Whether it's a regular Japanese guy dressed up in his favourite cosplay outfit, a local maid in all her finery, or a piece of funky electronic equipment that catches your eye, Akihabara is a place for seeing and experiencing a very unique subculture in Tokyo. It's why we've dubbed it the 'Double-Take Place.'
Doing a double-take is an inevitable part of a visit to this part of Tokyo. Why? Well it's one of those places where you see things as you walk along the street that you simply don't find in other areas. And when that happens, natural instinct takes over. You end up doing a double-take.
But double-takes are not the only thing that make this place unique.
Good question. It's certainly unique in Tokyo terms. Actually, it's pretty unique when you compare it to most places in the world. And it all started with the electronic goods that made the area famous.\
First and foremost Akihabara is about the range of gadgets, gizmos, and devices that one way or another plug into the world of electricity as we know it. Some use mains electricity, some use battery, others are powered by solar. But it you're wanting that one particular piece of electronic equipment that you've heard is available in Japan, Akihabara is the place you'll find it. It's why it's called Tokyo Electric Town. And it's why shopping is number one on the list of things to do here.
Behind the bits and bytes that shout from all the shop windows, there's a thriving subculture of maids, geeks, and gaming. As a tourist, you may be wondering whether you'd have access to this subculture. Well in Akihabara, it surrounds you. It's part of the place. And it's almost impossible to miss if you decide to put this part of the city on your Tokyo itinerary. Curious? Here's a little bit more to whet your appetite...
The maids are going to be the first element of this subculture you experience. Immediately you leave the station via the Electric Town exit, you can't help but meet the Tokyo maids. They are everywhere. And yes, you're likely to do a double-take : )
They call to potential customers on the street and hand out flyers inviting them to visit their particular blend of cafe. And don't worry. It's all done in good humour. If they call to you and you don't want a flyer, just smile and walk on.
Well there's nothing sordid about this pastime. The maids really do work in cafes and you can sit down and have a drink if you happen to fancy taking a break from the streets for a while. The maids will make you more than welcome - this is their forte!
What do the maids do? Their job is to pamper you and fluff your ego until you feel like a peacock strutting your stuff! When you've had enough, they'll see you off with a "Have a good afternoon Sir/Madame" and turn to the next street-tired customer.
In English they might be referred to as nerds or geeks. In Tokyo, Akihabara is the place to meet their Japanese equivalent. The Otaku.
The term 'Otaku' still gets a little lost in translation though. Whereas geeks tend to be associated with computers, the Otaku are much more than just computer fans. They may be into cosplay , manga, anime, gaming, or other aspects of Japanese culture. But whatever their specialism, it becomes (at least this is the way it appears to an outsider) an obsession that takes up all their free time. And it's why you'll have that double-take moment when you see an absolutely regular Japanese guy walking down the street sporting the latest in cosplay gear.
Whatever you make of the Otaku, however, they're everywhere in Akihabara. This is the place they're able to buy their costumes, cards, magazines, games, or other equipment necessary for their passion.
Getting to Akihabara is a relatively easy process because it's one of the stations on the famous Yamanote Line. When you get to the station you just follow the signs to Akihabara Electric Town and you'll find yourself in the heart of the action.
Well if the reason you're visiting Tokyo is because of the subculture aspects of this area, then staying here is a great way to make the most of your time.
If, however, you just want to make a day trip of it, we'd recommend staying somewhere else. Why? The different districts of Tokyo all have their own characteristics and plus points. Take the time to find the one that best fits you. After all, the place you spend your sleeping hours should be as comfortable as possible. See our Tokyo places section for more information.
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