Akihabara is the otaku capital of Japan and is a great place to spend a few hours — whether you’re into anime or not.
Between the crazily colorful, multi-story buildings, the “maids” plying the streets, 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 an arm and a leg.
1. Enter the game centers
The row of game centers 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. We recommend GiGO (formerly SEGA) Akihabara buildings 1 and 3, HEY (Hirose Entertainment Yard) for those who love the golden oldies, and Game Panic for music lovers.
Cheapo tip: If you spend enough money on the catchers, an attendant will come to help you out. Make a show and dance and they may come over even if you’ve only spent a couple hundred yen. Alternatively, you can purchase claw machine toys at the second-hand store Mulan Akiba.
2. Browse an electronics shop’s discount bin
Akihabara was once most famous for its cheap electric goods — SIM cards, LED lights, camera parts, you name it. Although the dynamic of the place has shifted over the years, there are still lots of stalls, stores — such as Tsukumo PC Honten and Dospara — as well as mega shops — like Yodobashi Camera and BIC camera — 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 figuring out whether it’s still even in use).
Alternatively, help out your local mom-and-pop shops under the train tracks of Akihabara Station.
3. Pop into the anime shops
Visiting the anime and manga shops in Akihabara is one of our favorite things to do. They have everything from body pillows to key chains, school folders to 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.
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.
4. Visit a maid café
Maid cafés are unique to Japan and don’t involve cleaning rooms or changing linen. Instead, you’ll be served mediocre food by a cute girl in a maid outfit calling you “master” or “mistress”. Contrary to popular belief, they aren’t full of creepy dudes; you’ll see many women also enjoying the company of the maids.
Going to one in Akihabara isn’t super cheap, but you can find some pretty good deals (for example, this maid experience costs only around ¥1,780).
5. 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.
6. Stop by Kanda Myojin Shrine
Akihabara’s not all neon and niche fandoms. 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 was founded over 1270 years ago, is a quirky mix of tradition and tech and is a welcome respite from the visual overload of its surroundings (unless you come during the Kanda Festival that is).
Tip: See if you can spot the pony that lives at the shrine. Her name is Akari.
7. Relive your gamer youth at Super Potato
Remember the days of 8-bit gaming? — scoff not, young readers! — And how cool it was when Sonic was leet (for the uninitiated, that means elite)? 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.
For those who even want more nostalgia, we also reccomend BEEP, Surugaya next door, and TRADER.
More on retro gaming in Akihabara:
8. Eyeball the anime cars
You can while away a good half-hour counting the cars plastered with pictures of anime girls in Akihabara. Usually roaring through the streets at night, these cars are known as itasha in Japanese, which translate to “painful car” — whether that’s due to hurting from embarrassment or the high cost is up for debate.
9. Get behind the wheel
Instead of goggling at cool cars, why not jump in one — well, a go-kart at least. It is one of the more unique ways of seeing Akihabara and you’ll get to live like your favorite copyrighted Nintendo character. Read our full guide of what you need and what to expect. Or skip the talk and go straight ahead and book.
10. Go to M’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). It’s famous for sexy costumes, sex toys, blow-up dolls, a vast porn collection, and many other “inappropriate” goodies. 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.
Bonus: Slurp up some ramen
Along with your typical ramen (Kyushu Jangara Ramen even has vegan options), tsukemen — separated noodles and soup — is also a popular dish to try in Akihabara. Highly rated stores such as Tanaka Ramen, Hyakunen Honpo (they also have ramen in a cup), and Iki na Isshō always have lines, so aim to have an early or late lunch.
P.S: 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.
The original version of this article was written by Grace Buchele Mineta in 2013. Last updated: May 2023.