Akihabara and Nakano Broadway. Two places that remind me that I’m still a nerd at heart. Both of these neighborhoods are filled with nostalgia. At the same time they are home to futuristic gadgets and some of the latest tech on the market. An interesting combination of past and future with some eccentric stuff in between. Here are some of my favorite things to do in the two otaku capitals of Tokyo.
Akihabara, or “Akiba” for short, is a nerd’s dream. This “Electric Town” is on the east side of the Yamanote Line, just south of Ueno Station. After getting off at Akihabara Station you’ll see why they call it the Electric Town. The bright billboards, flashy storefronts and loud music rival Shibuya’s own crossing. Let’s take a walk through the streets of Akiba.
Just out front of the Electric Town exit is AKB Cafe and the Gundam Cafe. At these two themed restaurants you can have food and drink inspired by the former: the internationally-known AKB48 idol group and the world’s most well-known anime, Gundam.
Heading towards the west of the station and you’ll be surprised to find that yes, arcades still exist! What was once a fad of 80s and 90s gaming is still being kept alive years later in Japan. In fact, some games get released in the arcades before even reaching the consoles here.
Some of my favorites to play at are the two Club Segas and the Taito Game Center. The Club Sega closest to the station has more crane games while the second—a few buildings down—is focused more on big cabinet-style play. Check one of these two out on a weekend and there’s bound to be a tournament going down. Taito has mostly crane games, with the top floors dedicated to rhythm and fighting games respectively.
If you get all googly-eyed for a prize, go for it! With some skill (and a little luck) crane games are actually winnable in most of the arcades. Not to mention the staff treats you like royalty if you do win.
Feeling hungry? You might as well stop at one of the many maid cafes lining the streets of Akiba. These places aren’t that hard to find. Just look for a girl in an extremely kawaii dress, wearing lots of makeup. Usually these maid cosplayers are passing out fliers; beckoning people to come into their cafe.
Once inside, prepare to get pampered like a prince/princess. From talking to you in a super cute voice, to feeding you maids go over the top to make sure you have an enjoyable meal!
If Akihabara is home for nerds on the east side of Tokyo, Nakano Broadway is for the west coast otaku. Both areas propel the thriving tech and gaming culture. Nakano Broadway even live streams arcade tournaments weekly. But there is one area that Nakano Broadway seems to trump Akiba: its collections.
Akiba has quite a few shops for those interested in collection figurines of their favorite anime characters. But Nakano is a collector’s haven. To put things in perspective: some stores in Nakano have unopened models that date back to the 1950s. Some even later than that. Another store had a full-size, exact replica of Han Solo frozen in carbonite. This neighborhood is filled with nostalgia.
Additionally, there are quite a few stores selling the most outrageous apparel I’ve seen in Tokyo. T-shirts with hilarious phrases (that somehow translate well in both languages?). Retro clothing and tons of classic anime and film merchandise. Pins, posters…a grab bag of stuff that could make for great souvenirs or a funny gift for that very nerdy friend of yours.
There’s no awesome place I would say shines above the rest on Broadway, it’s best to get to know this area by exploring for yourself. It’s more fun that way, trust me. Start at the ground floor and work your way up. If something looks interesting or mysterious, just walk in. Quite a few stores don’t have noticeable names, which makes everything feel connected to each other. The shops get progressively more interesting with level in the shopping complex.
As for food, take your pick. The streets around Nakano Broadway have loads of dining options. My favorite of them all is WOOOM though. The burgers are just off the chain at this dive bar.
Nakano and Akihabara are great places to check out on a day trip. Although you might not spend the whole day at each, they are conveniently located near major stations, which have just as much fun and entertainment. So go, be a geek for a day. Or just take it into overdrive if you already are one.
Akihabara is two stations north of Tokyo Station on the Yamanote Line.
Nakano Broadway is one station west of Shinjuku Station on the Chuo Rapid Line. North exit leads to Broadway.