• Photo: Sean Pavone / Shutterstock


Akihabara is techno-geek heaven. Also known as Akihabara Electric Town, or just Akiba, this district was once a dizzying collection of small, ultra-specialized electronics and computer shops, but has now become the center of Japan's anime, manga, and computer-focused otaku (nerd) culture.

More recently, the area has gained mainstream appeal among shoppers and tourists, with large all-in-one electronics shops crowding out many of the smaller and unique stores. Even so, the area has stayed true to its roots. Venture off the main road to see the real Akiba, where maid cafés (where servers are yes, dressed as maids and treat their customers as "masters and mistresses") mix with computer and hi-fi audio stores filled with dedicated fans searching for computer parts, rare comics, or techno-accessories they can't find anywhere else. For visitors, seeing the subculture and energy of Akiba is as much a draw as the shopping.

If you're looking for something a little more cerebral, head to Jimbo-cho, where family-run specialty bookstores of every genre abound. A number of antiquarian booksellers carry rare typeset editions, wood-block-printed books of the Edo period, and individual prints. The bookstores run for ½ km (¼ mile) on Yasukuni-dori beginning at the Surugadai-shita intersection. Many of Japan's most prestigious publishing houses make their home in Jimbo-cho as well, and the area is also home to Meiji University and Nihon University.

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