You’re an otaku (diehard fan) heading to Tokyo and the only place you know you need to go to is Akihabara Electric Town. But where in Akihabara? Where are the other otaku havens in Tokyo? What’s this I hear about a robot cabaret show? (I’ll let you navigate that on your own.) By no means an exhaustive list (I can’t list every store!), here is your guide to geeking out like a champion in the sprawling metropolis of Tokyo.
*All train stops will be given from Shibuya Station.
Take the JR Yamanote line to Akihabara Station, 28 minutes, 190 yen
Everyone knows Akihabara is the absolute mecca for otakus. Laid before you are a mash of anime and game shops overflowing with collectible doujinshi (amateur manga publications), somewhat questionable body pillows, wall scrolls, squeal-inducing plushies and everything else you’ve been imagining.
Pro tip: For those who are fellow arcade gaming enthusiasts, Komani often does game testing for new releases in various arcades in Akihabara.
Tokyo Anime Center
The Tokyo Anime Center is found on the fourth floor of the UDX Building of Akihabara Crossfield. It hosts anime related exhibitions and events and sells a variety of goods and souvenirs.
This is one of the most famous places to buy retro video games. They’ve got ultra rare games (with corresponding price tags) and consoles. You can even try the now-defunct consoles at the demo kiosks. Famicom, Virtual Boy? Yep, they’ve got it.
You can order drinks and snacks while being served by waitresses dressed up as French maids (if you’re daring, try the Russian Roulette dish). They also engage you in games and small talk. Maid cafes are popular with both men and woman. You will see many cosplaying maids on the street, trying to lure you into their shop with cute faces and high-pitched voices. Head to @Home Café for an English-speaking maid.
If you can’t be bothered to go here and there and want to get your pop culture fix easily, Don Quijote is an all-in-one type of shop. It’s a discount store chain that sells absolutely everything from Rolexes to televisions to digestive drinks to Hello Kitty bathrobes. At this Don Quijote, the @Home Café is on the 5th floor.
A popular themed restaurant based off of the Gundam series. Unsurprisingly, everything plays off of the Gundam concept, from the cakes to the decor.
JR Yamanote line to Shinjuku Station, take JR Chuo Line to Nakano Station, 15 minutes, 160 yen
The second most popular place to buy otaku-related goods would be in Nakano. Head to the Sunshine Mall and you’ll reach Nakano Broadway at the end.
The second and third floors of this shopping complex have stores filled with cosplay costumes, rare anime character figurines, J-Pop memorabilia, video games, manga, you name it. It’s a scene that caters to old timers and more alternative fans and is more relaxed than Akihabara. Make sure to check out Commit, where you can find reasonably priced, one-of-a-kind cels from various anime on sale. The biggest and well-known store you’ll find there is Mandarake, which has over 1 million items in stock.
JR Saikyo Line to Shinjuku Station, take JR Chuo Line to Mitaka Station, 29 minutes, 290 yen
The Ghibli Museum features the films directed by Hayao Miyazaki, including classics My Neighbor Totoro and Spirited Away. You have to buy a reserved ticket stating a specific time of entry before you go! Do note that tickets sell out quickly, particularly in summer months. You can book them at various travel agencies outside of Japan or at any ticket selling machine at Lawsons. (Click here for instructions.) Since Nakano is on the way, stop there on the way back to make a whole day of it!
JR Shonan-Shinjuku Line to Ikebukuro Station, 10 minutes, 160 yen
Ladies, this is for you. Otome Road in Ikebukuro features Japanese pop culture shops with a female emphasis. Be warned that there is quite a lot of yaoi (boy on boy love) items here. After all that shopping, you may need a pick me up. Head to Sweets Paradise in Ikebukuro to indulge in 90 minutes of all you can eat dessert madness. Or maybe head to Swallowtail Butler Café to be treated like a princess (reservations required).
JR Yamanote Line to Harajuku Station, 3 minutes, 130 yen
All NERV fans should make sure to drop by the Evangelion store. They sell over 2000 Evangelion-themed items as life-sized models of the characters stand over you like stoic guardians.
JR Yamanote Line to Hamamatsucho Station, 17 minutes, 190 yen
Tucked away on the second floor of the Shiodome Shibarikyu Building is the Pokémon Center. You can get all sorts of Pokémon merchandise, from capsule toys, cards, stationery, to Pikachu shaped shortbread cookies.
JR Saikyo Line to Shinjuku, take JR Chuo Line to Koenji Station, 16 minutes, 160 yen
Meaning “Godzilla Store,” it pays homage to the fearsome creature by having vintage Godzilla merchandise on sale. It also has collectibles and manga from other classics such as Ultraman and Astro Boy. Best of all, it’s got a freaking Godzilla themed bar downstairs!
Kawasaki (slightly outside Tokyo)
JR Yamanote Line to Shinagawa, take JR Tokaido Main Line to Kawasaki Station, 28 minutes, 290 yen
(Anata no) Warehouse Arcade
There’s absolutely no reason to come all the way to Kawasaki just for an arcade when there’s hundreds in Tokyo. But this is the coolest arcade I’ve ever seen. The Warehouse Arcade is a chain, but the one in Kawasaki takes the cake (the branch in Baraki-Nakayama is a close second). It’s an eight-storey arcade decorated to look like, well, a drug den for lack of a better term. Despite the rusted (not rustic) façade, it is spacious and clean inside. For a more centrally located arcade, head to the Taito Station arcade at Big Box shopping complex in Takadanobaba (JR Yamanote line to Takadanobaba Station, 12 minutes, 160 yen).
Be sure to stop in at a manga café, pachinko parlor, and karaoke parlor if you have time! They are plentiful around Tokyo. If you’re really adventurous spend a night either hanging out at the manga café (many have showers and cubicles to sleep in) or singing all night at the karaoke parlor (many have all-you-can-drink specials).
To finish off the whirlwind otaku tour, grab your friends and head to a purikura photo booth to get a fun reminder of your time here in Tokyo!