If you’re in Akihabara and barely pubescent girl groups or maid cafes aren’t your thing, then take a walk along the Yamanote Line tracks towards Okachimachi Station to explore the quirky (but in a cool way) ambiance of 2k540 Aki-Oka Artisan.
About 2k540 – A must-visit Tokyo artisan alley
Akihabara’s recent success has resulted in a degree of gentrification with the areas next to the main JR station being heavily redeveloped in the past decade. As a part of this redevelopment, an area under the tracks which was previously used for parking and storing machinery has been transformed into a pedestrian mall.
The unusual name comes from a combination of railway terminology: its location between two stations and its function. “2k540” refers to the distance from Tokyo Station—2.54 kilometers, and “Aki-Oka” indicates its location between Akihabara Station (Aki) and Okachimachi Station (Oka). The ‘artisan’ part of the name expresses the focus on arts and crafts within the collection of 50 different shops and cafes.
If you’re looking for bargains, then 2k540 Aki-Oka Artisan is not the place to find them. However, if you’re looking for interesting crafts and a relaxing place to rest for a coffee or a snack then 2k540 has plenty of options.
Included among the shops are leather crafts, fabrics, jewelry, decor and furniture sourced from small scale Tokyo suppliers, with a few shops with crafts from further afield.
Cafes include a branch of east Tokyo favorite Yanaka Coffee as well as Cafe Asan, which is apparently an “Asian Animation Cafe”. The cafe serves coffee and cake with free wifi and iPads for customers to use—while swinging in hammock chairs!
Shopping and souvenirs of the one-of-a-kind variety
During our visit, we were drawn to the many quirky and arty shops with one-of-a-kind specialty items. By far, our favorite was Nijiyura, a shop selling hand-dyed tenugui (a traditional Japanese cotton hand towel). However, these towels were sold more as art pieces than absorbent fabrics. Many of the tenugui cost under 2,000 yen, a very reasonable price tag for such a unique piece of Japanese culture (we bought several ourselves for gifts and home decor). Dyed scarves, hand fans, tea mats, chopstick holders, oven mitts and more were also found here.
Another colorful delight was Tokyo Noble—a shop with an impressive selection of umbrellas. Rainy days in Tokyo are just so grey, so it’s a good excuse to pick up one of these babies. Choose from cute designs and features (like the ice cream cone handle, see below), or something a little more refined, like a sleek bamboo handle. All umbrellas can be customized to your liking (color, handle, length, tassels and accessories)—just ask!
Hacoa was also a big winner in our books—selling everything from keyboards, to clocks, to bow ties, all fashioned from beautiful wood. There is a workshop on site, so many items are customizable as well.
Arts and crafts
And look out for the many shops offering arts and crafts sessions and workshops (some of them may require a fee or purchase though).
If you’re not a craft nut, this Tokyo artisan alley might not warrant a special trip. However, if you’re in nearby Akihabara or Ueno, or you’re looking for that special souvenir, mark this place on your itinerary. And here are 10 other things to do in Akihabara (for no more than 105 yen).
Note: Many shops offer tax-free shopping. Learn more here.