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!