Tales from Japan – Akihabara: Land of Video Games, Anime Shops, and Final Fantasy Cafés

Pilgrimage to the Electric Town

Welcome to the second round of pictures and stories from my trip to Japan! My wife and I had the opportunity to visit Japan, and it was the trip of a lifetime! We are both big video game and anime fans, so it was a no-brainer to visit Japan together. Last time, I shared about our stop at Ikebukuro, an area in the Western side of Tokyo with fun attractions like the Pokémon Center (which we visited when Pokemon Sun and Moon had just come out), the Shonen Jump amusement park J-World, and some huge anime stores. However, that was nothing compared to what we witnessed at the glorious mecca of geekdom, Akihabara.

Note: Click on images to enlarge or see captions.

Electric Town

Historically, Akihabara has been a major shopping center for electronic goods post-war. This helped the district earn its title of “Electric Town.” There are still many big electronic stores and computer goods scattered throughout the city including Yodobashi Camera. Nowadays, Akihabara is commonly referred to as a cultural center for otaku, who are typically hardcore fans of anime and video games. The area itself isn’t very large, but it’s densely packed with many dozens of stores filled to the brim with character goods. There are also arcades filled with “UFO Catcher” crane games and popular game cabinets. Even outside, gigantic banners showcasing the hottest anime line the buildings. It’s truly a sight to see, whether or not you’re familiar with any of the series. Cute characters, battle scenes, and other cultural icons are all over the place. Final Fantasy XV had just come out the day we were there, so there were huge displays in front of multiple stores advertising the hit road trip simulator.

As a kid, I had always imagined that Japan would be like this. Now that I’ve been twice, I know that the country consists of much more than anime. Truth be told, although anime is more commonplace and recognizable around Japan, there are only a few places where the hardcore fandom is in such full effect. Akihabara is probably the biggest and most well-known. And I absolutely love it! We were most excited to make the pilgrimage to the cultural home of our biggest hobbies. Unfortunately, we couldn’t make it to every store. As soon as we entered any shop, we ended up staying there much longer than intended. There was just that much for us to see, from figurine displays depicting our favorite anime scenes to hundreds of merchandise in one aisle alone. Multiply that aisle by 30 and you roughly have the size of one floor of a store. Now multiply that floor by eight to get a full shop. Finally, factor in dozens of these tall buildings and you’ll get an idea of how jam-packed Akihabara really is! Needless to say, we spent a lot of money here alone.

Video Game Stores

Being in the Electric Town, I simply had to check out the treasure troves of Akihabara’s video game stores. Although there are a good number of retro video game havens in the area, they’re pretty well hidden. Of course, if there was any semblance of 8-bit goodness on a storefront, we instantly went inside. Occasionally, I would hear overworld themes from Zelda or Mario and would be lured inside like a sailor drawn to a siren’s song.

One of my favorite stores is the renowned Super Potato. The pictures speak for themselves. There are tons of retro video games at pretty decent prices. I was surprised by the dearth of old-school Famicom and Super Famicom games up for the taking. I even saw an honest-to-goodness Virtual Boy! I didn’t pick up any of them, but I documented my journey inside the utopia of game goods.

Final Fantasy Café

Akihabara is also known for its maid cafés and other themed restaurants. Within the former, hostesses dressed up as maids serve you goodies. It’s apparently quite a unique experience, but we scoured for the latter. There are numerous cafés around Tokyo, based on hot trends and other longstanding popular series such as Kirby and Monster Hunter.

My wife and I love Final Fantasy, so imagine our surprise when we discovered a café themed around it. We later realized that there was also a new Square-Enix café that was actually serving up some FFXV goodness, but we’re still happy that we got a slice of fantasy in Akihabara! The Final Fantasy Eorzea café is named after the region in the online multiplayer Final Fantasy XIV. The interior itself is well-decorated with artifacts from the game, cute statues of popular FF mascots, and stations to play the game (PlayStations, if you will). The food and drinks were FF-themed as well. There were Titan crepes and Fat Cat cakes. My wife had a Tonberry omelet and I had Ifrit cheese tortilla, which came with a wonderful seaweed representation of the fiery summoned beast. We also enjoyed delicious Potion and Ex-Potion drinks! Each order came with a souvenir Eorzea coaster. We were so lucky to have such an amazing experience!

Gundam Café

That wasn’t even the only café we went to that day! We later visited the Gundam Café, themed around the popular giant robot anime. The café is conveniently near the Akihabara train station next to the other popular AKB48 café based on the popular all-girl group. While I’m not a huge fan of Gundam, I enjoyed my time there. Several human-sized model robots and other mechanical decorations filled the interior. A video played constant clips of Gundam theme songs and anime scenes. We even enjoyed some foods that were shaped like the iconic mecha, such as the Gundam curry rice!

Next Time… Shinjuku and Shibuya!

I hope you enjoyed our journey through one of our favorite hot spots in Japan, Akihabara! I have many hundreds more pictures from Akihabara alone so choosing about 50 was incredibly difficult. That said, if there is anything you want to see and I just happen to have it, I’d love to include it in my next update. I can’t guarantee I have such pictures (we only spent a day and a half here), but if I have something close to fulfilling a broad request, I’ll look for it! I’ll end here with a picture showcasing some of our goods from our fun-filled pilgrimage. My favorite goods were Phoenix Wright keychains, a Daigyakuten Saiban (Phoenix Wright prequel) shirt, a Yu-Gi-Oh! Millenium Puzzle glasses case, a mini-Garnet figurine from Final Fantasy IX, and goods from my beloved anime Detective Conan and My Hero Academia. My wife loves her Dragon Ball Super Goku-shaped water bottle and keychains of Yo-kai Watch’s Hovernyan, Danganronpa’s Monokuma, and an adorable Rayquaza-cosplay-Pikachu.

Thanks for indulging in our displays of fandom! Please let me know if you have any questions or comments! Next time, I’ll share about our day at the popular hangout districts of Shinjuku and Shibuya, including our stop at the Final Fantasy store!

Tales from Japan

Ikebukuro’s Pokémon Center, J-World, and More!

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68 thoughts on “Tales from Japan – Akihabara: Land of Video Games, Anime Shops, and Final Fantasy Cafés

  1. I absolutely love Akihabara! It’s incredible that such a nerdy anime/game heaven exists! Awesome pictures, I’m glad they’re finally up! It’s surprising just how densely packed this little area is. You’ll find many hidden treasures if you look hard enough. The Final Fantasy Eorzea cafe is amazing and delicious! It was so much fun to drink colorful potions out of a flask. I’ll have to check out the Square Enix cafe next time I’m in Japan. It’s also waaaay too easy to impulse buy every cool thing you see. I love that there’s anime stuff all over Tokyo, but nowhere does it quite like Electrc Town–or should I say Otaku Town! It’s Japanese geekdom at it’s finest. This is easily my favorite place around Tokyo and I can’t wait to make a return trip someday.

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    1. Yay! I’m so glad to finally put them up! I know Akihabara’s your favorite part, and it’s definitely one of my highlights! Even before my first trip to Japan, I had always heard about this magical place. And it did not disappoint at all! I think I appreciate it even more now that I’m more caught up with recent anime and can appreciate both the new and the old. And thanks to Steins;Gate, I have an even better appreciation of the place, haha! One day… a return trip! I would love it so much! 😀

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    1. Haha, I thought you might appreciate all of the goodies within the stores! I seriously took hundreds of photos in Akihabara alone of assorted merch. I would show all if I could but that would be overkill, haha! Just know that this isn’t even the tip of the iceberg of the coolness that is Akihabara! Thanks for checking it out!

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    1. Haha, thanks! I might be just be a little pleased to be there. 😛 Seriously, we loved it so much, especially Akihabara, that we’re hoping to return sometime within the next few years! Thanks for checking out my pictures!

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    1. It is beautiful, isn’t it? The classic cultural parts of Japan are definitely pretty, but even the very urban geeky parts are a sight to behold. We delight in the nerdy, haha. Thanks for checking out my pictures, and I hope that you get a chance to visit sometime!

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  2. Omg, well I know where I’d spend all my time and all my money. I’ve heard the legends of the Final Fantasy cafes. I’m pretty sure I could be left there for the entirety of the month and never be bored. I’d be broke within a day and would have to come up with a clever scheme to obtain a job there, and I’m not seeing a downside to this!

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    1. I was thinking of you while I posted the pictures of the Final Fantasy Cafe. You would absolutely love it! The food, the atmosphere, the decor, it’s all Final Fantasy fanservice. I loved the FFXIV cafe, and I haven’t even played it! I wish I had gone to the Square Enix cafe near there but I didn’t get the chance to. I did get to go to the store, which had a cafe, and was also filled with the most amazing displays. I can’t wait to show you that!

      Also, I would go to these fun cafes everyday if I could. I bet working there or anywhere with a fun theme in Japan would be fun, haha. We’ll need to come up with a clever scheme quickly because we need to be there! 🙂

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    1. Ah, I did not. I was afraid the thing would suck my soul so I steered clear. I imagine playing it must be like putting a red fruit-roll-up in front of your face. Though I will admit, I would like to have a relic like that one day, just to say I have a Virtual Boy. Who needs PlayStation VR when you have a Virtual Boy, right? Thanks for checking out my pictures, and I’m glad you enjoyed them!

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  3. Oh my…you know we usually visit the US during our holidays, but lately I’ve been trying to warm my husband up to the idea of one time visiting Japan. And with your pictures it really, really makes me want to go. Geek Mecca indeed! Wow!

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    1. I think you would absolutely love it! Even outside the geek mecca, the country is so beautiful. The US is also a great place to visit, of course! Japan is really something else though. If you and your husband make the trip someday, I sincerely hope you two enjoy it! I bet you’d have a great time! Thanks for checking out my pictures!

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  4. Thank you for sharing all of these amazing photos! This place truly looks like heaven on Earth, haha. I think I’ll start saving up money for a pilgrimage there some year. And by the looks of all the awesome video game items, I will need to save up A LOT 🙂

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    1. Thank you! I’m so glad you enjoyed them! There are other photos from other places that are also amazing, but I think we as gamers find special appreciation in these video game fandom photos! There are lots and lots of video game items there. What we got was a fraction of what was available, and we already spent quite a bit there. Hope you can save up and make it one day! It’s amazing!

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    1. No problem! I’m glad you enjoyed them! Thank you for checking that out! The food was amazing, both at the cafe and otherwise! I loved the touch of the Ifrit seaweed design. They also had some for other Final Fantasy creatures but I went with Ifrit. So good!

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  5. This blog entry made me smile! What a great experience you guys had! If I ever make it to Akihabara, I would think I had died and gone to heaven. I would probably need to stay there for like 3 months just to make sure I saw everything in every single store and ate at every single cafe. I would also buy up all that Kirby merchandise, haha! 😉

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    1. Aw, it makes me so happy that it made you smile! I definitely thought you’d appreciate all of the Kirby! There was a good amount of Kirby all around, so hopefully there is enough Dream Land representation in the photos. I bet you would have bought them all, haha!

      Three months might not even be enough if you’re serious about searching every nook and cranny! Some of these stores with the most stuff are well-hidden. We could have spent our entire vacation here and still not see everything! Though we would have certainly spent all our money by that point!

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      1. Definitely, your photos were awesome and you did a great job of showing everything! Oh haha, well maybe I’ll just have to spend a year there! 😉 I can only dream! That’s kind of neat that things are hidden though. I think it would be fun to try to find everything there is to see there!

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  6. The pictures in this post are really incredible and help those of us who have never been to Japan really get to see what it is like. The Nintendo stuff and video game stores caught my eye the most (surprise haha) but all of what you showed just looks so fun. I’m really glad you got to take such a great trip!

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    1. Awesome, thanks! Glad you enjoyed it! I felt that you might enjoy the figurines the most, haha! I tried not to only include displays that were public, but nearly every store had at least one, if not dozens of displays. There were a decent number of Nintendo-themed figurine displays. Some had them posed in action scenes, which was a sight to see! They’re all pretty expensive though!

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      1. You were definitely right! I need to visit Japan strictly for research purposes for the website of course. I can only imagine how awesome the displays are! Japan takes pride in their figures and the displays you showed looked awesome. The Final Fantasy cafe looked awesome too. I dream of going to the Kirby one while it is or was open. It is funny that you posted pictures that you knew I would like because I actually have an article that is inspired by our conversation recently so I guess that is a little reciprocity for you!

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      2. That’s awesome! I will be checking out your article soon then! I’m flattered that our conversation inspired an article! I’m also glad that you enjoyed the figurine displays. You’re right about people taking figurine displays seriously over there. I wish I could have taken a picture of everything and share it with everyone! Also, I love how there are themed cafes there. I would be so happy to eat at places themed around my favorite franchises here in the U.S. It seems like the Kirby cafe might not be up anymore, but it could come back. These cafes come and go and change their themes based on current trends. I’m glad I could go to a FFXIV while it was still popular!

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      3. I know what you mean about taking even more pictures. You did a great job sharing the trip with us and I don’t know how you have time to go through all of those pictures! Keeping up with all of them on my site takes a ton of my time (or it feels that way anyway). The cafe idea in Japan is really smart and something that the U.S. should consider. Doing something short-term like that gets a lot of attention and could make fans of niche things really happy. I don’t think we’ll ever see many beyond cat cafes here but you never know!

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      4. Let’s just say this is the one that had the most photos, and this is probably why there was a 1+ month gap between this post and the last one, hahaha! I guess we’d probably see cafes and other themed restaurants for popular things like Harry Potter or Game of Thrones before Mario. Then again, at least we’ll have a taste of gaming cafe goodness in Universal Studios when the new Nintendo sections open up!

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      5. Haha! That makes sense. It takes a lot of time to do photos for sure. I agree about getting other themed cafes. We are probably more likely to get a cafe in a theme park than anywhere else. The Universal Nintendo park is a good example. They should have amazing gift shops and at least one or two neat Mario themed restaurants. I was already excited about that opening but our conversation is making me even more hyped!

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      6. Oh I’m so excited about the theme park! I’ve wanted one for forever, and I had initially hoped that Nintendo Land for Wii U would be that park. It didn’t turn out to be the case, but Nintendo had it all planned. 😉 I’m sure the rides will be great, but I’m most hyped about the park design itself. I want cafes, stores, buildings, anything themed after my favorite Nintendo franchises. If it’s anything like Harry Potrer World in Universal, I expect the theme to be ever present throughout. Cafes are one thing, but they could have dozens of Nintendo-themed stores and restaurants in the parks if they do it right!

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    1. Yes, exactly! I go to anime conventions in the U.S. and I eventually run out of things to look at. I don’t think I could ever run out of things to get at Akihabara, considering they seem to update their stocks quite often!

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  7. This is definitely top of my bucket list for places to visit in the world. If I’m lucky, I might even stumble across a cafe or two with themes of anime I love, just like you did. You look so ecstatic in all of your pictures, it must have been an amazing experience for you.

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    1. It was, thank you! This trip was truly the dream vacation of a lifetime. I’m so happy to have been able to go! I sincerely hope you can make it one day! There’s so much to see. Even though I got to check out a lot of places, there’s still so much I missed. That’s not to mention how much more you get out of it the more series you know. I hope to return one day!

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      1. Yeah, I’m sure I’d be frustrated with the amount of stuff I didn’t get round to once it was time to head home 😆 But mark my words, if I can possibly get there multiple times, I will. I hope you get another chance very soon.

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  8. It is my dream to one day visit Japan. I love reading posts like this and seeing photos on all the stores and merchandise. This just solidifies my goal to visit Japan one day even more!! Really nice post!!

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      1. Thank You. I hope so too. A friend of mine recently got married and spent his honey moon in Japan. He said that there wasn’t enough space in his bags to buy and bring back everything he wanted, lol.

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  9. Final Fantasy and Monster Hunter cafes? Zelda and Mario themes playing? A store called “Super Potato”? Holy crap – sign me up for this paradise. I had no idea a place like this existed, although if it did, I would assume it was somewhere in Japan. I kind of thought a lot of Japan was like this (with lots of gaming stores) but this is a whole other story.

    Thanks for posting these amazing pics – my future wife isn’t into video game culture but enjoys Mario Kart/Party and has fun playing the Switch with me recently. But I’m sloooowly working my magic on her! I hope by our honeymoon she shares at least a little love of the culture and can share in my pure bliss 😀

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    1. Yes! This is definitely the place to visit as a gamer! There are other places around with varying levels of geekdom, a more balanced being Ikebukuro, which was the first place we visited. As for Akihabara, it’s truly a mecca for games. Everything we posted just scratches the surface, which is why it’s awesome that you’ll have the opportunity to check it out yourself!

      It’s awesome that your wife is warming up to the video games and Switch. Nintendo tends to have that great widespread appeal. I’m sure she’ll at least enjoy seeing the game culture in Japan with her new husband. 😉 I hope you two have a spectacular time!

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    1. Awesome! Sounds like you had a great time too! I agree that they’re expensive, but it’s nothing compared to the price of the items at anime conventions or anime specialty stores. That import price mark-up!

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