Anime and manga have become a global phenomenon in recent years, with the likes of One Piece, Death Note, and Attack on Titan becoming smash hits everywhere from Italy to San Francisco. This would come as no surprise to the Japanese because the manga has been the most popular national pastime in Nippon for countless years, with titanic franchises and industries being built upon the initial black and white pages of weekly or monthly manga.
If you’re a fan, then a pilgrimage to the fabled anime mecca of Akihabara is certainly going to make your bucket list. Akihabara is a district of Tokyo known locally as “Electric Town”. While the focus is on anime and manga-related merchandise, there are also mountains of electrical goods and components to be rifled through. In fact, there’s so much swag that it often spills out onto the footpaths and streets of Akihabara!
Now keep your BUCKiTDREAM planner handy as we take you through the only guide you’ll need to make the most out of your dream trip to Akihabara.
First, You’ve Got to Get There We’ll take it for granted that you’re already in Tokyo city; the good news is that everywhere in the biggest metropolis on earth is reachable in a matter of minutes via their handy subway system.
The station for Akiba (another local pet name for Akihabara) is Iwamotocho (S08 on the green Shinjuku line) or Akihabara (H15 on the silver Hibiya line). Both are within walking distance of the main drag. The subway might seem intimidating at first, but the color and number system make it extremely easy to navigate, even if you don’t speak or read a word of Japanese.
Once There, Peruse the District’s Delights on Foot It’s not one of the larger neighborhoods in Tokyo, so you should get the hang of the layout fairly quickly. The first thing that will hit you is the sheer sensory overload of the place. Vivid colors, beat-blasting J-Pop, an assault of merchandise and a swamp of gamblers and shoppers will metaphorically smack you in the face as soon as you enter Akiba.
It can be a good idea to take a couple of minutes to ground yourself and get your bearings, as it’s no overstatement to say the place can overwhelm first-timers. Also, while your instinct might be to make a beeline for Akihabara as soon as you get off the plan, it is ill-advised to rush in their riddled with jet-lag. The sensory assault will make you feel like you’re walking zombie-like through a fever dream.
Your First Port of Call Should be Radio Kaikan This is a gigantic multi-storied otaku haven, which can best be described as an anime and manga department store. Shops are a little different in Japan than they are in the West. Usually, many different stores are contained within the one building, with different shops on each floor. Radio Kaikan goes a step further, with multiple shops on each of its ten floors. It’s a great place to start because you can find a lot of genres of goods here, from Gundam model kits and Pokémon plushes, to endless seas of Shonen figures and anime art books.
Another important thing to bear in mind when shopping in Akihabara is that most of the goods you’re seeing are secondhand. This doesn’t mean they’re used per-se; it just means they’ve been pre-owned. About 95% are in pristine condition or even still in their original boxes, with just a scuff mark or two on the packaging. What it does mean is that you can find the same merchandise at varying prices around town. This is all part of the fun of Akiba; hunting for that one particular item at the lowest price.
Next Stop: The Figure Mecca of Akihabara Culture Zone Featured are seven floors of figure cabinets from every franchise you could care to think of (and some you can’t), so you could easily spend an entire day in Culture Zone. If you’re a true anime fan, you’re going to want to spend a lot of time here, and not rush through it all in a few hours. So be sure to dedicate at least two to three days of your Tokyo visit to exploring every nook and cranny. There are anime treasures to be found everywhere you look!
Another Must-See Stop on Your Voyage is Mandarke This is a gigantic black building just off the main street that is one of Japan’s most famous second-hand otaku stores. It started in the western Tokyo neighborhood of Nakano in 1987, before becoming wildly popular and branching out in the subsequent years. It now has stores all over Japan, but the Akiba HQ, known as Complex, is a particularly fine example, featuring eight floors of valuable and hard-to-find items.
Just Across the Road from Manda is Animate This multi-floored mega-store features exclusive items you can only find in that store. It’s female-orientated, but don’t let that stop you from going in; there’s plenty to discover for male shoppers, too.
A Final Must-Go-To is Shosen Book Tower While not strictly manga-themed, it contains three floors of manga and art books from seemingly every series currently on the market, as well as several other floors full of novels, hobby manuals, and general interest books.
This is really only scratching the surface of Akihabara’s monstrous shopping scene, but it’s certainly enough to get any anime and manga enthusiast started. If you’re venturing on that Tokyo dream bucket list trip, then half the fun is discovering your own special shops and outlets and seeing what kind of deals you can dig up. So, if you’re a major anime and manga fan, keep this BUCKiTDREAM guide handy, get some merchandise, then grab a bite to eat at The Best Sushi Restaurants in Tokyo or The Best Themed Cafés and Restaurants in Tokyo.