Akihabara is an area in Tokyo that is famous for its anime and fandom-centric shops along Chuo street (Chuo dori). This big and long street is filled with shops and arcades that carry anime goods and figures, manga books, DVDs, costumes, anime body pillows, posters, and adult games and books. It’s an important physical embodiment of Japanese hobby culture.
There are a bunch of popular buildings on the Chuo street that are 9 stories tall, either owned by one retailer or operated in sections by small specialty shops. There are also floors that are dedicated spaces for shows or fan meet-up events.
On a Sunday, the entire Chuo dori was blocked off so that pedestrians could roam freely, jumping from shop to shop. You can see people of all ages enjoying their day, shopping for their objects of desire.
Since I had so much time on my hands, I went to most of the buildings and went through all their floors.
Here are some PG13 stuff I saw while I was browsing.
Cards. “Buy this and make your family happy!!!”.
I’ve only ever known Pokemon cards, Yu-Gi-Oh and Magic: The Gathering cards, so I was floored by the vast variety of cards out there. They certainly carry the franchises I’ve mentioned, but so many, many more.
I thought it was lovely that a married couple with a child were out shopping for cards, like they were back to their teenage years. The husband was carrying the baby in the front, with a heavy backpack on his back, so that his wife could browse freely. They chatted animatedly about which packs looked good. That’s love.
Stuff gets sold out, so get yours quick.
I often saw an empty space with long tables and chairs at the back of these card shops, blocked off from the rest of the sales floor. I wondered what they were for. Then, I got to witness the use of such a space in one shop. They are for tournaments! It’s a space where you can bring your cards and battle other people!!! Holy shit, Yu-Gi-Oh is real life! The space was full of high school students in black and white school uniforms, slapping down cards with gusto and and having a lot of innocent fun.
Wait, were they skipping school? I’m pretty sure it wasn’t lunch time when I saw them…
In some card shops, you can go to the back of the sales area (they are always at the back) and find naughty cards of naked girls and famous AV ladies for your personal collection. None of them had battle stats on them, so I guess you can’t play tournaments with those lol they’re just to look at.
As numerous as the cards shops are the figure shops.
Small Evangelion figures that you can put together at home.
Some of the pricier figures were really high quality. You could see each nail, muscle and vein strand shaped and painted appropriately. I’m not into this kind of stuff, but even I could appreciate the craftsmanship.
There was a shop dedicated to selling doll parts, wigs, eyelashes, etc. so that you could build your own doll.
Lots of book stores. If you go to upper levels, you can also buy games, goods, life-sized posters, DVDs, etc.
Some buildings have a floor dedicated to adult books and adult games. I entered those floors out of curiosity, and left with images etched in my brain that I can never erase. No matter how much I want to. Whatever fetish you might have, you could probably find an outlet for it in Akihabara.
I also passed by a costume shop where you could buy animal, schoolgirl, samurai, etc. costumes. They were mostly for bedroom enjoyment, as they were all quite sexy-looking. In fact, they were selling some rather scandalous lingerie at the back of the shop (always at the back, man).
You also pass by a lot of gachapon machines (capsule toy vending machines). Some machines carry capsules with rolled up parchment pictures, or pin-badges of anime characters.
There are two SEGA buildings on this street.
SEGA buildings have these UFO machines, where you can win figures and other goods like anime cushions, key chains, blankets, etc. The more valuable a good is, the more expensive it is to play.
How to play on the UFO machines
On the upper floors of SEGA buildings are the arcade games. I saw a lot of young Japanese boys, girls, men, women (a wide range of age) playing on these machines on a godly level. Hands move so fast, you can’t see them.
Not too busy on a weekday. I saw some students here playing hooky and games.
Akihabara is a wonderful place where anyone can come and spend a whole day looking at absolutely anything, even the weirder stuff, and no one will bother you. I saw responsible-looking adults in suits enjoy their time browsing cards, figures, posters, books, etc. and no one batted an eyelash. In North America, and even in other Asian countries, adults who spend money on anime stuff get ridiculed, but I didn’t sense anything like that here. What a non-judgmental atmosphere. I guess this is some sort of paradise.
A short walk from Chuo dori will get you to Akihabara metro station. There is a lot of food and shopping near the station, including an AKB48 cafe and a Gundam cafe.
I did not go into the AKB48 theater building on Chuo dori, because I have no musical interest in this group of 48 girls. Had I understood the Japanese language, I would have attended one of their live shows, for the sake of entertainment. I first heard about AKB48 after one of their girls shaved her head on YouTube, to apologize for being caught spending a night with a man, which is a violation of her contract.
Had I been with a friend, I would have loved to visit one of these cafes.
I am not knowledgeable of popular animes and mangas, and I have never been into games or cards. But I nevertheless enjoyed walking around and seeing an interesting part of Japan’s hobby culture.