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Aki’ba, THE geek mecca (and mecha!) of the world. We covered a few spots on our last visit but its one of those places that you can continually go back to and not only find something new every time but you’ll never cover all of it! It’s a bit hard to reference each store, especially when a lot of them don’t even seem to have any obvious naming (having rubbish Japanese reading skills doesn’t help!) but know that if you work your way north from the station keeping within a block or two of the main drag you cant go too wrong. The best part is uncovering hidden treasures in stores that, at first glance, don’t look like they’d have what youre looking for.

A couple of our fave stops include:
The Gundam Café – exactly what it says on the box. A café celebrating all that’s Gundam with Gundam referenced food and drinks and nifty décor. Also a good place to grab a couple café related souvenirs – mugs, biscuits etc. as well as a small selection of Gunpla. Next door is AKB48, the girl band, the theatre, the hourly shows. Sick of waiting years to see your fave act or missing them because they didn’t come to your city? AKB48 has you covered where you can go to them and see them play any day of the year and even in different parts of the country on the same day! How is this possible? Well having 48 members (now into the hundreds!) helps. Though if you’re not a tweenage girl or business man it may not be your cup of Miso.

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Mandarake – Big black building. Toys. Cosplay. Old, new. Lots. If you’ve read any of our posts about Japan previously, you’ll know how much we champion this place, go there.

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Gashapon store – A whole shop just for gashapon! While the thrill of the hunt is always fun, I’m finding I’m more inclined to just pay a slight premium to get the “discovered” pieces and either cherry pick or buy the whole collection that someone else has taken the time to collate. If this sounds like you as well, the rear of the store and upstairs has display cases and shelves full of the ones you’ve been chasing, didn’t know existed or have been out of production for years.

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Sega – There are plenty of multi storey gaming buildings but none stand out quite like Seee-gahh (cue sparkly shine). Many hours and thousands of Yen can be spent without blinking an eye. But of course if you cant master the “giant metal nail punching holes in the paper” or “push the pig through the bars” technique, there’s always the cop out of simply finding a store that stocks the prize you’re after and buying it 😉

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Super Potato – Wall to wall retro console gaming, even if you’re not after a cartridge or console there’s plenty of items that would make great wall/desktop display pieces.

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Robot Robot – Thankfully this was one of those times judging a shop by its name paid off! With no street frontage and only a sign to go by, it was always going to be a gamble but the trip up the elevator was worth it not just for Robot squared with its extensive range of Hot Toys style high end collector products with leanings towards horror movies and gore in general …and vagina-like monsters (why are they always vagina-like??)  but for the smaller accompanying stores on the same floor with a great selection of new and used toys and collectibles. Want to see a fair chunk of Coca Cola’s history as a yoyo? Yep, you see that here too!

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Of course there’s also the plethora of electronics stores like LAOX which really need no description, if it’s a new gadget, they’ll more than likely have it. Pricing is however average or slightly better with greater bargains to be had online but finding a JDM only model or colour can be worth it.

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We stumbled across a “Rollertarg” a bit further down so lunch was an easy choice :) continue walking and you will end up in Ueno. However, unlike last time the market gods were not kind to us and a lot of stores that we previously come across had moved on, though its always a good place to walk through, you’ll never know what you’ll find and the nearby park is more than worth the trip.

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If you have any questions on our travels, where to buy, what to do, hit us up on the Soulbridge media facebook page.

Japan 2013 part #1 – Arrival
Japan 2013 part #2 – Tokyo International Toy Expo
Japan 2013 part #3 – Gotemba – Premium Outlets mall
Japan 2013 part #4 – Tokyo – Studio Ghibli Museum
Japan 2013 part #5 – Tokyo – Kichijoji and Nakano
Japan 2013 part #6 – Tokyo – Akihabara
Japan 2013 part #7 – Tokyo – Tamiya HQ, Diver City
Japan 2013 part #8 – Yokohama – Zoorasia
Japan 2013 part #9 – Yokohama – Ramen Museum
Japan 2013 part #10 – Nissan HQ and Yokohama
Japan 2013 part #11 – Osaka – Nanba Shopping
Japan 2013 part #12 – Kyoto
Japan 2013 part #13 – Tokyo – Harajuku, Shibuya
Japan 2013 part #14 – Osaka castle, Umeda Sky building
Japan 2013 part #15 – Osaka Aquarium and Tempozan wheel
Japan 2013 part #16 – Osaka Universal Studios

04.28.2010

Akihabara, Tokyo

No trip to Japan would be complete without a (rather big) glimpse of what makes the country tick… and whirl, and buzz. Electronics! And there’s no better place to get your geek on than Tokyo’s CPU, Akihabara aka Akiba aka Electric town. Just picture Jaycar or Dick Smith times a million and you’re getting close. Any kind of premade electronic product EVER from radios, to game consoles, to cameras and computers to the components used to make them, replacement parts, capacitors, inductors, circuitry, you name it, if its powered by electricity, you’ll find it here… somewhere.

The station is only about 1km from Ueno, so it’s an easy walk or a couple minute train ride.

The first obvious places are the larger stores as you walk out of the station’s west exit (follow the signs to “Electric town”) being the multiple LAOX and Sofmap stores. These have an army of staff which are helpful and speak quite good English (some stores even have Caucasian staff) and also have duty free. They have similar style layouts, with a level dedicated to a certain type of product eg. Cameras, computers, watches, home goods etc. and a big index sign on the ground level will help you save precious shopping minutes 😉

While you will more than likely find what you’re looking for in these shops, nothing can prepare you for the onslaught from the mothership on Akiba station’s north east, that being the Akihabara Yodobashi Center.

Yodabashi camera store, Akihabara, Tokyo

Eleven floors of every model of every colour of every electronic item release in the last 5years (or there abouts). They even have sporting goods, toys and a floor of restaurants. I’d say its like Harvey Normal times 1000 but Yodobashi actually has good service and good prices (yea, I went there). Speaking of prices, while they are very competitive to the local AU market, they’re very similar to online (overseas) prices so you may want to save yourself some import fees when coming back through customs by not going all out on big ticket items. In saying that, being able to handle and eyeball similar products for a hands on, real life comparison, is indispensable.

After we surfaced from a sea of electric razors and toothbrushes, we headed to Super Potato (I know, right!). They specialise in retro gaming. Forget about your wifi enabled, pizza ordering, “I’m in a rap video” gaming consoles, its back to the roots with the 3 commandments. Shooting, driving, and jumping and maybe even all three! So basically anything prior to the Playstation 1, wall to floor to ceiling of games and consoles. Since very few cartridge games were reissued, they’re mostly all originals but are all still in good to mint condition.

Super Potato, Akihabara,Tokyo

Atari, Nintendo, Mega Drive, Master System to the ill fated Saturn, Dreamcast and Game Cube are all covered as well as plenty of domestic market releases that never saw the light on the world stage and a bunch of quirky little handheld games and mini consoles. Just remember when buying any mains powered devices from overseas, that it will work on your local voltage supply, if not you will need to purchase a separate power transformer. Anything powered by batteries is fine since DC current is universal.

Back out on the main drag amongst the cosplay girls handing out flyers, you’ll see more “Pichinko” (or “Taito”), no not something Elliot from Scrubs would say, but gaming houses filled with slot machines. Half a block away you’ll hear the deafening wave of bells and whistles as the automatic doors open and close. There are also plenty of gaming places dedicated to claw machines, but these are the same the world over. Only enough tension in the claw to give the prize the gentlest nudge of hope so you continue to funnel in your coins. You seriously have more hope getting a prize from a wishing well, so you’re better off just buying one from a toy store.

What’s that? Toy store? You thought I forgot didn’t you? Not at all! A couple blocks north of the station is another Mandarake store. Multiple levels include buying on the ground floor for those with a bit of buyers’ remorse, cosplay and 2 levels of figures and collectibles. They also have items for the die hard fans, like the actual helmets used in filming Power Rangers and uniforms from local productions.

Mandarake, Akihabara, Tokyo

Over near Yodobashi there is another large toy store called Animate. Unfortunately during another “can’t see the forest for the trees” slash “damn you google maps” moment we couldn’t find it but later discovered it in the background of one of our photos! Anyway, what you need to do is get to this store on a Sunday, when they close off a lane and its filled with performers and cosplayers.

Finally if you’re having withdrawals from sneakers or music, there’s still a few ABC Marts and a Music Vox to appease that hunger, otherwise its Gashapon time!

About 2 blocks north of Mandarake off the main street in a small side lane is a dirty yellow signed store that houses a ground floor of Gashapon and 2 upper levels of toys, figures and collectibles. What is Gashapon? You’ll know them as the gumball style machines at the exit of supermarkets that you nagged your mum for change so you could get a toy in a capsule when you were little. The difference here is the toys aren’t a poorly moulded ring, necklace or keyring, they’re highly detailed and painted quality pvc items. Best thing of all, you no longer need to nag your mum, you can buy as many as you want!

Choose anything from your favourite shows/games like Mario, Star Wars and anime characters to the weird and wonderful of light up poo keyrings, telescopic cat paw pointing wands, tote bags, countless mobile phone trinkets and for the (not so) mature crowd, the X rated figures in various states of undress and positions that will have even Paris Hilton taking notes.

The majority of Gashapon cost between 100-500Y, with dedicated stores like this one having a change machine and recycle bin for used capsules. Depending on how many you buy, it’s a good idea to bin the capsules to save luggage space.

FYI, “Gashapon” refers to “Gasha” as in the crank machine that holds the toys and “pon” the sound the capsule makes when it drops. A lot easier to say than click tic tic tac click tacka!

Gashapon

Tokyo part #1 – Ueno for a day
Tokyo part #2 – Getting round Tokyo, Ueno Sakura at night
Tokyo part #3 – Harajuku
Tokyo part #4 – Shibuya
Tokyo part #5 – Kichijoji and Shinjuku
Tokyo part #7 – Odaiba and Leaving Tokyo

Photo Gallery Here