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HOWTO Plan a Trip to Akiba

Posted by meronpan on March 10, 2010

back during the days of akiba's hokousha tengoku

With my trip fresh on my mind, thought I’d write up a post with tips, suggestions, costs, etc. for making a trip to akiba.  I’ve been lucky to have gone quite a few times now, so I think I’ve got at least a few tidbits to share ^^;  Of course, this will all be based on my own experiences – I wouldn’t be surprised if folk have better suggestions – keep yourself open to other possibilities ^_^

So yeah… no, no one died and made me the akiba expert… yet somehow I’ve managed to write up quite a novel.  Read on if you want an insanely long list of things to consider ^^;

When?

One of the first things you should probably consider is the date.  That’ll have a large effect on your trip, ranging from seasonal events and weather to airfare.  Based on my experiences this page has a pretty accurate run down of each month of the year.

I’ve visited in January, February, March, May, June, and July… so far my favorite time of year has been March.  If you go during late March, the sakura start to bloom and weather starts to get a bit better.  April is likely even better for sakura though make sure not to go too late and spilling into May – I’ve not heard good things about visiting during Golden Week ^^;

ueno park

Of course weather isn’t everything; there are events I’m sure many folk are interested in:

*博麗神社例大祭 – reitaisai seems to occur sometime between march and may.  Sounds like a good choice for touhou fans ^^
*Comiket – Personally the timing of this event isn’t so hot.  August is hot and humid (weather I hate orz) and December is rough both because of holiday obligations and dealing with New Years.  Not sure how viable it is to travel during New Years… I’ve heard that stuff starts to close down around that time…  ‘course I’m sure these are all problems any true otaku can overcome :P
*Tokyo Anime Fair – Seems like this might be a nice fit for those looking for sakura.  Held in late March.
*Wonfes – not really sure of the exact dates for this one… wonfes winter usually in February and wonfes summer sometime late July/early August?  Alas I’ve never been able to time a trip to attend either, but it seems like it’d be a great event to attend for figure collectors ^^

Personally the last gap I want to fill in my Japan trip calendar is a visit during Fall.  Since I prefer cooler weather, seems like a good match, plus you should be able to enjoy Autumn landscapes ^^  If you go during that time or have been, let me know how it is ^^

Flight

Finally moving on… ^^;;  Not too much to say about the flight…  as with any trip, there’s the usual increase in airfare during busy seasons, so aim for the less popular months if you need to save some money.  I’ve flown United for a while and so far they still offer complementary booze for flights from the US to Japan ^^ (though not to Europe for some reason >_<)

Due to the economy (i assume?), my flight recently was waaay cheaper than past years.  Flying from SFO (San Francisco) to NRT (narita) I usually expect to pay between 900 and 1100 USD round trip.  This time I saw prices as low as ~$650!  I ended up paying like ~$750 for my ticket to get the times I wanted (well, that and prices slowly crept up while I was finalizing my plans).

an alternate way to fly :P -strike witches ep5

Also keep your eye out for packaged vacations.  I took a trip with my family once that was kinda short but the deal was too good to pass up.  Round trip airfare + hotel for I think about a week in Tokyo was only $1000/person.  We had to fly out of LAX so it required an extra leg on our flight but still it was quite a deal.

Hotel

If your main goal is Akiba shopping, your choice of hotel can have an impact on how easy it is to get there.  Depending on how much and what you buy it may not be so bad… but if you’re like me and load up on a ton of goodies… lugging all that stuff around Tokyo can start to take it’s toll.  You can mitigate things by using coin lockers, or go an extra step and choose a hotel that’s easy to commute from ^^

The best choice would probably be to stay in an Akihabara hotel but unfortunately I’ve never been able to find one with a price I wanted to pay.  And beware of the super cheap ones in the area… you may be reserving a “room” at a capsule hotel :P

One way to look at things is how many stops your hotel is from the JR or metro Akihabara station.  In this regard Ueno is nice choice, being a pretty nice area and only 2 stops away.  On my recent trip I stayed in Ueno for the first time at the touganeya hotel… could make it to akiba in like 10 minutes (maybe less?).  Mini hotel review:  not a very fancy hotel, but if you don’t care for frills you’ve got your basics (bed, bathroom, tv, fridge, free wired internet), and it’s literally across the street from Ueno station.  There’s a pedestrian bridge over the street so you don’t even have to wait for stop lights to get there (which is good, because I find that Japanese stop lights take forever compared to California ones ^^;;)

ryokan would be nice too although i'm not sure tokyo is the best place to try one out? ^^; -wagaya no oinari-sama ep12

Business trip accommodations have set me up at the Shinagawa Prince many times, which I’ve also found to be a pretty economical choice.  Taking a look at the JR map… it’s a good 7 stops away from akiba :P  Though realistically… we’re only talking a 4 min train ride each way (from Ueno) versus a 12-15 minute ride.  After finally arriving in Tokyo, I didn’t mind waiting those extra minutes to get my destination every day :P

And of course, I’m sure lots of you will be seeing more than just akiba so your hotel may land you closer to other attractions you’re planning to visit… Ultimately, going for the most economical hotel may serve you best.  Though do keep in mind some general transportation ramifications – if it’s a 10 minute walk from your hotel to the nearest station (be it JR or tokyo metro or whatever), remember that’s basically a walk you’re going to have to do every single time you leave your hotel.  Or if the nearest station isn’t connected to anything useful and you’ll have to transfer every time… again, that sort of thing could be annoying.  That brings me to the next topic…

Transportation

what you'll see a lot of in jr stations -toradora ep9

If you’re used to having to drive everywhere it may be a refreshing feel to be able to get anywhere in Tokyo via rail or metro.  Tokyo is covered in stations for both – I never fear getting lost since it’s so easy to find a station and then navigate back from there.  At one point I thought that subway might be a bit more expensive than similar routes on JR but I don’t know if that’s still (or was ever) true.

Which ever you use, you may want to consider getting a suica card.  It will cost you extra (you have to make a 500 yen deposit) but the convenience may be worth it.  Usually when riding you will walk up to the map, look for the price of traveling to your destination station, then purchase a ticket from a vending machine.  Pretty much like any other subway I imagine.  Feed your ticket through the gate on your way in, and the ticket is consumed when you put it in the exit gate.

a yamanote train pulls into the station

Suica is a card that you deposit money onto — once you’ve got one loaded with money, you just tap the card on the ticket gate’s sensor.  When you tap your card on the exit gate, it automatically calculates the lowest fare, and deducts from the balance on your card.  No more staring at maps and fiddling with your change at the ticket machines.  You can even use it to purchase things from some vending machines or pay for things at some convenience stores.  Again, remember that it actually costs extra to use this card though because of the 500 yen deposit.  Personally that’s a drop in the bucket compared to the rest of my trip spending so I found the convenience worth it ^^

You can purchase Suica cards at certain machines which are usually located at major stations (i.e. Ueno).  There’s even an English mode for these machines so you don’t need to worry about reading Japanese.

A little side note about the wonderful rail and subways… avoid rush hour if you can!  Generally when I’m on vacation I don’t leave my hotel until 9 or 10 ( ^^;) so I don’t have that problem though when I was on a schedule and had to deal with the crowds… it can be quite overwhelming.  Take care when traveling in a group or you’ll easily end up separated/pushed about by massive crowds like tsukasa at comiket :P

lucky star ep 12

Few more things on transportation… one is to remember that the rail and subway shutdown kinda early (around midnight I think?  Be sure to double check at the station you’re at) so make sure to turn in early or be prepared to get a cab if you’re out late.  Or if you’re really hardcore… stay out so late that the morning trains are running :P

Next is airport transportation – you’ve got a few options to get from Narita to Tokyo.  I’ve found that the “limousine bus” (it’s just a bus) is a nice option simply because if your destination hotel is on the list, they’ll drop you off right in front of it.  It does cost 3000 yen though.  Buy a ticket at the counter (should be in plain view after entering the arrival lobby) and you’ll be told to wait at a numbered stop outside.

Otherwise you can try rail options like the Narita Express or the Keisei Skyliner.  You might be able to save a little money (and I’ve heard the ride is better?) but you will need to be able to make your way from whatever major station you end up in in Tokyo to your hotel.  Not recommended if you don’t feel comfortable lugging your luggage around the stations or trying to figure out how to use the rail first thing after landing ^^;

if you look past the characters you actually get some pretty good visuals of a typical jr station in tokyo. 'course i'm sure an image search would be more efficient ^^; -toradora ep9

And finally… the rail pass!  If you’re planning on visiting cities far outside of Tokyo, definitely consider a rail pass.  There’s two general flavors – one that’s valid for all of Japan, and one that’s only valid for a certain region.  With these passes, you can use JR an *unlimited* number of times during it’s duration.  This includes shinkansen!

Rail passes are generally quite pricey, so if you’re not taking a trip pretty far out of Tokyo it won’t be worth it (i.e. don’t buy it if you’re gonna be in Tokyo the whole time).  But with the price of a 1 way shinkansen ticket from Tokyo to Kyoto at around 13,000 yen, you may be able to get your money’s worth with a single round trip.  For example a 7-day pass valid for all JR lines in Japan you pay 28,300 yen.  If you used your pass to take the narita express to Tokyo and then manage to complete a round trip shinkansen ride to Kyoto within those 7 days, you’ve already saved money.

When you have a rail pass you don’t have to deal with maps or tickets either.  In fact you’re not supposed to use the ticket gates at all — there should be a person on duty to one side of the ticket gates – show him/her your pass and they should let you through.

an older station at enoshima

Be advised that the all-Japan rail pass must be purchased *before* you arrive in Japan.  The regional ones (i.e. only valid for eastern Japan or only Hokkaido, etc) I think can be purchased in Japan.  In either case you must have a foreign passport (though I assume that’s not a problem for anyone taking the time to read this :P).  It’s also kinduva weird system – for the all-Japan pass at least, you will receive some sort of form that’s like a proof of purchase.  When you get to Japan you then must exchange that form for the actual rail pass.  I believe there’s places to exchange the form for your pass in the airport and also the larger JR stations.

Money

Still with me?  You must really be interested in visiting Japan ^_^  Let’s talk about financing this trip now.  If you were going all out otaku and *only* went to akiba, here’s the bare minimum you’ll need to cover:

*airfare
*hotel
*transportation to/from airport
*food money
*transportation within Tokyo
*money for goodies ^_^

minamike ep7

So for an example bare bones trip (which I wouldn’t recommend since there’s so much other good stuff to see :P):

*airfare – will vary based on your origin
*hotel – 9000 yen/night (can probably do better, but this is probably at the low end of average?)
*airport transportation – 6000 yen
*food – 3000 yen/day (two 1500 yen meals should be doable?  or if you were desperate for some reason I bet you could fill up with nigiri for 1500 yen/day or less :P)
*transportation within Tokyo – 320 yen/day to get to/from akiba (that would cover a round trip on the JR yamanote line if you’re not too far from akiba).  Or you could walk and incur no costs :P
*money for goodies – all the rest :P

For a 10 day trip to Tokyo I’d say you could probably do it for 115,000 yen + airfare + money for goods.  Again, depends on your origin + spending aspirations + exchange rate, but let’s say it’s $1000 usd for airfare + $500 in goodies… about $2850 usd total.  If you went yearly that’s $237.50/month you’d have to save ^^;  Or $118.75/month if you go every 2 years, $79.17/month if you go every 3 years.  …or a $3000 trip every 5 years == saving $50/month. …alright, enough number fun outta me.

I’d say 10,000 yen/night for a hotel is still decent, and if you enjoy food at all you should splurge as necessary on meals :P  Though for reference, you can usually find ramen for less than 1000 yen (covers one meal for me ^^), and for example tonkatsu at this one chain that I love (tonkatsu wakou) is 1500 yen or so.  Unagi lovers will prolly find prices in the 2000 to 3000 range at specialized unagi restaurants.  (i love those places.  the menu is like: small unajyu, med unajyu, large unajyu.  and that’s it ^_^)  Another strategy I’ve liked is to have light meals and to fill up with snacks later ^^;  Lots of bakeries in stations and shopping areas to tempt your palette so spare some room ^^

Again for airport transportation you might be able to get away spending only 3000-4000 yen for round trip transportation from Narita.  You just have to be willing to take the rail ^^

Using rail in Tokyo you’ll find most (1-way) trips cost ~150-300 yen, depending on how far you go.  Subway is similar.  Not much alone, but if you’re hitting a lot of places every day, don’t forget to budget in that 1000 yen/day of travel expenses.

hachikuji~ ^^ -bakemonogatari ep4

For money on goodies… not sure I have too much to say here?  Well, let’s see maybe I do ^^;  I bet you’re familiar with the yen prices of figures already… and surprise surprise that’s pretty much what you’ll pay in Japan :P  Be on the look out for the characters 中古 – that means “used” and may explain a low price.

Anime is extremely expensive so you’re not likely to find any deals there.  For example a single volume from a series usually costs upwards of 4000 to 5000 yen.  And whereas (at least here in America) locally you can get 3-4 episodes per volume, in Japan it’s more like 2-3.  The higher price and less content per disk is a real killer.  From the brief checking I did on my latest trip, even used DVDs were more expensive than the localized stuff.

Games were another disappointment for me – in Japan the prices of games aren’t regulated so popular games will cost upwards of 6,000 yen… 7,000 yen or more.  Luckily used games will actually get a significant discount as you may have heard for FFXIII.  Or touhou fans that may not have purchased the games and feel like supporting ZUN… you’ll be able to do so at a pretty low cost – generally 1500 – 2500 yen for each game.

Wallscrolls… yet another price disappointment… be prepared to dish out ~5000 yen o.O

that saber wallscroll is pretty much lifesize... set me back nearly 10,000 yen if i remember correctly orz. well, though my only true regret is not getting the matching rin :P

So what’s cheap?  ^^;  Well, manga for one.  I’m used to paying $7-10 usd per volume here in California… in Japan you’ll get the price that’s on the back (errr I’m referring to volumes of the Japanese stuff, not translated manga ^^;;) – 500-800 yen often times.  Better yet, go to book off – a used book store that often has an *amaaazing* selection of stuff.  I’ve seen prices like 200-300 yen there. …’course… yeah, that’s all Japanese stuff ^^;  If you’re learning though… pick your favorite series and buy a volume! (with furigana)  It’ll be good reading practice ^^

Akiba is also a great place for the smaller stuff.  Trinkets, bookmarks, “character goods” as they’re referred to in the akiba stores… get that stuff there rather than paying 1000 yen to have it shipped to ya :P

Oh yes, and don’t forget to budget in 2000 yen or so for a trip to a maid cafe.  Anyone remotely interested in akiba culture should have that experience at least once :P


If you hail from America, note that you’re only supposed to bring back $800 usd worth of stuff.  Any more and you’ll have to pay customs whatever they charge for going over your free allowance…

While we’re on the money topic… cash? traveler’s checks?  In the past I used to bring traveler’s checks because you could get a 1-2 yen better exchange rate over plain cash.  Unfortunately my bank no longer offers traveler’s checks to me so I figured after the fee I’d have to pay for them elsewhere I was better off changing up cash.  The risk to that, obviously, is carrying around a ridiculous amount of cash which generally isn’t the smartest thing.  Though of all the countries I’ve visited, I’d bet Japan is probably considered the safest ^^;

To get around that you can seek out ATMs.  Unfortunately there’s a little catch… Lots of ATMs in Japan don’t accept foreign cards so you have to look for a post office ATM or one in a 7-Eleven.  I believe Citibank is another option… check out this article for more info.  (and don’t forget you’ll probably have to pay a fee for ATMs too…)

hyakko ep13

If you didn’t prepay, hotels should be equipped to process your credit card, though I heard previously that smaller stores were unlikely to be so accommodating.  Not sure if that’s still true, but remember you’ll likely face foreign transaction fees with a credit card anyway so I’m not sure it’d be the most economical thing anyway.  To that end I believe the easiest thing to do (aside from large purchases like hotels and shinkansen tickets) is to use cash for everyday purchases.

Packing

When preparing for a trip that will include akiba, I usually pack as follows:

1 (sufficiently) large suitcase that I can fit all my clothes in
1 carry-on sized suitcase
1 backpack

With this strategy I have an entire suitcase to fill up with lewt, in addition to any extra space in my backpack.  I like using a carry-on sized suitcase for lewt so that I can bring both it and my backpack on the plane if I’m afraid that some goodies might get damaged if I checked them in.  If you’re confident your lewt will be safe checked in, just bring a second full sized suitcase ^^

Not sure about other airlines but United allows for 2 free checked bags on international flights from the US to Japan so if that applies to you you won’t have any fees to pay (for now).

lucky star ep16

You may end up with that stereotypical otaku look but a backpack is super useful for akiba shopping.  A place to put your camera away along with the numerous bags you’ll likely be accumulating in a short period of time.

In and Around Akiba

Alrighty, so you’ve got a flight, a ride from the airport, you’ve checked in your hotel, so what about actually spending time in akiba?  Buncha articles about, including one I posted a while ago, one punynari wrote recently… I’m sure you’ll find a lot if you search.  Adding to that…

One thing I noticed recently was a lack of places to sit down and rest ^^;  I do know of at least 3 areas though.  1st is the 4th floor of radio kaikan.  Take the escalators as far up as you can and you’ll be at a kaiyoudo shop.  You’ll see kenshiro staring you down but beyond him are some benches and vending machines.  Being sick I must’ve stopped there for a drink and a rest quite a few times ^^;

2nd is one of the ishimaru stores.  Head out of the JR station towards the main road (chuuou doori), cross the street and head left towards the river.  Take a right at the stoplight and it’ll be on the left (though there is a jazz ishimaru on the right ^^;).  At any rate as you enter on the first floor turn immediately right and there’s a nice sitting area (of course with a vending machine).  Nice place to listen to J-POP while covering some energy ^^

a small corner of yodobashi camera

Last one I know of is in the yodobashi camera store… not really a rest area… but they sell massage chairs on one of the floors.  Just head up there and “test” them out until you’ve rejuvenated :P  Speaking of the yodobashi camera… it’s a huge department store… I think on floor 8 or 9 or something it’s a whole floor of restaurants.  Think I might’ve mentioned it before but will do so again for completeness.  So far I’ve eaten at a ramen place there and had a soba combo at a different place.  Both not bad ^^

Oh and speaking of rest stops… bathrooms can usually be found at JR stations but often only after you’ve passed through the ticket gates.  Luckily in akiba you’ll be able to find restrooms in pretty much all of the larger complexes.  Perhaps not on every floor, but just check the floor guide and you’ll prolly see them staggered throughout the building.  Yodobashi, ishimaru, sofmap, and radio kaikan, for example, all have restrooms.

Don’t think Akiba is known for its eats but you shouldn’t have trouble getting a decent meal.  Going down the main road there’s a restaurant here and there, not to mention maid cafes :P  Also a good place for a snack are the takoyaki and musubi (rice ball) joints right next to each other.  The musubi place has like 10 (20?) different fillings to choose from… if you’ve never had a freshly made musubi, give it a try.  Same for takoyaki.  Not sure it’s great or anything, but again it’s fresh so worth a try ^^  Random note – I believe it’s common courtesy to not eat while walking.  Neither of these places has seating so just prop yourself up on the railing at the edge of the sidewalk and finish off whatever you bought rather than strolling down the sidewalk snacking ^^;  There used to be a tonkatsu wakou restaurant near the book off but it seemed like that whole area was inaccessible and under construction last i went ;_;

nowadays you prolly won't have to share a seat with this haruhi ^^;

More random tips… if you do end up buying lotsa books… do it last or use a locker!  Your feet will thank you.  I’m stupid and always seem to do my manga shopping first… then my feet are sore for the rest of the trip from lugging around 20 pounds of manga every day ^^;

In Japan, when you’re in a store that spans multiple floors, remember to pay for things before moving between floors.  Also, when paying for things… not sure how it is for people who are obviously (or at least, very likely) foreigners, but for me, the cashiers always assume I’m Japanese.  …so they’ll speak Japanese to me.  If you know Japanese that’s no problem of course, but if your listening skills aren’t as good as you’d like or you don’t speak at all… well, here are some of the things you may have been asked:

*Do you have a point card? Lots of stores have point cards to encourage repeat business.  You should be able to identify this question because the Japanese word for point card is pointo kaado :P
*(when buying manga/light novels) Would you like a cover? and/or Would you like me to put a cover on that for you? I was once buying some… mmm… okazu and was caught off guard by the latter question.  Said, ‘hai’ without really understanding what had been asked… then stood there embarrassed (holding up the line orz) while the cashier meticulously put a cover on each of my acquisitions…  ^^;;;;
*Do you want {some sort of freebie} that comes with {something you bought}? Not sure how common this is but somehow I almost always seem to nab some sort of little poster or picture card.
*Is {amount of money you put down in the little tray} ok? Usually they’ll ask this if you had been fumbling around with coins for exact change or something – they just want to know if you’re ready to pay or if they need to wait for you to find that last 10 yen coin :P

Personally, having a general sense of the sort of things someone might say to me helps a ton when I’m listening so I hope that the above might help others ^^;

lucky star ep16

Other things the cashier will likely say (not questions):

*How much money you’ve given them
*How much money they’re giving you as change
*Thank you very much for shopping here ^_^

So that’s it!  … just 4600 words ^^;;;;  At any, I’ll close by saying most importantly… if you make it over, simply enjoy being amidst the insanity that is store upon store catering to what in most places is a single tiny niche shop. ^_^

以上!

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35 Responses to “HOWTO Plan a Trip to Akiba”

  1. Shiddo said

    This kinda reminds me one of Seitokai no Ichizon episodes as they travel to Tokio ^^
    Ueno reference ~ how to travel ~ how to pack (Minatsu way!) ~ hotel ~ almost same room they had and more ^^

    Nice reference ^^ Can be handy to get idea about costs of services ^^
    Thx

    • meronpan said

      hahah, indeed. ueno’s a major station so folk coming from out of town have a good chance of arriving there.

      hopefully inflation/exchange rates won’t change too much in the coming years and it’ll stay fairly accurate ^^;

  2. Nopy said

    Wow, really useful tips. I’ve heard that it rains a lot in June, but unfortunately, that’s when I’ll be going to Japan. From your experience, is the weather good/bad during that month?

    • meronpan said

      i’ve been in june and personally it’s a bit out of my comfort zone. hot + humid. and yes it’s also tsuyu – the rainy season – so be prepared to dash into a store to buy one of those 500 yen umbrellas ^^; Luckily the ‘hot’ i refer to is only upper 70s (F) (mid 20s (C)) so it’s not toooo bad.

      take advantage of the vending machines and you’ll prolly be able to stay comfortable enough ^^;

  3. yamada said

    Honestly I’m not really a reading type, I prefer listen but since your tips here are really useful I have to read all of it XD

    When I look into the budget and schedule (for eg. like when is the busy time and weather), I will not survive for the trip to Japan. ^^;

    • meronpan said

      sorry, yeah got carried away and just had more and more things to write ^^;

      where there’s a will, there’s a way :P just may take a little time ^^;

  4. koekihane said

    Hmm maybe staying in a hostel instead of a hotel would be better since it is cheaper and you may meet fellow akiba-shoppers. Also which of the giant merchandise stores(e.g. Gamers, Tora no Ana, Animate) do you recommend?

    • meronpan said

      ah yes, that is one thing i forgot to mention – hostels. Though… i’ve never stayed at one (japan or otherwise) so i wouldn’t really have much advice to give ^^;;; One major consideration I would have in looking at that option would be safety/security of my stuff. I don’t always carry my camera out with me (i.e. when i’m making my 3rd trip back to akiba :P) so I would need to be confident that it was safe wherever i was staying (in addition to a growing pile of goodies as the trip went on ^^;). That and I do value having my own bathroom and private space ^^; But yeah, definitely for those that can find a hostel suitable to their needs, I would imagine that would save quite a substantial amount of money.

      Of the stores you mention, I would single out tora no ana as specializing in doujin (both games and doujinshi). Don’t believe you’ll find nearly the selection of doujin at the other two. gamers i view as a good all around store – you’ll find a nice selection of manga, games, character goods, and music. animate i associate more with character goods, (and i believe they do have more of a selection than, say, gamers) though it also has a pretty general selection.

      for manga, art books, and other published material my number one choice is k-books in the radio kaikan building. they also have a separate area for character goods, including lotsa rare stuff from events. this is not to say that the manga selection at gamers, for example, is anemic in any way. in fact, one disappointment some may have is that the stores are kind of all the same ^^; personally i love it… if i can’t find it at one store, no matter, i just try the next one ^^; to that end it’s kind of a challenge of figuring out which stores have what specializations so if you’re looking for a particular item you know which ones to hit up.

      for example i was hunting for the touhou games i didn’t have this last trip. some were quite old and i ended up having to go to tora no ana, white canvas, and melonbooks before finding everything i wanted.

      so i guess to answer your question… it depends on what you’re looking for ^^;; As general selection goes any big store will give you a good sampling of the sorts of things akiba has to offer. I think it’s mostly when you decide you want certain things (i.e. the newest visual novel, or a touhou keychain, or KOTOKO’s latest single) … that’s when you’ll find certain stores stand out.

      • koekihane said

        Woah thanks for the information. Do you know of any good 2nd hand manga shop and 2nd hand music shop?

        • meronpan said

          hopefully i remember these correctly…

          book off is a used goods store – the akiba branch should have a pretty big selection. also some stores like k-books have a used section.

          ishimaru … i thiiink has a used floor? (a music store)

          also a store called… traders? i think… under the tracks (on the onoden side of chuuou doori)

          key thing is to look for the characters 中古 – that means used.

  5. phossil said

    I always wonder what to do during waiting time on flights. I mean, take a shuttle flight in the US to Japan takes about 13 hrs (connection flights) to wait at the airport and there must be something interesting to do during that time~~

    • meronpan said

      i usually have too much to do ^^; bright a light novel to read, or some manga… if you have a ds or psp, well personally i always have games i need to finish ^^; …if i bring a laptop i make sure it has touhou installed on it so i can get at least an hour or so of practice in before the battery dies… and as a last resort there’s always the inflight movies or trying to sleep ^^;

  6. Tier said

    Cool stuff. I have the funny feeling that I might get in some trouble if I try to haul a suitcase full of h-manga back to the United States, though. (Spensive stuff, too! I don’t travel much at all and the cost is a big deterrent for me. I have this thing against spending large sums of money for things that don’t last, like vacations and movie tickets and meals in restaurants.)

    • meronpan said

      indeed, i’ve always been worried about the return trip when my lewt contained anything ero ^^; luckily i’ve had no issues so far though i think technically you’re not supposed to bring back porn or something stupid like that -_- or maybe it’s only the extreme stuff… i dunno

      the memories will last a life time! :P hahah, but yeah i know what’cha mean. looking back at my trips over the years i could have a 5d mkII & that 24-70mm f/2.8 zoom i’ve been eying :P though… perhaps it’s more like food for me – in that i love good eats and don’t mind spending a little extra to treat myself from time to time. and to that end, i love japan, so… ^^

  7. kesenaitsumi89 said

    Nice long advise ^^ Currently living in Japan now and think there is nothing wrong with your advise.

    Good luck for everyone whose going to visit Akihabara and have your FUN ^^

  8. Q said

    Man, Sakuraya is gone! I didn’t even know it’s gone at the end of February until recently!

    Suica cards are handy, and what’s even better that there appears to have no expiration for them (well me and my family still uses the same card for these 3 years).

    As for the events this year, someone on ToysDaily forum got a list here (including WonFes summer). Maybe it’ll help:
    http://www.toysdaily.com/discuz/thread-122905-1-2.html

    Now that you’ve mentioned hokosha tengoku, I remember seeing an itachari with an ema plaque wishing for a return of the pedestrian zone last year (roughly a year after the mass murder). Last time I was there was the day before the mass murder happened. Quite shocking and saddening. I might have shown you before already but here it is anyway:
    P6170993

    Still have time to plan where and what to hunt for before I go to Tokyo and Akihabara again. Since I’ve mentioned the availability of stuff in Hong Kong already I have to do even more preparations to make my time’s worth there. May have to come back to some of your posts now and then @_@

    • meronpan said

      hmmm sakuraya? wasn’t familiar with that store ^^;;

      having gone back so often, suica’s 500 yen deposit was even less of a deterrent for me because i knew i’d be able to use it next trip. ^^ also nice when you’re meeting up and going places with japan natives. no need to make them wait around while you buy your ticket (since most people seem to have suica on their phone) ^^;

      nice little list of events there… i’ll have to peruse ’em in more detail when i get home from work…

      ooo i should fill out an ema with the same sort of wish next time i go. i’m still a bit apprehensive that i’ll do it wrong or something though ^^;;

      go to maidreamin and eat the mega 2kg burger! :P (or however much it is… not sure exactly but it fills an entire plate!)

  9. I have not yet had the pleasure of visiting Akiba, but when I do go, this will definitely be good. Very, very useful write up here :)
    Reading this really makes me want to visit now! I was planning to go this year but don’t think I will be able to for various reasons. Planning for next year but is quite a while away :(

  10. jpmeyer said

    I coulda sworn there was some way to get your 500Y deposit back with the Suica. Maybe when you like turn it in after it’s used up? Or is that the Pasmo?

    • meronpan said

      ah yes, you’re right. though if i remember correctly they will charge you 210 yen or something to process the transaction -_- (*unless* you have 0 yen left on the card. basically they subtract the free from the balance of the card, then return whatever’s left (if any) of your balance + the 500 yen).

  11. Smithy said

    Great article, bookmarked it for future reference when I’ll head to Japan, like how you bundle a lot of useful tips. Thanks! ^^

  12. Blowfish said

    Wow I cant thank you enough for this great,great post.
    I only flew through it because I wont go there in quite some time but it sure is a treat for anyone going soon

  13. Ninjovee said

    This is really informative! Thank you for this post! This shall be great future reference… although I really have to wonder when will I be able to go ;_;

    I have a question though, did you have any experience with long queues? My aunt and uncle went to Japan recently and never failed to mention to me that they had to be in queue for almost everything they did

    • meronpan said

      just takes some planning, saving, and vacation time ^^ though yeah… might be many years before everything comes together ^^;;

      hmmm long lines/queues? i think that depends on when you go and where you go. shopping in akiba… sure you might have to wait in line at the register but it’s hardly ever long :P (well, unless you were to come on the release date for something big ^^;)

      Events are a whole separate beast though… i went to wonhobby in 2009… that was horrrrrible. waited in line for like 3 hours… and the event space was so small… once you were inside you basically just stayed in line… but the line moved past the figures -_- I’m sure bigger events like comiket are different but from the coverage i’ve seen… you still have your fair share of lines.

      i guess in my experience i usually don’t have to deal with long lines but let’s just say i’m definitely not surprised when i hear people having to.

  14. I would say that, generally speaking, A summer trip to japan should be avoided if possible I’m not sure how western people would be able to handle the intense heat and 100% humidity. A summer trip to Hong Kong nearly killed me and I still remember the experience of an Osaka summer. Then there’s the rainy season…

    And I also remember the difficulty in getting money from an ATM when i went all those years ago. I can’t remember how I got around the problem tho…
    And since Japan is still cash based, it’s not always possible to use credit cards.

    But if I was to go to Akiba, I’d probably spend a day or 2 just finding the smaller stores rather than the big ones purely because I doubt there are too many things that will interest me in those. I’d just go in so I can say “been there”

    • meronpan said

      Hahah, yeah I definitely avoid summer as much as possible. Though for people living on the US east coast, singapore, or other places that get their share of humidity… might not be so bad ? ^^;

      luckily you only really need to go into 1 big store to get an idea of what they all have to offer ^^;

  15. I’ve been to Akiba a number of times, but where is Nakano Broadway? People keep saying that place is worth checking out too, but how does one get there?

    Great guide too btw.

  16. You’ve really outdone yourself, I enjoyed reading that. It’s kind of ironic that I’m visiting Japan because I love anime/figures/manga but I have no specific plans to really buy any of that there. I also don’t plan on going to any cons. I’m going to go to see all the sights. Currently the plan is to visit Japan for 2 weeks, the first week will be spent on a tour that goes places outside Tokyo and the 2nd week will be flying solo in Tokyo. BUT I plan on visiting Akiba even if shopping isn’t my specific goal, I’m sure I’ll find something I want. I’ll be one of those that’s interested in delicious Ungai. I’ve also always wanted to try takoyaki.

    The ONE thing I’m anxious about is using the public transportation during rush hours. I’ll def try and avoid it.

    I have a few hundred dollars saved for my trip already, I plan on going in 2 years still. Tthe bonus I got this year would pay for a trip but…I’m going to stick to the plan and put that towards paying off my car.

    • meronpan said

      glad ya liked it ^^

      i think i would actually say seeing the sights is best for a first trip. like… the first time i was in akiba i didn’t really know what to expect and i didn’t really understand what was so great about it. if i had planned a trip around it and had that outcome it would’ve been a colossal waste ^^;

      sounds like your trip will be very well rounded. and with a whole week in tokyo you should have time to see a good number of things in addition to squeezing in akiba time ^^ I wish I could point you to a specific unagi place but all the ones i’ve eaten at were randomly encountered as I searched for dinner (i.e. i have no idea where i was) ^^; hopefully your hotel staff would be able to point you to something though…

      if you’re not claustrophobic and aren’t carrying anything breakable, getting caught in rush hour might be fun to experience once. nothing like being packed into a train car like a sardine ^^;;; i think the morning rush hour is worst… it gets crowded in the evenings but i never remember seeing completely packed cars after people get off work.

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