as sweet as the desserts.
Many dishes come with a side of entertainment. The maids sing and dance while they shake up mixed drinks. They’ll also draw custom pictures or messages on food with ketchup or chocolate. At the end of your meal, you’ll also receive a “Master’s Certificate” to memorialize your visit!
If the over-the-top atmosphere of most maid cafes doesn’t interest you, Cure Maid Cafe might be more of your pace. Gone are the frilly outfits, the bubbly characters, and the J-Pop background music. In their places are sophisticated women trained with the professionally attentive yet emotionally distant graces reminiscent of the Victorian era.
The relaxing atmosphere is the perfect getaway from Akihabara’s spirited energy. Tea aficionados will appreciate Cure's original blends, which are certified by the Japanese Tea Association. Meanwhile, Love Live! fans will recognize this place as where Kotori secretly works and eventually writes “Wonder Zone.”
Eating at a themed restaurant in Tokyo is an experience you don’t want to miss. From the food to the decor, to the servers' uniforms, the staff goes all out to ensure you feel as though you’re really in another world. In Akihabara, there are a few places where you can step into the fantastical universe of your favorite shows, video games, or delve into the authentic Akihabara Otaku culture.
An iconic V-fin antenna points you to the entrance of the Gundam Cafe. Inside, you'll feel transported to the Mecha world. From the decor that’s reminiscent of the Earth’s Federation White Base, to the Jaburo-sourced coffee, every detail takes inspiration from the long-running franchise.
Although we referenced the original series above, the Gundam Cafe represents every incarnation, including Gundam Wing. The menu offers lattes with Heero and Duo’s faces, and the souvenir shop has keychains and office supplies with illustrations of your favorite pilots. All in all, the Gundam Cafe is as fun to explore as it is to eat a meal!
If you can’t tell by the name, the Eorzea Cafe is based on the Final Fantasy XIV’s universe. There are two in Japan—one in Osaka, and another in Akihabara. If you love Square Enix’s premier game, put this on your bucket list, and secure a reservation. You can’t enter without an advance ticket!
The world of Eorzea unfolds before your very eyes, with dancing moogle statues and screens displaying gameplay. The menus are constantly changing and build on customer requests and fan art, but always have a Final Fantasy theme like Chocobo quiche and Bahamat curry. After eating, you can get on PC’s to play or shop in the merchandise corner. The staff will also give you collectible coasters to take home as a keepsake.
In 2019, the popular AKB48 Cafe suddenly closed much to every fan’s disappointment. While they’re working on reopening, you can still experience an idol cafe at Dear Stage. It's at this venue where idols go from rookies to professionals in an underground live house.
There are three floors where you can experience idol culture and talk to the performers. The second has cafe food and drinks, and the third story is a bar with a limited food menu. The real draw is the live concerts that take place in the basement every thirty minutes. Dear Stage creates an intimate atmosphere between fans and artists that you can’t experience anywhere else!