Akihabara – What to Do in the Otaku Paradise
Akihabara is a mecca of pop culture. Whilst also known for its range of shops selling electronical items, this seems to have been overshadowed in recent times by the growing 'Otaku' (diehard fan) culture. It's packed full of shops which is a dream for anyone interested in anime, manga, Jpop and games and is a popular spot for both locals and tourists with it's vibrant atmosphere. Colourful advertisements are splashed across buildings, and for first time visitors, it can be a little overwhelming what to do first.
Here are some activities to make the most of your time in the Electric Town.
1. Themed Cafés
This may be the most obvious one, especially with the popularity of Akiba's plentiful Maid Cafes who treat you like the Master/Lady of the house whilst serving super sweet, beautifully presented dishes, encouraging you to join in chants to make the food more delicious. However, there are also cat cafes and owl cafes where you can relax and pet the animals, and right next to the station, there's Gundam Café and AKB48 Café (with attached shop).
2. Arcade Games
Arcades of all sizes are plentiful in Electric Town, and their prizes are up to date with what's popular at the moment. The UFO catchers have goodies which are limited edition and not available to buy, and often, if you are stuck, staff will reposition prizes for you for an easier win. Some game machines to check out are the cute Disney Tsum Tsum games and Taiko Drum Master, where you can hit out a beat to energetic Japanese tunes.
3. Don Quijote
Often shortened to "Donki" (ドンキ), Don Quijote is a massive discount chain store with the famous AKB48 Theatre on it's 8th floor. Featuring a Tax Free desk for foreign visitors if you spend over a certain amount, everything from snacks to suitcases and beauty products to electronics can be found here. It can be a great place for buying souvenirs, and even finding things that you didn't know existed, but you now need.
Cosplay (costume play) involves dressing up as your favourite character, or even just in a fun outfit. Costumes are plentiful here, with Cosmates having a massive selection, and for smaller budgets, second hand shops and the above mentioned Don Quijote also have a lot to offer. If you're really into it, you can also visit a special cosplay studio with themed backdrops and props to get your picture taken.
5. Kandamyoujin Shrine
A bit off the main street is a quaint shrine which has evolved with the times and now holds blessing for IT related items and ventures. It's also amusing to see all of the nods to the mega popular Love Live! Franchise, whose character Nozomi works as a Miko at Kanda Shrine and has been adopted as their mascot.
6. Idol Lives
There are plenty of venues other than the AKB48 Theatre where you can see idols (cute, attractive Jpop singers and dancers) perform. Dear Stage is where popular group Dempagumi.inc started, and there are smaller stages and locations where indie groups entertain fans, who are usually enthusiatically wota gei-ing to show their support and give energy to their idol oshi (favourite).
Gatchapods are everywhere in Akiba – lining the sides of buildings to having their own floor in shops. Pretty simple – money goes in, small trinket in a plastic pod comes out. The themes are limitless – phone charms and badges with characters from popular anime to Kabe-don animals and mini toadstool figures.
Otaku or not, Akihabara has plenty of wonderful things to see and do and keep you entertained for hours!