AKIHABARA

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Located in central Tokyo on the eastern side of Chiyoda-ku and on the intersection of Chuo-dori and Kanda Myojin-dori roads, the Akihabara district, or Akiba as the locals call it, is internationally famous as the ‘go to’ place for electrical and electronic appliances.

In recent years Akihabara has perhaps become even more famous as a mecca for fans of anime and manga. Akihabara is the centre of Japan’s otaku culture and has attracted many otaku from all around the world for a full cultural immersion in their obsessions with anime and manga.

In the late 19th century, Akihabara Station became a major freight transit point, from which the district grew and developed into a futuristic area specialising in electrical appliances. Further into the 20th century, the focus in Akihabara shifted from household electrical goods to catering to specialists and hobbyists. That shift brought a wave of otaku into the district and laid the foundations for the Akihabara we know today.

To fully enjoy Akihabara, it may take more than a leisurely afternoon stroll along its streets. It is important to understand what Akihabara has to offer.

One of the more distinctive features of the area is the multitude of billboards and neon and digital signs featuring images of anime and game characters. Besides electronics and mainstream anime, amateur manga, or doujinshi, are allowed to be freely distributed on the streets. The authors of doujinshi self-publish, printing and distributing their work in hopes of gaining a passionate audience in the otaku world.


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O kaerinasai, goshujin-sama! One of the top attractions in Akihabara is the maid café. Maid, or cosplay cafés, which are plentiful in the area, are themed restaurants where customers are served by waitresses dressed as French maids.

Some of the more popular have a long wait time, but it is worth it! Well-known examples are @Home Cafe and Maidreamin, both of which have English speaking maids and menus written in English.

On arrival at a maid café, the lovely maids greet male customers with the honorific expression, goshujin-sama (Master), and females with hime-sama (Princess), or ojou- sama (Mistress). Menus offered have combo package options, which may include meals and a commemorative photo. Some cafés invite customers to play games with the maids to win café original memorabilia.

The experience of attending a session at a maid or cosplay café is quite unique. Maids
draw cute, or kawaii images of bears and other characters onto customer drinks with caramel sauce, or serve adorably decorated sundaes quite unlike those in other, ordinary cafés.


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A KB48 is a Japanese idol girl group with many popular hits, named after Akihabara, where the group’s theatre is located. A café and shops specialising in AKB48 memorabilia are also to be found in the district. The café serves food inspired by the group and has a theatre where members perform daily at scheduled times. Reservations are required to view the performances!

What is most unique about AKB48 is the idol group’s concept of teams. Each team has a different image and member line up is subject to change. Daily performances are possible because AKB48 teams rotate, with different teams performing simultaneously at more than one event.


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R adio Kaikan is the place to go to source the latest and greatest electrical goods, as well as antique electronics and hard to find parts. This ten-storey specialist hobby store caters to a wide range of interests, from anime to electronics, and houses more than 30 stores for all your hobby needs. On the ground floor you will also find a shop selling only-in-Japan themed snacks and drinks.


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G amers carries a wide range of anime and manga related goods,including DVDs and games. Be sure to pick up some figurines! Other similar shops include Super Potato and Mandarake.


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Interested in figurines, action figures and other collectibles? Kotobukiya is a store specialising in plastic figurines of Japanese anime characters, as well as internationally renowned action figures.


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J ust a short walk from the electronics district is the Kanda Myojin Shrine. As with most shrines, visitors are able to purchase omamori lucky charms. The charm offered at Kanda Myojin pays homage to the shrine’s proximity to Electronic Town; it is a take-home omamori that looks like a RAM card.

Kanda Shrine is very popular with business owners. The shrine houses Daikoku and Ebisu, who are two of the Seven Gods of Fortune, with responsibility for wealth and business respectively.


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G achapon, or gacha-gacha machine, are vending machines that dispense capsules containing various memorabilia and trinkets. Save your coins and pick up a few capsules for yourself, or as gifts for friends!

Prices range from 100 to 600 yen. Each machine has a theme and offers a random prize. Some feature popular anime characters among their figurines, while the offerings of others can be quite practical, such as drink-coasters, or decorative mini plastic plants.




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V ending machines are commonplace across Japan, and buying from a vending machine is one of the “to do” things when visiting. Akihabara is no different.

Besides beverages such as coffee, soda and juice, vending machines also dispense corn soup and custard puddings in easy-to-open cans. Some of the more unique offerings in Akihabara include oden, and ramen noodles in a can.

The most fascinating thing about vending machines in Japan is the ability to serve hot food. Cans are dispensed hot and their contents may be consumed immediately. At 320 yen a can, it is a fun, economical and unique way to enjoy street food.




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C osplay is an integral part of Akihabara’s culture. Here you may be able to pick up ready-made costumes and accessories, and may encounter people dressed
up as part of a promotion, or simply to express their personal style.

COSPA Gee! is the shop for clothing and merchandise to enhance your cosplay experience. Here you will also find anime and manga related items.




HOW TO GET THERE


The best way to travel to Akihabara is by train, as the district has its own station where several lines converge. JR Yamanote Line is a circle line that links up the majority of the most popular spots in Tokyo, including Akihabara. Tokyo Metro Hibiya Line runs through Roppongi, Ginza and Tsukiji before arriving at Akihabara. Other lines running through Akihabara include the JR Keihin- Tohoku Line and the JR Chuo-Sobu Line. On arrival, exit through the Electric Town exit, which is the closest to Don Quijote Akihabara and Radio Kaikan, around which most of the popular shops and cafes are located. Another handy exit is onto Showa-dori road leading to Yodobashi Camera, a massive department store that offers a one-stop centre for all possible electronic needs. The Akihabara store is a branch of the Shinjuku-based electronic discount giant, and also offers duty free items.

Getting Around

Getting Around

A quick guide to domestic flights and train travels

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NARITA INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT

Travelling to and from Tokyo

TRAINS

Narita Airport has two key rail connections operating between central Tokyo Station and the Narita Airport terminals. JR East’s Narita Express (N’EX) is the fastest option (60 min., ¥3020). The Keisei Sky Liner is the best choice for travel to Ueno (41 min., ¥2470).

BUSSES

Airport Limousine buses stop at most major hotels and certain landmarks on the way to central Tokyo (75 – 125 min., ¥3100).

TAXIES

Taxis can be expensive depending on your destination. Travelling to central Tokyo costs approx. ¥15000 to ¥24000 by taxi.

A few domestic flights do leave from Narita, but most domestic flights leave from Tokyo’s Haneda Airport (95 min. from Narita by the Airport Limousine bus).

Travelling in Japan

TRAVELLING IN JAPAN

You’ve got your plane tickets, your accommodation, and your itinerary. But how are you going to get around Japan? How do you get the most out of your JR Pass, and what other options are available for longer term visitors, seasoned travellers, and the budget backpacker? While Japan is well known for its advanced transport systems, it can be daunting to navigate. Doing a bit of research and preparation before you land in Japan can save you a lot of time later.


The Japan Rail Pass is considered almost an essential by taravellers to Japan. It offers very good value for money, but only if you are travelling between cities. If you are spending 􏰆􏰇the first few days of your trip in a single city􏰆􏰉 like Tokyo or Osaka, consider getting a shorter term JR Pass, and only activating it when you start on the inter-city portion of your trip.

Previously, travelers would activate their JR Passes as soon as they landed at Narita Airport, so they could ride the Narita Express (N’EX) train to central Tokyo without having to splash out 3000 yen for the privilege.

But with a new option for foreign visitors called the N’EX Tokyo Direct Ticket, you can take the Narita Express train from the airport to Tokyo and other major stations for just 1500 yen.

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COSMOPOLITAN TRAVEL

So you are in a bustling Japanese city, and you have held off on activating your JR Pass for now (or you didn’t get one in the first place). How will you get around?

The Japanese subway and metro area train networks are world famous for their punctuality, service frequency and coverage. For one-off trips, you can buy a ticket at a vending machine or over the counter. But if you anticipate making multiple trips, and you want to avoid the queues, deal with less loose change, and have 􏰚􏰋e􏰂􏰆e􏰋 􏰞e􏰟i􏰄i􏰈i􏰆􏰉􏰎 􏰈e􏰂􏰋􏰁 􏰑􏰋􏰊􏰠 􏰆􏰇e 􏰈􏰊􏰒􏰂􏰈s 􏰂􏰁􏰃 􏰚e􏰆 􏰂 prepaid IC card like a Pasmo or Suica.

IC cards are convenient because you simply tap them at the ticket gates to enter or exit
the platform areas. You can also use them to pay for purchases at vending machines, convenience stores and certain restaurants. Because the major IC cards are interoperable, you can use a Pasmo, Suica, or an Icoca card to travel on virtually all trains, subways and buses in the major cities of Japan, although they will not allow you to travel between cities.

To get an IC card, look for the relevant ticket machines or ticket counters at a railway station. You will need to pay a deposit of 500 yen, plus an initial amount of preloaded credit between 1000 to 1500 yen or more. You can recharge your card with up to 20000 yen at ticket machines or recharging machines. At the end of your trip, you can get your 500 yen deposit back by returning your card to the ticket counter of the issuing operator.

For those who are more adventurous, City Passes may be a good option. These special one-day tickets allow unlimited travel on subways, trams, trains and buses within a single city. They are available in Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya, Kyoto, Hokkaido, Kamakura Enoshima, and Kobe.
Another local tip: if you are on a budget, check out the discount ticket shops. Usually located around train stations, these small hole-in-the- wall operations buy tickets in bulk and resell them at a discount, and they are perfectly legitimate. If you know what you are looking for, you can save anywhere from 10 yen (for a local JR subway ticket) to 1000 yen (for a longer distance shinkansen ticket).

These discount ticket shops also offer cheap food/ drink vouchers, as well as discounted tickets to attractions like Disneyland and concerts.

ESERVING SHINKANSEN SEATS

The JR Pass allows you to use the shinkansen (bullet trains), though not the ultra-fast Nozomi and Mizuho services.

An added benefit is the ability to reserve seats on the train for free. Reserving seats requires some advance planning, but is a good idea if you have a strict schedule to stick to, are travelling during busy periods, or want to guarantee that your group can sit together. Some services like the Narita Express, or the fast Hayate/ Komachi shinkansen, require compulsory seat reservations.
􏰍􏰊 􏰋ese􏰋􏰌e 􏰉􏰊u􏰋 se􏰂􏰆s􏰎 􏰅􏰁􏰃 􏰆􏰇e 􏰏ese􏰋􏰌􏰂􏰆i􏰊􏰁 􏰐􏰑􏰅􏰒e at a JR station. Show them your JR Pass, then inform the staff of the number of travelers, the date you want to travel, the departure and destination stations, the carriage class (ordinary or Green), train name/ number or departure time, and whether you want a smoking or non-smoking car.

For those who are less confident in their Japanese, it’s a good idea to put this information down on paper in advance, which you can show to the staff in order to minimise the risk of a misunderstanding.

ESSENTIAL TRAVEL APPS

The smartphone revolution has made it easier than ever before to access all the information we need while we are on the go, and travel is no exception. If you have mobile internet access while you are in Japan (by renting a phone, getting a local SIM card, or via a portable hotspot), the following apps will come in really handy.

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