The influence of Otaku subculture in Akihabara is visible at first glance, due to the huge billboards with anime characters and imagery which cover the facades of the buildings and the presence of people dressed up in costumes in order to attract costumers. Even if great part of the stores sell regular consumer electronics, what makes the neighborhood special are the highly specialized shops which carry anything appealing to the Akihabara costumer: from vintage trading cards, videogames and toys, to fanmade comics, anime costumes and weapon replicas.
Most of the shops in Akihabara are located around the main street to the west of the train station, named Chuo Dori. While big name department stores and duty free shops, such as Yodobashi Camera and Sofmap, can easily be found in big buildings along Chuo Dori, a network of hundreds of smaller independent shops scattered in the surrounding alleys capture the unique atmosphere of Akihabara and are probably the best place to get a good deal.
Akihabara has undergone heavy renovations during the last decade, with the expansion of the train station and the construction of new department stores and business complexes. Maid Cafés, which are special cafeterias where waitresses dress and act as maids or anime characters, have also become popular and their employees can be found gathering customers on the streets. The area underneath the station, however, retains its original aspect with dozens of tiny one man stalls selling all kind of electronic components.
It's important to note that Japanese electronics may not be usable in other countries due to voltage differences, while other type of media, such as DVDs or videogames, may also have compatibility issues due to region lock. Overseas models are available at some of the bigger stores however and usually offer tax free shopping to foreign costumers.
HOW TO GET THERE
Yamanote, Keihin Tohoku, Chuo, Sobu Lines
Akihabara's main street is located next to the "Electric Town" exit of the Akihabara train and subway stations and can be pleasantly explored on foot. Suehirocho station is located at the opposite end of the street.