The last area visited during our most recent trip to Japan was Akihabara. Known as Tokyo’s “Electric Town,” Akihabara is located on the eastern side of central Chiyoda Ward. The streets are lined with thousands of shops selling every category of electronics imaginable including computers, gaming consoles, mobile phones, vacuums to DVDs; all at reasonable prices. Akihabara is also known as the “Gamer’s Mecca” and has been recognized as the center of the anime/manga subculture (otaku).
On Sundays, the main thoroughfare, Chuo-dori, is closed to vehicle traffic and transformed into an unofficial stage for cosplayers and local bands. It is only natural that maid cafes are popular in this area as well. Maid cafes are cosplay themed restaurants where guests are served by waitresses that are typically dressed as French maids. In addition to serving food, the maids engage in conversation and games with the customers. Manga kissaten, a type of internet cafe where customers can read comics and watch DVDs in addition to having access to the internet are also popular and frequented by both men and women.
But most of all, Akihabara is all about shopping!
Akihabara has been undergoing major redevelopment over the years, including the renovation and expansion of Akihabara Station and the construction of new buildings in its proximity. Among these newly opened buildings are the Yodobashi Akiba electronics store and the Akihabara Crossfield, a business complex which aims to promote Akihabara as a center for global electronics technology and trade.
We had the opportunity to spend a great deal of time at Yodobashi Akiba, (at JR Akihabara/ Showa-dori exit). This massive 9-story flagship store is open daily from 9:30 AM-10:00 PM and sells anything and everything imaginable in the electronics category. The store is part of the 21 stores in Japan and the two online stores in China operated by Yodobashi Camera Co Ltd. Established in April of 1960, the chain is headquartered in Shinjuku, Tokyo. (http://www.yodobashi-akiba.com/) The Akiba megastore was opened in 2005.
Although the building has nine floors devoted to shopping, dining and services, it does have six sub-levels, most of which are devoted to parking.
On the main level, the first floor is dedicated to mobile phones (NTT, DoCoMo, Softbank), laptops, desktops, memory storage devices and batteries. Here you will also find the Apple shop offering Mac, Mac accessories, iPads, etc.
Moving up to the second floor, you will find PC peripherals, accessories, software, books, printers, fax machines, phones and there is even a “suitcase corner.”
Being an avid photographer, my favorite floor was the third floor with an unbelievable stock of cameras, both traditional and digital, camcorders and camera supplies. What I found humorous was that tucked in among all of these photography related items were watches, including wall clocks, alarm clocks, and stopwatches. One would say that this is an electronics store and watches are considered electronics but how do you explain the stationary supplies also grouped together on the same floor? There was even a “souvenir corner” carrying everything from yukatas, jinbei and T- shirts to sake bottle sets and KOKESHI dolls. Looking for lanterns, headbands, postcards, fans and swords to bring home to family and friends as omiyage (souvenirs), you can find it all on the third floor of Yodobashi Akiba!
On the fourth floor, your head will be spinning with the variety of plasma and LCD TVs. Blue ray players, audio accessories and navigation systems just to name a few.
The fifth floor was what I called the domestic floor, offering everything from air conditioning units to hearing aids. There was kitchen appliances of all shapes, types and colors arranged in a pleasing manner as is the Japanese custom. Washing machines, heated toilet seats, futon dryers and massage chairs, anything and everything to make life at home more enjoyable. What we found to be popular in Japan were the robotic vacuum cleaners, like Roomba. Every store in Akihabra seemed to carry them.
The sixth floor was the entertainment floor, with game consoles, toys, musical instruments, bikes, CD/ DVD players, etc.
The seventh floor is the specialty shop floor where you will find Tower Records, the Big Vision 21 men’s clothing shop, Augean glasses and contacts, reflexology services, and a travel company.
The eighth floor is where your nose will lead you when you are hungry after all this browsing and shopping. The “restaurant floor” has many types of restaurants which serve everything from steak, pasta, Indian curry, ramen, Korean iron pot dishes, Chinese cuisine, pizza to western food. There is even a revolving sushi bar!
Finally, the ninth floor where you will find golf equipment, a golf driving range and a batting cage.
It is easy to spend an entire day at Yodobashi Akiba, even if you are not there to shop. Easy to get to and offering something for everyone, it is your one stop shop in Tokyo’s Electric Town!