Akihabara Station, centrally located in Chiyoda Ward, is the dynamic focal point of a truly extraordinary subculture. Let’s take a closer look at what goes on in and around this energetic hub of activity.
Initially constructed for freight transportation in 1890, Akihabara Station opened its doors to the public in 1925. Its importance for commuters arriving from the eastern fringes of Tokyo, and the bordering prefecture of Chiba, expanded tremendously in pace with the rapid economic growth of the Japanese economy from the 1960s onward.
Many of the busiest train lines in Tokyo make a stop at the station, including the Yamanote Line, Chuo-Sobu Line and Keihin-Tohoku Line. As a traveler exploring the metropolis, you are likely to be riding the Yamanote most frequently, which journeys in a loop and pauses at such famous locations as Shibuya, Shinjuku and Harajuku. The Chuo-Sobu will lead you southeast to Chiba, while the Keihin-Tohoku contrastingly stretches westward to Yokohama, the second largest city in Japan.
Tokyo Metro meanwhile operates the Hibiya Subway Line, which stops at the fashionable Ginza district. The Hibiya Line is currently having a new station constructed in Minato Ward, west of Akihabara, to coincide with the upcoming 2020 Olympic Games.
The most recent addition to Akihabara is the Tsukuba Express Line, which was completed in 2005 and carries passengers all the way north to the comparative tranquility of Tsukuba in Ibaraki Prefecture.
Purchasing tickets at Akihabara Station is a piece of cake, thanks to the bountiful supply of automated ticket machines. Each of them has an English-language option available, and helpful staff are always at hand to assist if need be. Please be aware that the ticket machines do not accept one-yen or five-yen coins, so try to find a means of parting with them elsewhere!
Instead of paper tickets, you can opt to pick up a contactless smart card which you can swipe at the gates. The two types of card are known as Suica and Pasmo, and both are accepted and interchangeable at all stations in Tokyo.
A niche paradise
Akihabara today is synonymous with the world of otaku, fanatics of all things nerdy and geeky. Electric Town, accessible from the station’s West Exit, draws devotees of an array of anime and manga franchises. Travelers will find a plethora of eye-catching advertisements featuring all manner of popular characters as soon as they disembark.
The station boasts a large number of gachapon vending machines, which provide capsules containing toys showcasing a whole host of high-quality collectables. Everyone from Mario to Naruto can be yours for the low price of a few hundred yen! Naturally, there are also lots of conventional vending machines serving up a variety of local and international beverages.
Befitting such a bustling area, there are plenty of dining and shopping opportunities present both inside and outside the station. Immediately adjacent to the West Exit is a sizeable Atre shopping mall, occupying six floors with stores and restaurants. Prominent retailers include the sleek fast-fashion outlet Uniqlo, footwear purveyors ABC-Mart, and high-end supermarket Seijo Ishii.
Wander a few feet outside and you will come across the Gundam Cafe, which is inspired by the iconic anime franchise that began life in the 1970s. The place is packed full of giant robot memorabilia to gawk at and a variety of themed dishes to feast upon. Next door you’ll find a gift shop, with plenty of merchandise that will make for memorable mecha souvenirs.
Within the station itself you will find several eateries as well, from informal ramen joints to a Western-style food bar. If by any chance you are in need of a haircut, you can pay a quick visit to QB House on the first floor, where you can get a trim for little more than 1,000 yen.
Settling down for the night
There are a number of plush and cost-friendly choices of accommodation within easy reach of the station.
The Dormy Inn Akihabara, a popular chain with numerous branches across Tokyo, offers a stay that is both economical and luxurious. A sauna, jacuzzi, and even open-air baths are available to use for all guests.
APA Hotel Akihabara-Ekimae, situated right in the heart of the buzzing backstreets of Electric Town, provides a comfortable experience at a very reasonable price. The close proximity to so many emporiums of geeky goodness means that you won’t have to travel far with heavy bags loaded with your newly acquired wares.
Perhaps the most interesting means of accommodation in the area is Akihabara Bay Hotel. This unique establishment is a female-only capsule hotel, opening back in 2016 and enjoying considerable success since then. They operate a 24-hour front desk, and free wifi is available in every capsule. What it lacks in space, it makes up for in cosiness!
Embracing your inner otaku
There is no better place to begin your exploration of the high-tech intrigues emanating from the heart of Japanese popular culture than Akihabara Station, so be sure to leave your inhibitions behind and step into a world of wonder found only in Electric Town.Tags: Akihabara, Electric Town, tokyo stations
This post was written by Ciaran Lawler