No trip to Tokyo is complete without a visit to Akihabara “Electric Town”, known for its thousands of electronics stores selling every kind of gadget, device, appliance or machine part you could possibly imagine!
Today the the area has also become equally famous as the home of all things anime and manga, while a market for gaming hobbies is also on the rise. Even if you’re not here to buy anything, Akihabara is absolutely worth checking out just to witness how deep Japan’s obsession with all things electronic and pop culture runs!
Sitting between Ueno to the north and the central part of Tokyo, the beginnings of the modern Akihabara started around the Second World War when the area was already known as a shady marketplace for traders of appliances, radios and electronic components.
The area experienced a boom beginning with 80s as consumer electronics went mainstream worldwide. It’s around this time many of Japan’s most iconic personal technology inventions appeared – think Walkmans, Minidisc, CDs, Nintendo consoles, digital cameras.
Much has changed since however, and Japan has somewhat lost its edge as a leading tech producer as foreign competition has encroached. Our excited trips to Akihabara in the 90’s to snap up the latest and greatest gadgets you couldn’t get back home in Australia are sadly no more.
The boom in anime and manga in Akihabara is the other major shift in character that Akihabara has experienced. Otaku is the Japanese word often associated with Akihabara, and it means “geek”- especially one obsessed with all things anime and manga.
With its innumerable shops catering to every aspect of Japanese cartoon fantasy culture you could imagine, Akihabara today is as much a paradise for otaku as it is for electronics shoppers.
The main strip is Chuo Dori, on the West side of the station, and the blocks that surround it. The East side has the gigantic Yodobashi Camera store near the station, but beyond this is mostly office blocks.
What to do in Akihabara
Shop for electronics, of course!
Japan is no longer as cutting edge when it comes to consumer tech, so it’s unlikely you’ll find many personal gadgets you cannot buy at home. That said, Akihabara is only place you can at least buy every possible electronic thing you could ever want all in one place!
The two most popular electronics mega-stores are Yodobashi Camera and LAOX. These multi-level behemoths have English-speaking staff available and also offer duty free services.
Be aware of voltage differences especially when purchasing appliances – the last thing you want is to require a step-down transformer brick to run that $800 Tiger rice cooker you’ve lovingly carried all the way home. Stores will sometimes carry a range of models designed for use in foreign countries.
If you’re on a tight budget, often the smaller shops in the back streets offer better deals on particular things over the large retails. You can also find many of the more obscure and odd shops in these back lanes, like a guy who perhaps specialises in selling one specific component, and the back areas are worth a stroll for this alone.
Overload on all things manga and anime
Your eyes will no doubt have the doe-eyed look of a manga character yourself by the time you’ve had your fill of Japanese cartoon culture in Akihabara.
Entire buildings are devoted to otaku obsessions, with floors of manga libraries, DVDs, figurines, collector cards, games and so on. Some characters you’ll recognise but many are unknown outside Japan, such is the vastness of the manga universe within Japan.
Visit a themed cafe
If you haven’t had enough yet and want the full manga experience, visit a themed cafe. Akihabara’s Gundam Cafe is the place to go for fans of the popular fighting robots anime series, with staff – and sometimes customers even – dressing up in Gundam-themed costumes.
Maid cafes are the other popular draw in the area. Here it’s all about waitresses who dress up in kawaii (“cute”) maid costumes, serve you equally adorably-themed and decorated food with cheesy antics like dances and games to complete the package.
(PS We don’t know those guys in the photo below…… ?)
Best food in Akihabara
Akihabara is not particularly known for its dining scene, but like anywhere in Japan there are plenty of quality restaurants to eat at and we’ve included a few of our favourites.
Immediately south of Akihabara across the river is the Kanda residential area. This area is noted for being home to many old dining establishments specialising in traditional Japanese foods such as nabe (hot pot) and soba. Yabu Soba is one such venerated restaurant – see below!
We’ve been coming to Daruma no Me for years. It was a random find many years ago, and we just keep coming back just because it’s a tasty old fling!
The most popular ramen is their tonkotsu ramen, which comes with a bowl on the side of sesame seeds which you grind yourself to add – a nice touch.
They also offer something called abura-soba (literally, “oil soba”) which is a soupless style ramen eaten with sauce. We’ve never tried this. There are English menus to help you navigate the ticket machine. Here’s a useful in-depth review from a guy who seems to have tried just about everything on the menu!
Daruma no Me
Address: 1 Chome-9-8 Sotokanda, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo (MAP). Also at: Ikebukuro, Shinjuku, etc.
Phone: +81 3 3253 2070 (No Reservations)
Open: Mon to Fri 11:00-23:00, Sat 10:00-23:00, Sun/PH 10:00-22:00
Website (Japanese only)｜Tabelog page
WAGYU BEEF / TEPPANYAKI
Niku no Mansei is serious about beef. They have an entire ten storey building dedicated to the craft of serving top quality cow cuts in one form or another.
The lowest floors consist of a cafe and family restaurants that have a wide variety of dishes, not just beef. The higher floors serve yakiniku, sukiyaki, shabu-shabu, and teppanyaki on the top floor where we went.
Here we had what is hands down the best beef we have probably ever eaten. The heavily marbled wagyu beef steak is carefully seared on the hotplate by a chef in front of you, sliced into cubes and served (not thrown – that’s a lame entertainment gimmick only seen outside Japan).
Chewing is optional. The beef literally melts in your mouth like butter as your eyes roll back in your head. This. Is. Heaven.
Don’t miss: Wagyu beef, teppanyaki style
Niku no Mansei
Address: 12 Chome-21 Kanda Sudacho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo (MAP).
Phone: +81 3 5294 1210 (10F enquiry & reservation), +81 50 5872 4125 (general reservations), +80 3 5294 1204 (general enquiry)
Open (10F): Mon-Sat 11:30-23:00 (LO 22:00), Sun/PH 11:30-22:00 (LO 21:00)
It might sound hard to get excited about a ball of rice stuffed with fillings, but onigiri are a homely food for Japanese people. They are to the Japanese what sandwiches are to Westerners. Onigiri shops will typically offer staple fillings along with some more unique creations. Sandaime-tokubei has branches in Akihabara and two in Shibuya. English is given on the labels.
Freshly barbecued skewers of beef and pork (kushiyaki) on the go are what Maruju Seiniku-ten is all about. Choose what you want from the display and it will be grilled fresh in front of you. We especially love the wagyu, and black pepper beef.
Gansozushi is a dependable kaitenzushi (conveyor belt sushi) chain with a number of outlets across the city. Prices start at a mere 95 yen for daily plates on special and the range of fish on offer is superb. True, the fish slices are on the thin side, but then you are paying rock bottom prices to match. Perfect for a cheap sushi lunch on the run.
Address: 1 Chome-15-1 Sotokanda Chiyoda-ku Tokyo (MAP). Also at: Asakusa, Ikebukuro, Shinjuku, etc.
Phone: +81 3 5294 2477
Open: Weekdays 11:30-23:00 (LO 22:45), Weekend/Public Holiday 11:30-22:00 (LO 21:45), closed on 1st Jan
The Jimbocho area just south-west of Akihabara is home to several university campuses. No surprise then that the area has evolved to have an abundance of two things: Used bookstores and Japanese curry restaurants. Rumour has it Jimbocho and nearby areas together boast over a hundred curry shops.
Bondy is one of the old-school curry restaurants in Jimbocho, and it still pulls a solid fan base. A line of waiting office workers and students was already snaking down the hallway and stairwell when we showed up for lunch. But it’s easy to see why: Bondy does delicious curries, as good as any we’ve tasted. We’re not quite sure what the deal is with the boiled potatoes and butter you get served on the side, but it just ups the comfort food-factor another notch.
Address: 2F Kanda Kosho Center BLDG., 2 Chome-3 Kanda Jinbocho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo (MAP). Also at: Otemachi, Senzoku, Shibaura, etc.
Phone: +81 3 3234 2080 (no reservations)
Open: 11:00-22:30 daily
Website (Japanese only)｜Tabelog page
Established in 1880 (though rebuilt after a fire in 2013), Kanda Yabu Soba is one of the oldest soba restaurants in Tokyo and are famous for their hot and cold soba dishes.
Our Tokyo uncle brought us here for our first taste of traditional cold soba and it still remains the best soba experiences we’ve ever had.
Ten-seiro soba is one of their signature sets, where you receive a helping of cold soba noodles and a large tempura prawn patty on the side. The rich and crunchy tempura is the perfect counterpoint to the chilled noodles dipped in soba sauce.
Reservations are possible – 8 seats are available every hour by calling in advance – but you’ll need a Japanese speaker to call. Otherwise, be prepared to queue.
Kanda Yabu Soba
Address: 2 Chome-10 Kanda Awajicho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo (MAP). Also at: Otemachi, Senzoku, Shibaura, etc.
Phone: +81 3 3251 0287
Open: 11:00-20:30 (LO 20:00), Closed on Wed.
Website (Limited English)｜Tabelog page
How to get to Akihabara
You can get to Akihabara station on three JR lines and a Metro Hibiya Line as follows.
- JR Yamanote Line
- JR Keihin-Tohoku Line
- JR Sobu Line
- Tokyo Metro Hibiya Line
All of the JR lines share the same station, while the Hibiya Line Akihabara station is a separate station.
Akihabara Area Map
How to use this map
- By restaurant name – Click the icon on the top left to reveal our list of recommended restaurants in this area (see above for more information on each restaurant). Then click on the restaurant for more information about that restaurant as well as highlighting the marker on the map.
- Zoom in and out by clicking the + and – on the bottom left.
- Large view – Click the icon on the top right to open a new tab to view the map in full screen.
- Click a marker on the map to reveal more information about the restaurant.
See our Tokyo Guide!
Born in Japan, raised in Australia, Sydney is our hometown, but Tokyo is our playground. This Tokyo Travel Guide is a culmination of a lifetime of travelling to Tokyo, condensed into one place!!