While Akihabara is not geographically large, it contains a frightening amount of tightly spaced, multi-storied shops. Because of the multitudes of shops, and the chaos surrounding them, it can be very hard to shop effectively, and very easy to get lost. If you’re planning on going to the Akihabara Electric Town to buy anime-related goods, cards, models, figurines, or other products, it is best to come with a sound game plan. We’ve checked out some of the bigger, as well as some of the smaller shops so you don’t have to.
ANIME/MANGA RELATED GOODS IN AKIHABARA
For most of us, this is what brings us to Akihabara. Those who are not fluent in Japanese probably will not find much use in buying Blu-ray disks and manga. However, everyone can enjoy merch related to their favorite series regardless of language ability.
Animate (=アニメイト) is one of the largest and most easily recognized stores in Akihabara. If you’re not looking for anything in particular, and want to do most of your shopping in only a few different places, you might want to make a stop here. Animate spans six floors selling everything from food to new releases, merch, game soundtracks, and You-Gi-Oh cards, among multitudes of other things. Most of the merch and audio-visual goods seem to be geared towards shows most popular with teenage girls and young women. They advertise a space in the third floor as specifically for women as well.
AKIHABARA RADIO KAIKAN
Akihabara Radio Kaikan (=秋葉原ラジオ会館) is essentially the otaku version of a mall. Of course, because of space constraints it isn’t vast like most malls, but makes up for it by being freakishly tall, spanning 11 floors including one basement level.
Akihabara Radio Kaikan is comprised of various private shops, including some that have their own flagship stores in Akihabara nearby. Similarly to animate, it is a good stop if you’re not looking to walk through more than just a few buildings. You’ll likely find something close to what you’re looking for here. It contains a Comic Toranoana, where you can buy manga related goods. Furthermore, you can find many card shops, as well as figurines, merch, and hobby stores spread throughout the store.
AKIHABARA CULTURES ZONE
Akihabara Cultures Zone (=秋葉原カルチャーズZONE) is another mall type building comprised of various individual shops spread across its six floors. It has something for everyone, from figurines to card games. There’s also an Animate Cafe on the top floor with a changing menu based on what anime is being portrayed. I would however not recommend going to the cafe.
VOLKS HOBBY HEAVEN AKIHABARA
Volks Hobby Heaven Akihabara(=ボークス秋葉原ホビー天国) is a 7 stories building with a lot of everything. It describes itself as having “Everything from Akihabara, in 7 floors”. Hobby heaven, as you can judge from the name, is mostly a hobby store.
You will mostly find items such as figurines, trading cards, models, and similar items. There is also on the second floor a clothing section. It’s nothing like the bad, off colored Dragon Ball Z polyester shirt we’ve all seen this one kid from high school wear.
Hobby Heaven is especially interesting for those who are not hard core fanatics who’re just looking for interesting, fun, and weird otaku items.
Mandrake (=まんだらけ) is probably my favorite shop in Akihabara. I have to be forced out before I decide to leave the place. Mandarake is a seven floor building which sells absolutely everything and has an amazing selection of vintage item in each of them sections.
Mandarake has a massive selection of toys and figurines, manga, anime, dvd/blu-ray box sets, video games and consoles, and doujinshi. Each of those include classics and vintage items, some of which can be pricey because of their rarer nature. Those looking for older goods and titles from the 90s and the decades prior should definitely check it out.
Although you can find a smaller version of Comic Toranoana (=コミックとらのあな) in Akihabara Radio Kaikan, the standalone store is well worth a visit. Comic Toranoana specializes in doujinshi and other indie as well as unofficial fan-made items . You’ll be surprised by the quality of some of their work. Shopping there not only helps support indie artists and circles, but allows to find more unique items.
There are many Suruga-ya stores in Akihabara. Each has a focus. The one on the map has a focus on anime.
There you’ll find various items related to many anime, from the very popular, to some more obscure ones. The other Suruga-ya locations have items such as trading cards, video games and others. In addition, their website has an e-store, but is fully in Japanese.
FIGURINES AND MODELS SHOPS IN AKIHABARA
Because they are popular items, figurines are sold is most stores in Akihabara. This is regardless of the specialization of the store. Models are a different story. NEVER buy an item as in the first store you find it in. Each store will have different prices so look for the cheapest one first. If you’re confident with your Japanese, you can ask for a discount by pointing out another store has the same item for a cheaper price.
Most model stores are specialized and sometimes not as obvious. Here is a lit of those we found had a good selection of figurines at a decent price. These shops also have model sections.
Yellow submarine (=イエローサブマリン) specializes in toy models and has an extensive collection. If you’re looking for a specific series, you’ll very likely find it here. If you’re just shopping around, you’ll also find something to your satisfaction.
Mulan Akihabara (=ムーランAKIHABARA) is also known as a decent place to buy anime disks and video games. It has a dedicated floor in the basement for figurines. It is a bit chaotic, but very well stocked.
Amiami (=あみあみ) has two locations in Akihabara. The first one is in Akihabara Radio Kaikan. Amiami2 is about a block away near Akihabara Culture Zone. They also have an English online store and sell through eBay. It is a specialized character and hobby shop. Those looking for model related items will especially like Amiami.
TAMTAM HOBBY SHOP
TamTam Hobby Shop is, as the name suggests a hobby store. They are however very focused on models, and model making. They carry a variety of model cars, planes, ships.
They also have a large selection of Gundam mecha among mecha of other series such as Macross. It’s on the 4th and 5th floor, so don’t be afraid if you get to the address and don’t see it. For those looking for tools to make, and/or decorate models, such as paintbrushes, tweezers, paint, this is where you should go.
CARDS AND BOARD GAMES IN AKIHABARA
Those looking to buy playing cards and board games are generally out of luck unless they’re fluent in Japanese. Most shops only have Japanese playing cards and board games. English Magic the Gathering cards can be found here and there however. And there are spaces in some shops set up for trading and playing with other customers. These will often be designated at “Duel space (デュエルスペース）” as a reference to Yu-Gi-Oh!’s “It’s time to duel!”
The aforementioned Yellow Submarine (=イエローサブマリン) contains a surprising amount of English Magic the Gathering cards, as well as some board games in English. It is worth a check if you’re looking for either of those.
TORECA NO DOKUTSU CARD WORLD AKIBA
There are multiple of these stores. Some contain floors upon floors of trading cards from various games. Others are much smaller. The address is of the large one, appropriately called Toreka no Dokutsu Card World Tower Akiba(=トレカの洞窟 Card World Tower Akiba). All the popular Japanese games are represented such as WIXOSS and Yu-Gi-Oh!. There are also Magic the Gathering sections, though English cards are sparse in number. Those looking to play or trade though will rejoice over the playing spaces.
There are various anime themed cafes around Akihabara. The most apparent one is the Gundam Cafe right outside the station. While I cannot rate other anime cafes, because I avoid such places like the plague, we went to the Gundam Cafe to try it out. I must say, it was underwhelming. The Gundam theme which you would expect from the outside, is nowhere to be seen inside. Not Gundam-like tables, seats, interior, etc. It looks like any cafe from the inside. To add to this, the prices are exorbitant, for a quality of product that does not match the price. I would not recommend going there. If you must, take pictures of the outside, and go about your way.
SUMMARY: WHICH ANIME STORE IN AKIHABARA SHOULD I CHOOSE?
When going through these shops, watch out for the 18 and over signs. Akihabara is also a center for adult content. Most shops have floors dedicated to adult content, and those under 18 are not allowed. Some of the contents can be quite shocking, so avoid those floors if you’d like to avoid such contents, or if you are traveling with children.
Akihabara is filled with things to do, buy, and see. If you’re in no hurry, take your time, and go through as many shops as possible, as you may find a few hidden gems. If you are in a hurry, however, check out the shops in the article. The “mall” type stores are especially useful if you’d like to use your time wisely. Most of the standalone Akihabara shops have branches in these malls. This would allow you to have access to all these at once, in a single location.