An Airbnb Experience in Akihabara, Tokyo
Mazes of high rises illuminated with flashing Technicolor signs. Young women dressed as maids waving flyers. Beeping arcade games and saccharine J-pop emerging from storefront doors. Welcome to Akihabara.
Akihabara is known as Tokyo’s “Electronics Town,” but in recent decades, it has also become an enclave for all things anime. Otaku – fanboys and fangirls – flock to this mecca to shop through buildings full of collectibles, manga comics, movies, video games, and cosplay costumes.
Not knowing where to begin, we decided to try an Airbnb Experience with a guide who could show us the best of Akihabara. This new Airbnb service links visitors with expert insiders who want to share special pockets of their communities. To browse what’s available, simply click on the “Experiences” tab on Airbnb’s website or app. Currently, booking can only be performed through the Airbnb mobile app.
Our guide Saburo leading us through the alleys of Akihabara
Our guide Saburo, contacted us beforehand to ask if there was anything specific we wanted to buy or see so he could tailor our tour. We explained that we were seeking a general overview of the district. On the day of our experience, we met up with Saburo and three other fellow sightseers in front of the Akihabara subway station for a three-hour tour that lead us to places we never would have found on our own. The following are some of the highlights from our adventure:
Our first stop was Radio Kaikan just outside the subway station. The nine-story building is full of stores dedicated to Japanese subculture and hobbies. Saburo recommended we skip the first couple of floors and led us shops like Anime Jungle that sold new and second-hand collectibles.
Super Potato is a multi-level shop that focuses on retro video games and systems. If you miss the days of NES, Sega Genesis, Playstation, Gameboy and even Virtual Boy (remember that? Nintendo’s short-lived version of VR goggles.), then this is the place for you! In addition to this dose of nostalgia, shoppers can even play old-school classics like Super Mario, Duck Hunt, and the Legend of Zelda.
The Mandarake Complex is one of the largest anime and manga stores in the world. It has eight floors of vintage and new collectibles geared towards every age and gender. Warning: toys and comics may sound like child’s play, but parts of this universe include some very mature material. Sub-genres like hentai can be sexually overt and explicit, avoid the adult floors if you’re with young children.
Vending machines can be found everywhere throughout Akihabara, but a high concentration of gapachon – capsule toy dispensers – can be found under one roof at Gachapon Kaikan. Collectors and souvenir shoppers’ hearts will flutter with the range of trinkets for sale. There are figurines, robots, stickers, Pineapple Pen merchandise, Pokemon toys, kawaii (cute) tchotchkes like hamsters stuck in donuts, and my favorite random item: cat bonnets.
Don Quijote is a Tokyo department store discount chain that sells a little bit of everything. The Akihabara branch is unique because it offers a large variety of toys and costumes. The fifth floor holds a maid café and eighth floor hosts daily girl pop performances.
Akihabara after our Airbnb Experience
Chabara & Kamakura Fushikian
Our Airbnb experience provided a comprehensive glimpse of the craziness that is Akihabara. Overwhelmed by all the stimuli and feeling hungry, we headed to the peaceful Chabara gourmet market under the railroad tracks by the metro station. The vegan restaurant, Kamakura Fushikian, is located in the back corner. Though portions sizes are light and customers are required to purchase a drink, it’s a convenient spot to grab a clean and healthy temple-style meal. It’s also worth perusing the grocery store after dinner for dessert and edible souvenirs.
After dinner, head to Taito for a quintessential Tokyo arcade experience. The Akihabara branch is one of Taito’s largest game centers. The first couple of floors are reserved for crane games and the upper levels are chock full of dazzling and dizzying state-of-the-art video games. My choice section is in the basement: the purikura machines. Purikura are special photo booths that enlarge subjects’ eyes and enhance their features to look like anime characters. There’s even a rack of complimentary sailor, maid, schoolgirl and cosplay costumes to don for photo shoots. Note: The basement is women’s zone so men can only visit when accompanied by a female.
Have you tried an Airbnb Experience or recommend any hot spots in Akihabara? Share your questions and comments for other travelers.
Lara was instilled with the travel bug at an early age and has visited over 25 countries. Her mother’s job as a flight attendant enabled a childhood of discovering the world. She recently relocated to Seoul, South Korea, where she hopes to explore much of Asia for the next few years. In addition to being the founding editor of En Route Traveler, Lara also works as a freelance graphic designer. In her spare time, she contributes as a Local Expert to AFAR, is an ambassador for FIG Clothing, enjoys vegetarian cuisine, instructs Zumba, practices yoga, dabbles in photography and, of course, travels as much as possible.