Off the Beaten Path in Tokyo: Electrifying Akihabara

Akihabara is the Mecca of Japanese gaming and gadgetry. Hundreds of shops line the streets, selling all the latest electronic devices you can think of, from compact digital cameras to 60” flat screen televisions. Of course, let’s not forget all the gaming consoles and video games that leave consumers drooling. Some shops also sell used gadgetry that can be quite a bargain.

The crowd at Akihabara | Shiny Things

Akihabara means “Field of Autumn Leaves,” but it’s more popularly known as Akihabara Electric Town. Most locals call it “Akiba” for short. It is very accessible–less than 5 minutes away from Tokyo Station.  Stores that sell brand new items are mostly in Chūōdōri (the main street), while the back streets of Soto Kanda 3-chōme sell used gadgets.

Akihabara is just outside the Mansei bridge, one of Tokyo’s old city gates. Big name shops like Laox, Sofmap, and Ishimaru are popular among tourists, but a little further away are other shops that sell the same things for a lot less. Akihabara became well known for having the first few stores that specialized in robotics.

Stalls selling electronics| ivva

Before you make a purchase, note that some Japanese electronics for sale are intended for use only in Japan because of the technical differences, warranties, and voltage requirements.  You may also need to show your passport for purchases over 10,000 yen. Make sure you get a model that can be used when you go back home because you might end up with an expensive paperweight.

After a day of shopping, you may want to check out the maid cafés or butler cafés for a delightful treat of scrumptious food while experiencing the peculiar Japanese youth culture of cosplay. Join in!–You can play karaoke and screech out a tune in a Hello Kitty costume. Or you can simply sing “dōmo arigatō misutā Robotto, mata au hi made” from the Styx song, Mr. Roboto, with matching dance moves, and you’re sure to be the star for the night.

maid cafe poster | Robert Salzalone