Akihabara, or ‘Akiha’ as the locals know it, is a sprawling technology wonderland located in central Tokyo. The world-famous site evolved from a small group of electrical stores specialising in electrical equipment in the latter half of the 1940s. Some of these original shops still exist, mostly under the railway tracks near Akihabara station, but the rest have been replaces by some 250 stores selling everything from electronics and appliances, videogames, manga and anime. It is the world’s largest electronic market place, now spreading the streets around Chuo-dori, to the west of Akihabara Station.
If the right stores are found, there’s hundreds of things to entertain visitors: you can sit on a throne constructed of old game cartridges; dig through rows upon rows of unused games from the 1980s and 1990s; visit the showrooms of major manufacturers; pour over raw cables, circuit boards and wires; shop for laptops, cameras and MP3 players at local or duty free shops; play in an arcade that dedicated entire floors to a single game; or wander the aisles of the mammoth electronic megastores, with nine solid floors of electronics for sale. Shop assistants are generally near fluent in English and are able to answer virtually any question you might have. On Sundays the main street is closed to vehicles and become a bit of a flea market, where vendors set up streetside tables to sell their wares. It is worth coming down just to people watch – the thoroughfare turns into an unofficial cosplay stage, where locals display elaborate anime costumes to a backdrop of local bands.
The easiest way in it to head straight to Akihabara Station, on the JR Yamanote, Keihin-Tohoku, and Chuo Local lines, then keep an eye out for the signs pointing to the easily-labelled ‘Akihabara Electric Town’ – this should get you right in the heart of the action, with a hundred avenues to explore.