For someone like myself who is used to going to conventions and cosplaying and have been reading manga for years, Akihabara was nothing too surprising.
Sure you could call it ‘the heaven of manga and electronics’, and it kind of is, but it basically looks like my own bedroom after many years as an avid (to not say obsessive) manga reader. Just with more people and noise.
Akihabara was one of the first places I heard about Japan when I was a kid. You could say that my interest in Japan flourished thanks to manga, but now it has taken a back seat and is simply another thing I like about the country. I feel guilty sometimes when people ask me why I like Japan since it may seem a bit shallow to say it all started with manga, but to be honest it’s something I’ve loved a lot and has introduced me to a beautiful country, I could never live it down.
The good points of Akihabara were the selection of merchandising, much more vast and you can find cheaper objects that in Spain would cost double or triple the price. The main shopping street really manages to get you into the manga/anime world and leave RL for a while with all the lights and posters and noise.
Beware though, you can accidentally spend hours here if this is your scene. It’s good to know what you want to look at and start from there first before seeing the rest.
I’m really just going to go into manga-fanatic mode now, fell free to skip this post if manga isn’t your thing!
I came across a whole floor dedicated to second hand art books in Mandarake. Unfortunately I had no idea what to buy since I didn’t really know where to start looking with so many kanji and titles in Japanese, but I came across the Studio Ghibli shelf (a whole shelf!) and bought a few from their movies.
I think it was about 4000yen for the 8 books -that goes at around 500yen each-, and they’re all in great condition. Naruto here in Spain hasn’t finished being translated yet (we’re still on volume 70/73), so I haven’t looked at the Naruto Artbook since I want no spoilers.
Mandarake has many floors each dedicated to something different, everything second hand and cheap. It’s a great place to go to if you’re looking for some odd things since you can find things that aren’t in store anymore, but you’ll have to push around in some boxes to find the good deals. They seemed to have a lot of mecha figurines too.
Moving on, next we have Vivi and Nami from One Piece. Vivi is one of my favourite characters from the series (if we’re being honest I don’t really watch the series anymore) so I was only interested in getting her as a figurine, but Nami came in the same box with a discount, so… Sometimes I give them a blanket to cover them up because the poor girls must be freezing.
This is the only manga I bought since I don’t really speak, let alone read, Japanese. This is actually a special number of Mushi-shi that hasn’t had an anime adaptation and isn’t going to be translated into Catalan/Spanish since the series here has been discontinued. I hope I can read it one day when I finally learn Japanese, I’m really looking forward to it. Yuki Urashibara is one of my favourite mangakas, her style of drawing is absolutely incredible and she really manages to capture the essence of Japan in her stories. I definitely recommend Mushi-shi and Suiiki (in English ‘Waters’)!
Actually I did buy another manga; a friend of mine asked me to get her some yaoi. It was so embarrassing going into a yaoi store to find the title she wanted!
Next up are these two. I found them in a second hand figurine store along the main road, pretty far away from the station. People all concentrate around the stores close to the station, so if you walk into the back streets and further away you can find cheaper things.
Yui Hirasawa here is from the K-ON! movie. She’s doing an ‘L’ and ‘O’ with her hands, so I’m guessing one of the other girls from the series would be doing the ‘V’ and ‘E’. And the girl in the yellow tracksuit… yeah, I don’t know who she is. I only bought her because I really like how they’ve achieved the waves of her clothes in the pants and sleeves as well as her posture, and because yellow is my favourite colour. My sister says she’s from Kill Bill, but Beatrix Kiddo has blonde hair, so I don’t think that’s her.
I don’t remember the price but they were pretty cheap since they didn’t come with boxes (in Japan many people like to collect figurines with the boxes included, so those second-hand ones that don’t have boxes are less wanted).
Akihabara also has quite a few souvenir shops selling chopsticks, keyrings, fans, shirts,etc.
I don’t really like souvenir shops but I did find these packets of erasers that were so cute I couldn’t resist. My mum actually bought me a pack from the same collection when I was a kid, so it was nice to see more of the same. I’ve added them to my eraser collection! It’s also a good place to find cheap chopsticks as a gift for the whole family if you need to buy several.
Up here we have a cup with a Chopper picture I bought in Mandarake for 100yen and this pink thing used to make onigiris easily. It’s actually very useful and I use it often, at least they don’t fall apart while I’m making them anymore. The Danboard stamp from Yotsuba is in many shops, they have a whole collection with different stamps available.
Akihabara doesn’t only have manga-anime related merch, it’s called Electric Town for a reason. Here you can find mostly anything related to technology — new and old (computers, TVs, radios, cables, lights…). I found a Spain-Japan plug converter on my first day within less than 10min and, surprisingly, a memory card for my old camera! The man at the store said that these kinds of memory cards were very rare since no cameras used these anymore, so I was extremely lucky. I bought two for future use.
Oh, and I bought a green wig with a hairstyle similar to my own. I then got back to my hostel and took a photo of myself, sending it to my family and saying I’d dyed my hair. They all believed it.
And there you have it. My hostel was about 20min walk from Akihabara Station, halfway between Ryogoku and Akihabara then, so I used to go here every day after my sightseeing itinerary. Shops usually close at around 8pm, but many cafés and bars stay open until later. Even with so much time I only really got to see most of the shops on the main street and a few from the side streets.
If you venture to the other side of the station, where there are no shops, you’ll find a completely different atmosphere!