10 Fun Free Things to Do in Akihabara

Carey Finn

Akihabara, the otaku capital of Japan, is a great place to spend a few hours—whether you’re into anime or not. Between the crazily colorful multi-storey shops, the maids on the side of the street, and the hole-in-wall cafes and restaurants, it’s an experience that you won’t forget…ever. Here are 10 suggestions for fun things to do in Akihabara that won’t cost a single yen.

Before heading off on your adventure, listen to this podcast that will take you deeper into the culture of Akiba, as the area’s known for short.

Follow your own personal maid guide on a private tour as she takes you deep into the heart of Akihabara, to discover the places tourists click here for details
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things to do in akihabara
Welcome to Akihabara, one of the craziest parts of Tokyo. | Photo by IQRemix used under CC

Pro tip: For an inside look at Akihabara, consider a guided tour. It’s geared towards geeks and gamers, and includes a visit to a maid cafe.

1. Go to M’s (it’s a 7-floor sex shop)

M’s is probably one of the most well-known stores in Akihabara (though no one will admit to knowing anything about it). Famous for its sexy costumes, sex toys, blow-up dolls, vast porn collection, and many other “inappropriate” goodies, M’s has made a name for itself in the area. Their prices are fairly reasonable—and looking is always free. Note that you must be 18 years of age to enter the store, and you are expressly prohibited from taking pictures inside.

2. Marvel at some serious gamers

The game center near the Akihabara Electric Town Exit of the station is a great place to watch hardcore gamers working their magic on arcade machines. Think racing, drumming, Dance Dance Revolution and much more. There are always lines for the UFO catchers, some of which are set to be “easier” on certain days. If you feel like parting with a few coins, there’s nothing stopping you from trying to scoop a plushie toy yourself.

A UFO catcher
All of the plushie toys for all of your yens. | Photo by Travis used under CC

Download our eBook – A Cheapo’s Guide to Akihabara – now!

3. Browse the discount bin at an electronics shop

Akihabara was once famous for its cheap electric goods. Although the dynamic of the place has shifted over the years, there are still lots of stalls selling discounted electronics. Sometimes they have bins of marked-down items; it’s always fun digging through them to see what’s on offer (and then figure out whether it’s still even in use).

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4. Pop into the anime shops

Visiting the anime shops in Akihabara is one of our favorite things to do. They have everything from body pillows to key chains, school folders and cosplay costumes. The larger the shop, the higher the possibility they will have paraphernalia from your favorite manga or anime. If you’ve watched it, they probably have it.

Animate is a good place to start, followed by Mandarake and Lashinbang. The Anime Center can be cool too, when they have special exhibitions on.

Wherever you go, to be safe, we recommend leaving your wallet with a trusted friend. All of these places can make you realize that you have always needed that expensive Evangelion tablecloth/figurine/entire collection of you-name-it.

Front of anime store in Akihabara
Kotobukiya is another major anime store in Akihabara. | Photo by IQRemix used under CC

5. Spot the maids

Going to a maid cafe in Akihabara costs money, but you’ll be able to see many maids on the street as they promote their establishments to passersby. One look at the rather impractical nature of their costumes is all you’ll need to realize they are not, in fact, house cleaners of any kind. Counting the number of maids on one block can be a fun way to pass the time.

Maids walking in Akihabara
Maids in Akihabara. | Photo by OiMax used under CC

6. Take an art break

If you need a breather from the buzzing crowds and your maid count has maxed out, take a stroll along the tracks of the Yamanote Line towards Okachimachi Station, where you can explore an artisan alley. 2k540 Aki-Oka Artisan is a cool little place that’s full of crafts, creativity and good coffee.

7. Stop by Kanda Myojin Shrine

Akihabara’s not all neon and niche sleaze. Kanda Myojin is a tranquil space that has special significance for the IT crowd, with professionals coming from all over the country to seek a blessing for their innovations. The shrine, which is over 1270 years old, is a quirky mix of tradition and tech, and a welcome respite from the visual overload of its surroundings.

Kanda Myojin Shrine
Kanda Myojin Shrine – spiritual home of geeks worldwide. | Photo by Yoshikazu Takada

8. Relive your youth at Super Potato

Remember the days of 8-bit gaming (scoff not, young readers!)? And how cool it was when Sonic was leet? Take a trip down memory lane by dropping into Super Potato, a weirdly named store that stocks all the good ol’ golden oldies. You don’t need to buy anything—just bow before the shelves of your lost youth. And weep into that pack of free tissues you were given on the street.

9. Eyeball the anime cars

A lazy remake of the classic maid-counting game, you can while away a good half-hour counting the anime cars that roar through the streets of Akihabara (or, more realistically, park on the roadside and display their scantily-clad anime girls and mecha characters in glossy glory for all to see). First to 8 gets to do #10 first!

An anime car
Anime fans are behind these “itasha” cars. So-called because they might be considered painful to look at outside Akihabara. | Photo by Raita Futo used under CC

10. Use the loo at the Gundam Cafe

There are many themed cafes in Akihabara, but we recommend this one—mainly for its washroom features. While you can, in theory, nip in and spend a penny without actually spending any pennies, it might be a better idea to sit down and order a drink—you know, to be polite. Do use the loo though—it’s one of those only-in-Japan experiences.

Gundam Cafe in Akihabara
The no.1 watering hole in Akihabara. | Photo by Yasuyuki Hirata used under CC

Bonus idea: Go-karting in Akihabara

For a unique way to see the Akihabara sights, try go-karting Mario-style. Read our full guide of what you need and what to expect.

The original version of this article was written by Grace Buchele Mineta in 2013.

Written by:
Carey's Tokyo favorites are: artless craft tea & coffee
Filed under: Things to do
Tags: Anime, Cheap Electronics, Featured-akihabara, Games, Geek, Maid Cafe, Manga, Shopping, Sightseeing, Tourists
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6 Responses to “10 Fun Free Things to Do in Akihabara”

  1. Avatar
    ☞ Steve De Rose ☜ October 2, 2013

    I’ll put “M’s” on the long list of ‘where to shop’. I’ve bought lots of JAVs from shops in Akiba. I inform your readers that the better deals are in the northern half of the district (closer to the Ginza Line’s Suehirocho station). Better deals can be found at shops on the avenues which intersect with Chūō Dori. In 2006, I did well at a shop on the avenue paralleling Chūō on the west. The last time I shopped here, I encountered two different pricing schemes on two different floors of the same edifice. {I think both levels were under common ownership.} On one floor, the more DVDs I bought, the lower was the price for subsequent discs. [i.e.: The first 4 were ¥500 each, then 5-8 were ¥400 each, 9-12 ¥300, and each after 12 being ¥200.] On a lower floor, it was “buy 2, get 1 free”. Many of these shops accept a credit card, which is something else which has changed since I began visiting in 2005. ➔ Also; if you spend at least ¥10,000 at any one shop, present your passport at check-in, and the shop will remove the VAT from your purchase.

  2. Avatar
    Humza Ahmad October 17, 2013

    Eat a kebab! Or two! Star Kebab has room to sit and donburis for around 500 yen. Not gyudon prices, but, well, it’s not gyudon, plus for those that care, it’s a meat-heavy halal meal that’s cheap. In Tokyo. Where else can you find that?

    • Avatar
      #nikigojes May 22, 2015

      Thanks for the tip. Sounds good to me. TQ.

  3. Avatar

    I can add that you can go to Yodobashi and listen to hundreds of headphones. Then if you want to hear the most expensive headphones, you can go to E-Earphone.

  4. Avatar
    Sid Arthur December 4, 2013

    While it will send you back 2-3000 Yen I highly recommend trying out some inexpensive earbuds at Yodobashi Camera. But not the most inexpensive because they won’t sound so good. Though the next price range up from the cheapest will sound amazing. And maybe throw in a cord case or something for the equivalent of a few extra bucks. Or an iPhone screen and jack/charger inserts if you can’t find at home. Also, if you know a manga or book that is likely to be carried at many bookshops then read a bit from store to store until you finish it, that way it’s free. Watch out for maid cafes, too. Some of them make you pay a cover and buy two drinks. But I’ve noticed if you tell them you don’t have a lot of time they’ll cut the overall price in about half if you’re only there for 15-20 minutes, which is plenty. The porn shops there are absolutely bonkers and worth a peep even if you’re not that into it. But I warn you, it may get a bit awkward navigating those thin aisles with a bunch of other dudes, LOL. Another thing: drinking on the street is legal so feel fee to pick up a tin and people watch on the street rather than going into a pub. Lastly, pick up a cheap blank notepad and collect all the train station stamps you can! A nerdy hobby, I’ll admit, but will ensure lasting memories.

  5. Avatar
    Choy Peng February 24, 2015

    great post on some savings

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