Beginning its existence as a center of postwar black-market activity, Akihabara later became the showcase of Japanese tech, jam-packed with shops selling all kinds of electronics and IT to the world. More recently, it has also become the cultural home to the diehard fans of gaming, manga and anime—the otaku. The area is an urban temple for worshippers of Japanese subcultures with pop idols, and cosplayers. Stroll Akihabara's avenues for a one-of-a-kind cultural experience.
You can get to Akihabara Station easily on the JR Yamanote Line, Keihin-Tohoku Line, Sobu Line or Tokyo Metro's Hibiya Line.
From Haneda Airport: 50 minutes on the Limousine Bus, or 45 minutes by train.
From Narita Airport: Two hours by Limousine Bus, or about an hour and a half by train.
From Shinjuku Station: 18 minutes on the JR Sobu Line to Akihabara Station.
From Tokyo Station: Four minutes on the JR Yamanote Line to Akihabara Station.
Once home to black-market sellers of electronics parts in postwar Japan, the streets of Akihabara are now densely packed with legitimate electronics retailers hawking everything with a current. Specialty parts shops line the streets, and electronics megastores such as Laox and Yodobashi Camera engage in fierce retail competition. Radio Kaikan and Radio Center stock millions of tech components and character-related goods, and tiny stores make up for their small size with a fiery passion for their chosen interest, be it manga, anime, pop idols or games. Many stores offer duty-free shopping to help you stretch your yen further.
The subcultures obsessed with gaming, manga, figure collecting and anime that constitute otaku culture have their roots firmly planted in Akihabara. Squeezed in between the many electronic component shops are shrines dedicated to individual obsessions. Akihabara Radio Kaikan and the Akiba Culture Zone, for example, house many stores dedicated to anime, manga and games. The shelves at GUNDAM Cafe are stacked with character goods, and Tokyo Leisure Land offers amusements of a very Akihabara kind, including floor-to-ceiling lucky dip machines known as gachapon that dispense capsule toys.
Akihabara is home to another distinctive element of Japanese pop culture—the pop idol. The AKB48 Theatre is the birthplace of one of the most popular musical groups of recent times, AKB48, and devoted fans still flock to the area hoping for a glimpse of their favorite group member. The streets can become crowded on weekends if groups of cosplayers arrive, transforming into their characters of choice. You can join the fun at any time by visiting one of the costume and photo studios.