Hail the Akihabara district in Tokyo Japan. If collectable Japanese toys and model toys, comics and doujins are your thing. This district is a hobby dream wonderland for you. There are rows and rows of shops on the district here with shops offering vast collections of electronics, toys, books and all those of the second-hand kind. Let’s check it out with a street exploration, including a secret steak roast restaurant too. Let’s go!
The action starts the moment you arrive at Akihabara metro station. The station walls plastered with Anime advertisements and the rows of Gachapon capsule machines is a large giveaway of what to expect in this Tokyo ward.
Also, greeting you right in front of the station are several Japanese electronics anchor retailers. We have Yodobashi camera Akihibara, BIC camera as well as Aisan Denki stores.
Akihabara junk street street, a pop-culture mecca
Akihabara possibly is home to Japan’s largest collection of toys and anime collectable figurines on a single street. Big name retailers here includes Animate stores, as well as the Mandrake complex along Akihabara Junk Street which I shall cover in more detail later in this article.
Moreover, you can also find several themed café such as those by Shops of Gundam Café, Sqaure Enix café, Akiba Cultures Zone. During my visit, the Akiba Cultures Zone has a themed café decorated to the Beastars manga.
Also, it is not uncommon to find fans going around dressed in cosplay or even driving around in itasha cars on the streets here in Akihabara Tokyo.
Notably, the Animate cafe rotates its theming based on current trending Anime or Manga series café. Beastars is one of Japan’s most popular running Manga series at this point of writing, hence the cafe then was themed to the popular franchise.
Akihabara Tokyo is buzzing even till night. You can find several gaming arcades run by SEGA and Taito, big names in the video game industry. Also, a staple item in these arcades are halls dedicated to claw machines. The Japanese here simply love claw machines.
All-things hobby under one roof
Furthermore, a personal favourite toy store here would be Volks Hobby Paradise, by the main station. The hobby building has eight floors in total, from the basement to the seventh floor. Their product line-up covers both new and second-hand goods. Goods are displayed through glass capsule boxes on the ground and basement floors.
Additionally, you can find pretty everything on contemporary in the hobby world. This includes the newest plastic models, figures, Bandai kit-models, as well as character goods. Also, the Japanese do really look after their toys.
Almost all the second hand goods on sale are in excellent and mint condition. Any indication of damage is clearly marked on the sale item with corresponding discounts, allowing you to snag some really good bargains.
Gachapon capsule machine galore!
Additionally, if you love spinning out coin operated capsule machines, Akihabara Tokyo have you covered. It is not uncommon to see walls and walls of Japanese capsule machines here. Called Gachapons, it is named after the noise which the capsule machine makes when you spin out your capsules.
Inside these capsules are tiny tittle toy collectables which range from animal toys, cards, Japanese figure or even quirky novelty items. Also, these machines are completely hand-operated and requires no power. Hence, it is not uncommon to see multiple rows of these machines plastered all over the streets of the Akihabara district.
Capsule prices here range from 200 yen to 300 yen on average, with prices going as much as 500 yen for larger premium toys. Notably, there is a Gachapon Hall store dedicated to offering all the Gachas you could probably need.
Moreover, if you are looking for rare or out of production Gachapon items. There are malls with many floors selling loose Gachapon capsule items. One such place I’d recommend would be the Akiba Cultures Zone. Do note you do pay a slight premium (usually about 100-200 yen more than street prices) for the ability to choose your capsule items, but beats having to rely on lady luck on each spin.
Gyukatsu Ichi Ni San Secret Beef Tonkatsu place
Adding to the gems here in Akihabara Junk street is a secret beef Tonkatsu restaurant. The entrance is inconspicuously located tucked in the basement of an alleyway shop.
It takes a trained eye or a local to spot the establishment. If the long queues running out of the restaurant does not give a hint or two. The interior is cramped and smoky, but does not distract from the great food offerings here.
Friendly staff greets you to your counter seating. Here, chefs will prepare plates of fresh beef which you can cook to your liking on a hot stone. Additionally, the beef is top-notch quality. It is extremely juicy and well-marinated with a thin layer of fat which melts on the hotstone. The melted fat not only oils, but acts as a barrier preventing further batches of meat to be burnt on the hot stone.
Also, their menu options are simple, you have a choice of single, double or triple serving sizes starting at 1300 yen, to 2100 yen for a double portion, and 2900 yen for a triple katsu serving. You add 100 yen for a yam garnish and can mix and match yam and not yam portions.
2nd hand bargains
Furthermore, up-cycling is a big thing in Japan. If you are fine with 2nd-hand goods, you can find some really rare collectable toys and very well-priced deals here.
For toys, books and manga, a highly recommended establishment to visit is the Mandarake Complex. It is a sprawling 8 floor building full of everything new and second hand for books, mangas, toys, CDs, DVDs and video games.
Moreover, you can find several old and antique items here on the cheap too. I managed to snag a couple of out of production mecha figurines from old Television shows of the 90s in this second hand store. Some goods come mint while damaged ones can fetch a really good bargain price.
Also, most of the 2nd hand toys I see in sale are all still in-box and. What is remarkable is that these toys are easily priced less than half. For example, I was able to obtain an in-box set of toys which would otherwise retail 3 times more expensive than what it would be retailing otherwise in Singapore.
Retro Gaming galore
Additionally, if console gaming is your thing. Akihabara got you covered too. Also, right in the heart of Akihabara Junk street are gaming stores such as the Gamers Main store and Super potato.
Here, you can find rows and rows selections of one of the biggest collation of original and refurbished classic gaming consoles and cartridges. Systems includes classic Nintendo Entertainment Systems (NES), Sega Genesis to even Game boy classics. They are all painstakingly refurbished and tested in resalable condition.
Also, considering that these hardware are at least over 20 years old. Some of them even had not been used. Do note that all these games are in Japanese though.
In addition to the consoles are rows of console cartridges. Most of them are refurbished though I did manage to come across one or two which are new and mint. Not bad for games made in the early 90s.
Used consumer electronics
Also, you can also find a couple of never seen before made-for-Japan market consoles. Moreover, the prices of the consoles here are reasonable too. It is a far cry from the overpriced resellers you get in Singapore and America, who usually end up reselling the goods bought from these stores.
Hard-off is a range of stores selling used electronics. If you are techie, you could pop by this areas to find really good deals on sound system and amplifiers. There are some interesting tech finds like Japanese-market electronics like walkmans, photoframes and PC accessories. It has a high amusement factor too.
Topping up the second hand stores here are book stores. Just beside the station are a number of stores where you can get collections of Japanese books, games, videos, mangas or even Doujins on the cheap. Recommendations includes Book-Off Akihabara and Melon books.
Radio shops and Akihabara electronics street
Lastly, if electronics and tinkering is your thing, the Akihabara Electric Town and Radio center is where you should be. Also known as the Radio Kaikan. Here, you can find shop selling everything from radios, Radio shack parts, used cameras and electric components parts.
Examples includes switches, lighting, doorbells of all sizes, to even tiny resistors, capacitors and microchip integrated electronics. Most of the stores can be found on the street level with a Radio center being a small building with some shops within.
Quirky electronic hobby kits
The Electronics street is notably alot quieter than the Anime pop culture streets. Sadly, some stores in the Tokyo Radio departmental store center are notably shuttered for good with little pedestrian traffic. It is a small building with an escalator serving 3 floors.
However, you still can find a number of store selling quirky electronic hobby kits, and even Valves used for Valve Amplifiers. However, their prices are not really cheap. It might be cheaper to buy them directly off online retailers.
In addition to physical parts are radio shacks selling several Japan-market Amateur ham radio sets. Examples includes those under the Vertex standard brand which you may know as Yaesu, etc. These store cater for the relatively large Ham radio operator population here.
All in all, Akihabara is the best place in Tokyo, let be the entire Japan for pop-culture and electronics. What amazes me is that due to the fast moving nature of the products on sale. Remarkably, there are never two Akihabara visits which is the same, with new things at every corner. This makes Akihabara Tokyo a must-visit whenever you are in Tokyo.