A great place to walk around and absorb the japanese metropoli’s sights and sounds is Akihabara (秋葉原) district. Just two stops from Tokyo Station, Akihabara is a neighborhood known for its electronic superstores. There’s a reason that it’s known as Electric Town, but the neighborhood is so much more.
Originally this Tokyo’s neighborhood was a gateway used mainly by merchants to enter into the city proper, and was born out of a devastating fire in 1869.
After the disaster locals began reconstruction with a shrine to a fire protection deity, Akiba. As Tokyo expanded the neighborhood developed, and took the name of the shrine that protected it.
Following World War II, as Japan became more future-focused, Akihabara became known as the place to buy electronic goods of all kinds: radios, television sets, household appliances, many of them sold illegally.
Tokyo’s inhabitants knew to head to “Akihabara Electric Town” for all the latest contraptions on the market.
Of course, when home computers entered the global marketplace, Akihabara was the perfect place to buy them. In the 1980s, paso-kons, personal computers, were a niche hobby, but the internet’s evolution over the decades to come meant that otakus (the obsessive fans that have unified into a proud subculture!) could create and share at an ever-increasing rate.
So, the neighborhood’s wares changed to suit this cultural explosion. Though Akihabara is still the place to go for computers, mobile phones, cameras, video games, and other electronic goods, the visual landscape has been dominated by anime and manga aesthetic.
Some of the electronics on sale are only intended for use in Japan due to voltage and other technical differences, Japanese language documentation and limited warranties.
Akihabara has been undergoing major redevelopment over the years, including the renovation and expansion of Akihabara Station and the construction of new buildings in its proximity.
In recent years Akihabara Electric Town has only become more of a consumer’s paradise. On Sundays the central Chuo-dori street is blocked off to vehicles from 13:00 to 18:00 (until 17:00 from October through March), and shoppers flood the streets, crowding into big department stores like Mandarake and Don Quijote as well as tiny independent stalls.
In particular, it has become a popular place for teenagers to congregate, especially those visiting from outside Tokyo.
Cute, colorful wares are for sale, and cosplayers are everywhere. The popular girl band AKB48, which takes its name from the neighborhood, even runs a restaurant in Akihabara!