Akihabara (秋葉原), also known as Akiba for short and Electric Town due to the number of electronics shops in the area is a district of Tokyo. The area attracts many otaku (nerds) due to the large number of hobby related shops, carrying all kinds of electronics and electronic components, anime and manga goods, craft supplies, DIY tools, dolls, hi-fi audio equipment and more. It is also the home of the AKB48 pop group. It is popular with tourists for this reason.
The area has a unique character, and is constantly changing. It's a great area for exploring, with big shops that cater to foreigners and tiny little hidden spaces to find.
When to visit
On Sundays for part of the year the main road is closed to traffic due to the high number of visitors to the area. Weekends are a good time to go despite it being busy, because all shops are open. Most close one or two days during the week. However, some shops do get really crowded (especially Akizuki Denshi), so a visit on a week day will be more relaxed. Check the web sites of shops you are interested in for opening times. The big ones are open 7 days a week.
Weekends are also when events are put on, so check the sites above for up coming ones.
Most shops open at 11:00 or 12:00 AM, but some start earlier. Some finish around 6:00 PM, but many stay open to 8:00 PM and some, like Yodobashi Camera, are open until 10:00 PM for the main shops and 11:00 PM for the restaurants.
The areas in this section are marked on the Tokyo Area Map "Akihabara Areas" layer.
Station East Side
The eastern exits of Akihabara Station are dominated by the vast Yodobashi building. Yodobashi Camera, to give it its full name, sells pretty much everything electronic (not just cameras) and a whole lot more besides. Beauty goods, computers, phones, exercise equipment, audio and TVs... And on the top floor they have many restaurants, and just below that music and clothes shops.
Also in this area are Book Off, which also sells a lot of used video games and hardware, and a number of restaurants and cafes including Starbucks and McDonalds.
Station West Side
West of the station is a short road leading to the main strip. Highlights are the Akiba Radio Hall, which has a variety of hobby shops and was recently refurbished, and the area under the tracks which has a number of small vendors selling all kinds of components and new/used test equipment. There is also the Atre building with more up market shops.
This is the main area for real Akiba culture, with many shops selling at discount prices. Great for computer hardware, video games (Super Potato in particular) and electronics. Pondeta has two small shops here selling used model trains and accessories.
This is also home to the large Akiba Cultures Zone building, which has a lot of character goods shops.
North West Area
Moving north from the West Side area are many more computer hardware shops, and a branch of Mandarake selling used anime/manga character goods. Pondeta and a number of other model train shops are based in this area. It is also where some of the biggest computer hardware shops main stores are, such as Dospara, Sofmap, Janpara and a number of independents like Buy More. There is also a large skyscraper building where events are often held at weekends.
Jokingly called the slums, this area has many independent shops selling new and mainly used items at very low prices. Often you can find rare items here, especially older and unusual hardware. Some of it is marked "junk", which means it is untested and there is no warranty, but it's extremely cheap so you can take a chance.
Stuff to see and do
Akihabara has many little shops and streets to explore, but also has a lot of great restaurants and cafés. As well as some chains there are lots of independents, serving everything from traditional Japanese fast foods like beef bowl, noodles and barbecue to western style steaks and European food. Competition is quite fierce, and they are scatted throughout the whole of Akiba.
Akiba is the home of the AKB48 pop group. They have a stage where they perform, but most tickets are only available by lottery. A nearby branch of Don Quixote specializes in AKB48 merchandise.
The area north of the station, under the train tracks, has recently been redeveloped. About 1km north of the station there is a shopping mall where independent artists sell their produce. There is also a similar mall under the tracks to the west of the station (towards Ochanomisu), by the river.
Akiba has a number of Maid Cafés. They are just like normal cafés, except that the staff are dressed as cute maids. You can enjoy chatting to them, but if you don't speak Japanese it can be a bit awkward. You will often see maids in the area west of the station, handing out fliers for their cafés.
A number of video game arcades and pachinko parlours are scattered around Akihabara. The arcades are a mixture of new and classic games. The Try Tower in particular has a lot of older games, ranging from early 80s stuff to early 2000s dance titles.