Akihabara Electric Town is all too well known for the sale of its namesake on nearly every street corner. Yet while buying cheaper electronics and their individual parts can draw in only so many people, I tend to think that its burst in popularity is thanks to the cultivation of its anime culture.
For those of you who might not know, anime in a nutshell is Japanese animation in the form of television shows, video games and its book counterpart, manga.
In my most recent visit, I noticed the sight of more foreigners than usual, so this can only mean word has gotten out about Akihabara’s semi-mecca status for anime fans. If you consider yourself a super fan looking for merchandise, then you should definitely make Akihabara one of your top spots to visit.
The Tokyo Anime Center, located at the UDX Building, has events and exhibitions going on throughout the month. It also has its own shop, which has a smaller variety of anime and might be a tad bit pricier than other stores.
That’s where Chuo-dori comes in, which is Akihabara’s main street: there are so many shops, they had to be stacked on top of each other. Head north on Chuo-dori right outside of Akihabara Station and you’re sure to find exactly what you’re looking for.
One of the top stores is Mandarake, the self-proclaimed largest anime and manga shop in the world. It’s located in a hard-to-miss, tall, black building. Other noteworthy stores include K-Books, RobotRobot and Animate.
These multi-floor merchandise shops have T-shirts, figurines, manga (in Japanese, typically), keychains, chibi plushies (chibi is a slang term meaning “little,” but anime artists use it to make their characters into small, cute, compact forms), backpacks—anything you could imagine, with a wide variety of anime series.
You might have to search a bit more if you go down some side streets, but the payoff could be worth your time. Some of the tiny figurines for sale in the anime shops come from gatcha-pon, or capsule vending machines, which you can find if you drift away from Chuo-dori. Also, you can find a good comic books figurine store with a life-size Iron Man greeting your arrival, just west of the Taito Station video game arcade (in Japanese).
If you’re looking for a good deal (and have a whole day to spend in Akihabara), I would suggest checking out a few stores before making your final purchases (unless, of course, you find something you can’t live without). Many of these anime stores have multiple floors, and sometimes prices will vary. With an abundance of merchandise to browse through, Akihabara is surely an anime-lover’s haven.