Akihabara – From Anime to Electronics

Akihabara, just two stops north of Tokyo Station on the JR Yamanote Line, has long been the place to go for electronics. Centered around Chuo Dori and its side streets, Akihabara boasts hundreds of stores, some of them sophisticated department stores like Yodobashi Camera and others no larger than closets that have been open for decades.

Everything electronic, electric, and digital is for sale, from rice cookers and cell phones to digital cameras and computers. Some stores, like Akky International, Eisan, and Laox, offer duty-free departments, where products are made for export. In any case, prices vary, so visitors should be sure to comparison shop and to bargain for the best deals.

In recent years, Akihabara has also become a mecca for those interested in Japanese pop culture, including anime (Japanese animation), manga (Japanese comic books), and cosplay (costume play). A good place to start is the Tokyo Anime Center, just north of Akihabara Station on the fourth floor of UDX. It offers exhibits relating to anime, an information desk on the latest developments, a shop selling anime products, and a 3-D theater with screenings of popular works and previews of upcoming films.

Nearby shops that are must-sees for lovers of anime and manga include Kotobukiya, specializing in action figures and pop culture figurines; Tsukumo Robot Kingdom, with the latest in robot wizardry and do-it-yourself robot kits, and Animate with its large manga collections. Don Quixote is a multi-level store selling a bit of everything, from gag gifts to maid costumes.

For those who prefer some guidance, free 2-hour tours in English are available that take in Akihabara’s main shops and attractions. For more information, including the dates of upcoming tours, go to http://akihabara-tour.com.