Akihabara is the hub for “otaku culture”. This is the Japanese word for a die hard fan and is particularly used for those into anime, manga and gaming. As well as many electronic stores, Akihabara is full of comic stores selling ludicrously expensive memorabilia and every type of comic from your Marvel Avengers, anime and manga or x-rated cartoons which is probably one do the strangest and disturbing things we’ve ever seen.
We were there on a Sunday which was good as it meant that the main street, Chuo Dori, was closed to car traffic between 1pm-5pm. This was really cool to walk down the middle of the road surrounded by the giant skyscrapers and billboards advertising the latest craze.
Electronic stores are everywhere here from small specialist stores to giant retailers and we went in quite a few of them to test out games consoles and look for robots (it is Japan after all – robot country!). There are so many electrical stores that this place is nicknamed Electric Town. We stumbled across a headphone convention and got to try music, games and these really good skull candy headphones. We actually ended up finding robots in Ginza (see next post) as this is where the flagship stalls were so they had all the ‘for show’ technology. Maybe we just didn’t look hard enough in Electric Town though!
This is where you would come if you needed anything remotely electrical and I did like the idea of a city being broken up by district based on what a consumer could buy there, it was definitely a logical way to help people find what they were looking for even if it did lead to their being an extortionate amount of choice (which is not always a good thing).
Whilst we were there, we had heard about the retro gaming stores that occupied a lot of the side streets of Akihabara. We went into one called Super Potato Retro-Kan which had retro video games you could pay for 100¥ (65p). It was a cool shop and also had loads of Gameboy games and games for the PlayStation.
Akihabara also has a number of maid cafes. We saw quite a few girls dressed in little maid outfits on the street advertising their cafes. We didn’t go into any of them but it’s very popular in that district. Themed cafes are huge in Tokyo with pet cafes such as cats, owls and hedgehogs to maids, butlers, robots and anime themes. A lot of them had entrance fees or minimum spending amounts so we didn’t bother going to any but there’s probably a cafe for anything you could think of!
Ikebukuro has the second busiest station in Tokyo (Shinjuku is the busiest) and when we went through you wouldn’t be surprised by that fact. There were a lot of people and all sorts of stands selling Star Wars and other otaku goods. This is another district for the geeks but is also full of department stalls and shops so really it’s a good place for anyone wanting to shop. We mainly went here for the flagship Pokemon stall which is called Mega Tokyo Pokémon Centre and is the biggest in the world. To be honest, we expected it to be bigger but maybe our expectations were a bit high. It was full of Pokémon memorabilia as well as a section to play Pokémon video games. A lot of the Pokémon were new and not from our era of playing the game so it wasn’t as good as we had no idea who half of the characters were!
The Pokémon centre is located in Sunshine City which is a big department store that has a emphasis on toys and as well as a big games centre. We spent a while in here wandering through the different stores to see what was on offer.
Apparently Ikebukuro caters more to a female clientele and so have butler cafes instead of the maid cafes found in Akihabara. Whilst we were walking round we also saw lots of cosplay related shops that sold costumes and other dress up goods. We also passed loads of gaming stores and went into one of these stores to play some video games. These stores are all over Tokyo and have floor after floor or different arcade games. We chose to play a Walking Dead one as we’re both fans of the show and the game involved using a crossbow to kill zombies so what’s not to like?!
Akihabara and Ikebukuro are both fun places to spend a day exploring. There are plenty of arcade/gaming stores to lose a few hours and then the range of toy, anime and comic stores can keep you entertained even if you’re not into that sort of thing. We enjoyed these two areas of town and I think they’re one of those places that would keep bringing up new surprises and places on every visit.
Sending Love x