Known for Maid Cafes, electronic stores and being an overall otaku (Japanese for nerd) paradise, Akihabara is one of Tokyo's most famous spots. Many people will tell you to check out Yodobashi Camera or the AKB48 Café. However, today we are going to talk about one of Akihabara’s lesser known treasures. Smaller shops that carry used goods. Sure, you can go and spend all your money on some brand new, fancy, state of the art electronics, but if you aren’t made of money and still want to bring a piece of nerd heaven home, this is the way to go.
Buying headphones is a personal endeavor. Like a fingerprint, everybody’s ears are different. Wouldn't it be nice if there were a place where you could try a myriad of headphones, earphones and other personal audio devices before committing to a purchase? Wouldn't it be even better if they also sold used equipment? Well friends, want no more. This place exists. E-earphone started as a small shop in Osaka. Today, they have a few stores around Japan and an online store, all stocking new and used equipment. E-Earphone has testable versions of almost all of their stock. Since it can be difficult to find the right headphones with the sounds you are looking for, this place is great; about 99% of the items they have in the store are available for trial. This is invaluable since, if you have ever been in the market to purchase personal audio equipment you may have noticed that prices range from about ￥500 for a pair of inexpensive headphones to ￥1,000,000 and up for premium equipment. I like to spend hours here trying out all the different kinds until I find the right pair. Once I have a set I like, I head on over to the used section and see if I can’t find them for a good price. And if you really want to have the perfect fit for your ear, you can always visit their custom in-ear monitor sales floor and have headphones made to fit your ears exclusively. Generally speaking, used custom styles aren’t the best fit. However, you can always pay to have them resized, saving some money and still getting the same experience.
2. Plus One Watch
I feel like I'm giving away an insider secret by writing about this shop. There are many watch stores throughout Tokyo. Ranging from boutique shops in Ginza to used camera stores in Ueno trying to pass off ￥5,000 watches for ￥20,000. However, Akihabara is not a place usually associated with haute horlogerie. Plus One is one of my personal favorite watch stores. You can easily browse their inventory on their website (in Japanese) or casually stroll into the store and peruse their current selection. The staff is attentive and nice. The atmosphere is upscale yet inviting. The prices, well, the prices are a steal. Stocking mostly used watches the prices at this store are well below standard (for used watches), usually 10-20% below their main competitors. They may not have the stock or selection of Rolex that Ishida Best in Shinjuku has, but their small collection is balanced by its variety. Since the selection is so small, the turnover is also quite quick. You can easily go one month and return the next to find 20-50% of the stock has changed. This is a good shop if you are looking for a nice watch and it a fun place to check often. Whether you are looking for a Casio or a Rolex you are sure to find something that fits your taste at Plus One.
3. Super Potato
I am not the first person to talk about Super Potato and I certainly won't be the last. Super Potato is great. It’s a fun mix of nostalgia, childhood dreams, and geek chic. Super Potato specializes in ‘retro’ video games. They sell all your favorites old school games and systems. The fun starts on the third floor with the oldest systems, mostly Famicom (NES) and Master System (Sega). The next floor has more recent, but still ‘retro,’ games and systems; think N64 and Playstation. The fourth floor is also where you will find handhelds and the infamous Virtual Boy. Handheld systems are great for anyone who is traveling. You can pick up something small to bring home. Japanese video games are also great for studying Japanese. But, be warned, it can turn ‘play time’ in to a study session. Finally, the fifth floor: the Retro Game Center. ‘Game Center’ is basically Japanese for Video Arcade. The fifth floor is where Super Potato keeps their selection of Old School Coin-Op arcade cabinets. They also stock Retro Japanese snacks. If you are looking for your favorite old school system or looking to pick up the console you never had the chance to own, Super Potato has got your back. The best advice I can give you about super potato is to leave your wallet at home. There are so many awesome things at Super Potato it’s super hard to not leave without bringing something home.
4. Retro Game Camp
Retro Game Camp is a bit of a newcomer. They haven’t been open that long. They still don’t have a sign, just a banner. They are similar to Super Potato, but lack the selection and space. However, their second floor is dedicated to cos-play. If you can’t find what you are looking for at Super Potato there is a good chance that you could pick it up at Retro Game Camp.
Mandarake is a bit of a legend. Mandarake started out in Nakano as a used Comic book reseller. Nowadays, Mandarake specializes in rare and nostalgic hard-to-find toys. They stock everything from custom dolls and vintage toys to manga and video games. Mandarake carries mostly secondhand goods, so the stock and selection can vary quite a lot. If you are looking for something you loved as a child that is rare, this is a good place to start. It’s also a great place to just visit from time to time. Mandarake feels less like a store and more like a museum dedicated to all things nerdy, it’s finger firmly placed on the geeky pulse of Akihabara. If you are in the area, this should be on your list of stores to check out.