Looking to buy a cosplay outfit, smartphone, and robotic toilet all in one place? In Akihabara Electric Town it’s not only easy but fun too.
Akihabara is world-famous for two things: electronics and Japanese Otaku culture. If you want to buy cutting-edge technology at bargain prices, all while being immersed in manga, anime, and video games, there’s no better place on Earth to do it. With dozens of stores decorated with dazzling lights and boasting floors upon floors of electronics, shopping in Akihabara isn’t an outing you’re soon to forget.
Learn the ins and outs of the many electronics stores to make the most of your time.
Akihabara Electric Town
Akihabara is a small district of Tokyo centered around the Akihabara train station. Technically, Akihabara is not an administrative district, just a colloquial name for the area, which is actually divided between Sotokanda and Kanda-Sakumacho.
These days, Akihabara is frequently referred to as Denki Gai, or “Electric Town.” After World War II, electronic goods and parts were hard to come by in the war-ravaged country. Many radio repairmen set up shop below the Akihabara train tracks to keep the last of the city’s electronics alive. Slowly, a black market for electronics goods and parts also built up in the area.
This history of electronics shops continues to this day. For a few-block radius around Akihabara Station, you’ll find building after building of stores selling the many electronic gadgets Japan is famous for. In recent years, it’s also become a mecca for those interested in Otaku culture. Due to its crossover with video games and electronic gadgets, this culture of manga and anime is based in the area. Along with electronics like computers, appliances, and the latest in Japanese robotics, you can buy comics, video games, and toys.
Why You Should Shop for Electronics in Akihabara
Akihabara is a great place to buy your electronics for a number of reasons. For one thing, Japan is well-known for its many high-quality manufacturers of electronic goods. The nation is an industry leader and always on the cutting edge of technology. While many Japanese products are available abroad, you can’t find the same variety of brands or models you can get in the country itself. In Akihabara, you can get the latest—and weirdest—Japan has to offer.
Furthermore, Akihabara means high-quality electronics at low prices. Going on for 75 years now, the district has been crammed full of electronics vendors, so there’s a lot of competition. Each store has to fight for the millions of customers that come through each year, and this means great deals. Many Akihabara stores are even big competitors on the online market, so you can see a selection as extensive or more so than online retailers while still being able to try out the products before you buy.
Finally, go for the experience. With dozens of high-rise stores decorated like monuments to Japanese Otaku culture, Akihabara is an adventure and wonder for the senses. This won’t be your ordinary trip to the store. From maid cafes to manga stalls, you can explore the district of vibrant lights that attracts millions of Otaku pilgrims each year.
3 Akihabara Shopping Hacks
If you’re in Japan on a 90-day tourist visa, you’re entitled to tax-free shopping. Generally speaking, this means that you don’t have to pay Japan’s 10% consumption tax on purchases that total ¥5,000 or more. Depending on the exchange rate, that’s usually around USD$50.
With receipts, you can get the tax refunded at the airport. However, many of the electronics department stores in Akihabara have tax-free counters. Just show your passport and tourist visa, and you’ll only have to pay the tax-free price.
2. Secondhand Goods
All around Akihabara, there are electronics shops that not only sell electronics but buy them too. The availability of secondhand goods means a couple of things. First, you can get quality items and bargain prices. Japanese products are known for their durability, so you can often find products that still function perfectly at a fraction of the cost. Second, you can find old items that are no longer produced. These could be retro video games or old music players that could be collectible.
3. Special Deals
If one thing is true about Akihabara, it’s that it moves fast. Prices, products, and even stores frequently change. Often, stores will have special offers or deals to move merchandise. These could be things like discounts on bulk purchases or flash sales. Check both online and in-store before making your purchases to know where the deals are.
8 Electronics Shops in Akihabara You Should Visit
1. Yodobashi Camera-Multimedia Akiba
Yodobashi is one of the largest electronics retailers in Japan. It has locations all over the country and multiple ones in Tokyo, but the Akihabara location is one of the biggest and best-known. In fact, it’s the largest mall in Akihabara.
With nine floors, you’ll be hard-pressed to think of an electronic gadget or appliance that you can’t find at Yodobashi. This includes household appliances like coffee makers and vacuums, the newest robotic models available, of course, as well as the famed Japanese smart toilets. Usually, the Yodobashi selection even extends beyond what you’d normally think of as electronics. For example, in the cosmetics section, you can find watches, smart and otherwise, but also purses and makeup.
On the sixth floor, Yodobashi keeps in line with the evolving nature of Akihabara and focuses on Japanese pop culture, manga, and video games. This includes toys and figurines, consoles and games, and music and movies, among other things. On top of standard electronics like cameras, TVs, and cell phones, Yodobashi even has toys and books.
A big draw of Yodobashi Camera is the price. Because of all the competition in Japan and especially Akihabara, electronics stores like Yodobashi keep prices as low as possible. Plus, if you’re a foreign tourist, you’re entitled to tax-free shopping on purchases over ¥5,000 (around $50).
Early in its history, Yodobashi Camera wanted to make their locations as easy to get to as possible, so they bought up property near train stations. Consequently, Yodobashi-Akida will be one of the first malls you see when you step out of Akihabara Station’s Showa-dori exit. It’s open from 9:30 AM to 10 PM with some restaurants open till 11 PM.
LAOX is another large electronics change in Japan, and its Akihabara location, which is its main store, is aimed at foreign travelers looking to explore all the cutting-edge electronics made in Japan. They boast an inventory of over 70,000 different products spanning seven floors. These include your standard gadgets like cameras, cellphones, and stereos, but there are also home appliances, jewelry, and games.
Since it’s targeted at foreign visitors, it has a lot of features that make it great for your Akihabara electronics shopping experience. For example, most of the staff are multilingual and can assist you with whatever you need, and you can shop tax-free as a foreign tourist.
Additionally, there are currency exchange machines and a concierge with information for tourists in Japanese, English, and Chinese. In fact, the LAOX Akihabara Main Store has been designated as an official tourist information center by the Japan National Tourism Organization.
LAOX is easy to get to, just a few blocks west from Akihabara Station’s Dekigai exit on the south end of Akihabara’s main Sotokanda street. It’s open every day of the week from 9 AM to 7 PM.
Akihabara Radio Kaikan
Radio Kaikan is one of the most recognizable landmarks of Akihabara. Built in 1962, it was the first high-rise building in the district. Unfortunately, it had to be demolished due to structural problems in 2011 and was rebuilt in 2014. The new building is even bigger, though, with 10 floors above ground and two basement levels.
The building is filled with many different shops, most tailored to Akihabara’s popular Otaku culture. In fact, it was one of the first places where Otaku shops began to open when the culture took over Akihabara. This means you find all the souvenirs you need as well as manga, figurines, books, trading cards, and video games. You can even buy costumes. There are also electronics shops, of course, filled with the many gadgets made in Japan to improve modern life.
You can access Radio Kaikan on foot from the Electric Town exit of Akihabara Station on the Yamanote line. The building is open every day from 10 AM to 8 PM.
Don Quijote is a famous discount chain throughout Japan. They sell a huge range of goods that includes almost everything you can imagine. The Akihabara location is particularly impressive for both its size and variety.
Like most of Akihabara’s department stores, Don Quijote is a high-rise reaching eight stories into the Tokyo sky. Each floor is devoted to a specific kind of good. For example, you’ll find your Japanese electronics on the fourth floor. Unique to the Akihabara location, there’s also a floor for Otaku culture, primarily cosplay. It’s called “Cosplay-kan,” which means cosplay castle, and it’s on the fifth floor.
What’s nice about Don Quijote is that on top of shopping for electronics, you can get all your Japanese specialty products there. From matcha Kit-Kats to t-shirts, stock up on all your souvenirs. This is extra easy because Don Quijote tailors to foreign tourists. There are tax-free check-outs on the fifth floor and English-speaking staff. Plus, they even accept foreign currency including Chinese RMB, Taiwan Dollars, Korean Won, Thai Baht, Hong Kong Dollars, US Dollars, and Euros. They also accept most major credit cards.
Don Quijote is in Akihabara’s main Electric Town, so you can get to it easily on the main JR Yamanote line. It’s about a three-minute walk from Akihabara Station. It’s open from 10 AM to 5 PM.
Mandarake is another massive store devoted to Japanese electronics, Otaku, and other goods. One thing that’s cool is the first-floor trading post. Each week, this floor hosts a different type of product that people can buy and sell. You can come to Mandarake multiple times without getting bored.
Perhaps even more so than other Akihabara megastores, Mandarake focuses on Otaku culture. There are three floors devoted to manga, categorized by boys, girls, adults, etc. You can also find figurines, toys, and cosplay. For your electronics needs specifically, head to the sixth floor for an incredible selection of video games, DVDs, and CDs.
In all cases, Mandarake’s selection ranges from modern new releases to classics. Some are pre-owned, some are brand new. It’s a great place to go for collectibles. You never know. You might stumble upon some rare comic book or old video game. You could even bring in your old games or trading cards and see what you can get for them.
To get to Mandarake, take the JR Yamanote line to Akihabara Station, then leave through the Electric Town exit. The large black building is about four minutes away by foot and easy to spot. It’s open from 12 PM to 8 PM.
Janpara is a second-hand electronics store with five locations just in Akihabara. As a result, you can get high-end computers and cellphones at bargain prices. It’s a great place to go if you’re looking to buy a phone or tablet model that’s no longer produced or available on the main market. While all the locations feature electronics, each of the five specializes in a different product.
The main store, which is just off Sotokanda street, a few blocks north of Akihabara Station, focuses on smartphones and tablets.
Janpara Akihabara 2 is located just on the other side of Sotokanda street and sells PCs, tablets, laptops and computer parts.
The third store is on the same side as the main store, just a couple blocks further up. There they sell a lot of Apple products as well as computer parts.
Janpara Akihabara 4 is on the other side of Akihabara Station, just outside the Showa-dori exit, and features a wide-range of electronic equipment from cameras and game consoles to electronic dictionaries.
Finally, store five is right on the main Sotokanda street and has a large stock of computers, cameras, game consoles, and other electronic equipment.
As a second-hand shop, Janpara offers regular bargains and special deals, so check when you go in. This also includes special offers on products Janpara is looking to stock up on, so consider taking in your old electronics. All locations have the same hours: 10:30 AM to 7:30 PM, seven days a week.
Along with being a great place to shop for all your electronic goods, Akihabara’s Radio Center is also like a trip back in time. Just outside of Akihabara Station, this complex evolved from the original radio repair booths that sprang up under the tracks. It’s a large collection of booths run by different vendors.
Keeping with tradition, not only can you find a spectacular array of Japan’s modern electronic devices, but you can also get antique and retro gadgets and games like Sony Walkmans or Gameboys. Booths and inventory change and rotate out regularly, so it’s always an adventure.
The booths set their own times, but the complex is open from 10 AM to 8 PM. It’s also one of the easiest electronic goods areas to get to since it’s right outside Akihabara Station’s Electric Town exit.
As the name suggests, Akihabara Gamers is a must-visit for video-game enthusiasts as well as anyone interested in Otaku culture in general. On top of video games and accessories, many of which have some kind of Otaku flair, there’s manga, figurines, and all the trendiest Otaku goods.
If you’ve been curious about aspects of Otaku culture like games, manga, or anime, this is the place to take it all in. If you’re already well-versed in this part of Japanese subculture, then go to find that comic or video game you’ve been looking for but haven’t been to find anywhere else.
Akihabara Gamers is right next to Akihabara Station and Akihabara Radio Center. Just step out the Electric Town south exit, and you’ll be sure to find it. The store is open from 10 AM to 9 PM, but the ground floor only has extended hours, opening at 9 AM and closing at 10 PM.
Don’t get overwhelmed
Akihabara can be a lot to take in. On top of the lights and noises of arcade games, there are crowds of people, thousands of products, and people in cosplay handing out fliers. A last word of advice? Don’t stress. If you feel yourself getting overwhelmed, go get a bite to eat or find somewhere to relax. You don’t have to see every floor of every department store in one day. Go at your own pace, and you’ll be able to enjoy the details of Japanese culture even better.