Akihabara and Maid cafe experience
On the North East of Tokyo at the north of Kanda river you will find Akihabara (Electric Town). Probably the craziest gadget and geek shops areas you’ll ever had the chance to visit. Akihabara has become something different from the rest of Tokyo, home of the gaming, anime, maid cafe and otaku movement and is still home to perhaps the largest electronics store zones in the world.
Akihabara (秋葉原) takes its name and its known to be the area around Akihabara Station in the Chiyoda ward of Tokyo, Japan.
Administratively, the area called Akihabara is part of the Sotokanda district (外神田), and the also part of Kanda-Sakumachō. The name Akihabara is a shortening of Akibagahara (秋葉が原), which comes from Akiba (秋葉). It was named after a fire-controlling deity of a shrine built after the area was destroyed by a fire in 1869.
Fires in the Edo Period
The area that is now Akihabara was once next one of the Edo’s city gates and was as a toll or passage between the city and north of Japan. This made the Akihabara area home and working place to many craftsmen and tradesmen, as well as some low class samurai.
One of Tokyo’s frequent fires on the Edo period destroyed the area in 1869, and the people decided to replace the buildings of the area with a shrine called Chinkasha (now known as Akiba Shrine, 秋葉神社 Akiba Jinja), meaning fire extinguisher shrine, in an attempt to prevent the risk and spread of future fires. The locals nicknamed the shrine Akiba after the deity that could control fire, and the area around it became known as Akibagahara and later Akihabara. After Akihabara Station was built in 1888, the shrine was moved to the Taitō ward where it still resides today.
Akihabara area in 2018
Nowadays the Akihabara area has has become a trading centre of cheap electronics, gadget goodness, comic, manga and videogames related stuff.
The electronics began to lose their futuristic appeal in about the 1980s, the shops of Akihabara shifted their focus to home computers at a time when they were only used by specialists and hobbyists. This new specialization brought in a new type of consumer, computer nerds or otaku. The market in Akihabara naturally shifted onto their new type of customers that were more focused on anime, manga, and video games.
The connection between Akihabara and otaku has not only survived but grown to the point that the area is now known worldwide as a center for otaku culture, and some of them even consider Akihabara to be a sacred place.
The influence of otaku culture has shaped Akihabara’s businesses and buildings to reflect the interests of anime related culture and gained the district worldwide fame for its distinctive imagery.
Akihabara tries to create an atmosphere as close as possible to the game and anime worlds of customers’ interest. The streets of Akihabara are covered with anime and manga icons, and cosplayers on the sidewalks handing out advertisements, especially for maid cafés. Its quite outrageous how inside the shops sometimes spicy toys are mixed with kawaii(cute) characters: Doreaemon, Kumamon, Gudetama, Rilakumma…
Tokyo by night and specially Akihabara turns into a beautiful and shiny city of lights, organised chaos and gaming related sanctuary. It’s almost living inside movies like “Blade Runner,” “The Fifth Element,” “Ghost in the Shell” and, well, just about every other sci-fi movie you can think of specially when its rainy or foggy and the water spreads and blends the sign lights into a futuristic ambiance.
Its also interesting the contrast between the more “commercial oriented” areas at Akihabara where the big shopping malls are located (Donki, or Yodobashi Camera) vs the small alleys around Sotokanda with all kinda of small electronic equipment, that sometimes resemble to fruit stores but with boxes filled with electronics and gadgets instead of fruit. This small alleys are magical and they sell from lights and electronic related items to mobile and computer related goods.
Maid Cafe Experience
Although I was told to visit one of the famous Japan maid cafes I must say It was too geek even for me so I didn’t visited one to any until a friend of mine pushed me to enter one when he visited me in Tokyo so we decided to investigate what was all about.
We took a stroll around the Akihabara area and after speaking with one cosplay maid girl that was prmoting one of the cafes she inviting us to visit it, so we accepted and she escorted us to the door.
Okaerinasai goshujin sama!
We went up to the first floor of some sketchy modern style building. As we pass through the door two young girls (around 18-23 year old) dressed up like anime maids bowed and welcomed us saying some words in japanese that i can deduct they were something like -“Okaerinasai goshujin sama!” which could be translated as -“Welcome Back Master!”
The cafe was half full and it was more a theater and restaurant with a small stage where the maids perform small shows rather than a cafe.
We were invited by one of the girls to take a seat on a tiny table where we were asked a couple of questions in a very friendly way (I believe just to break the ice as it can be a bit awkward) After the talk she gave us the menu and also a bunny ears tiara for each of us.
The menus consist mainly on washoku kawaii dishes, supercute japanese cuisine decorated plates most of them resembling cats bears bunnies and similar cute animals.
When the maid came with our dishes she told us to follow-up the spell she was casting to our food. So she said something like “moe moe kyuuun!” and created a heart shape with her hands while smiling. It was a bit awkward but funny so the three of us repeated it together at the same time.
It was strictly forbidden to take pictures inside the cafe so if the customer wants take a picture with the maids he will to pay an extra fee of around 500 yen.
The overall experience was positive, even though it was a bit awkward we had fun in the place, although I need to point that this place reminded me a bit to Hooters but oriented to a different sector of public. Another dodgy stuff worth mentioning was that generally the other customers were parents with their kids, groups of two/three western girlfriends together having fun and group of otakus… but it was quite weird to see a guy on his mid fifties wearing tuxedo on his own sitting in one of the corner of the place, I’m not saying he does not have the right to be at the cafe but it just looked quite weird to us to see a guy so serious wearing his office outfit peeking with pervert eyes at the girl tights.
Akihabara Transport and Main places
On the map below you can find in Blue Color the closest train stations to Akihabara and in Red some of the main shops in the area. The best options are Suehirocho on the Ginza line or Akihabara Station on the JR line.
Video Walking Around the Akihabara Area during daytime
Below a video walking around the area on a weekday during daytime.