Akihabara, also known as Akiba is Tokyo’s electrical shopping zone, and once a week, a pedestrian paradise appears on the main street.
What is Akihabara’s Pedestrian Zone?
Known as a ‘pedestrian paradise’, these areas are closed to vehicles and allow shoppers to walk freely on the streets of certain areas in Tokyo. Usually held once a week, but sometimes permanent, they are known as ‘hokousha tengoku’ (歩行者天国)in Japanese, or ‘hokoten’ (ホコ天) for short. Along with the ban on cars, cycling, performing and giving out leaflets is also prohibited in these areas, so visitors can enjoy their walk without being interrupted. In Akihabara the popular Chuo-dori is transformed into a pedestrian paradise on Sundays.
Where is the Pedestrian Zone in Akihabara
The pedestrian zone is located on Chuo-dori, from the Manseibashi Crossing to the crossing at Sotokanda 5-chome. It’s the main shopping street in Akihabara, so it is easy to find as it’s close to the station - just take the West Exit at Akihabara Station.
The History of Akihabara’s Pedestrian Paradise
Opened in 1973, the Pedestrian Paradise of Akihabara was one of Tokyo’s earliest spots for a car-free shopping spot. Stretching 570m long, it has seen Akihabara move from electronics to an otaku-focus, with stores of both kinds sitting side-by-side.
Despite its positive name, the area has a tragic past which is still remembered by many Tokyoites. In 2008, a man drove his truck into pedestrians and then stabbed passersby before being arrested by police. In total, 7 people died and 10 were injured, with the pedestrianization of the area not re-starting until 2011. Slowly, the area returned to normal and is once again a bustling shopping area, especially on Sundays.
What Shops can you Visit
Known for its electronics and otaku-culture, Akihabara is the place to go for your anime, manga and gadget needs. They also niche cater to hobbyists including model train enthusiasts and card traders, so if you have some specific items you’re looking for, Akihabara is your best chance.
The main shopping strip is home to all the big-name stores for electronics including BIC Camera (ビックカメラ) and Sofmap (ソフマップ) as well as smaller independent stores. If you are looking for vintage or second-hand, head to the latter, but for the newest gadgets then the former will be better suited. Haggling is acceptable in some smaller shops, but not too common in Japan so test the water, and don’t bother in larger shops.
- Top Recommended Electrical Appliance Stores in Akihabara! If You're Buying Electricals in Tokyo, Head to Akihabara!
Manga and Anime
There are multiple Comic Toranoana stores (コミックとらのあな) for all your manga needs while Animate Akihabara (アニメイト秋葉原) is ideal for anime enthusiasts. Of course, there are countless smaller stores located on the sidestreets, so be sure to explore and do some window-shopping, especially if you’re looking for second-hand items that may have more flexibility in price.
Videogames and Trading Cards
Trader has multiple stores along the main street for card-swappers while Grand Panda Canyon (グランドパンダキャニオン) is another popular spot along with FullComp. Head to Retro Game Camp (レトロげーむキャンプ) for your childhood favorites and just around the corner is the Surugaya Akihabara Game Museum (駿河屋秋葉原ゲーム館) which is less museum, more store.
What Activities can you Try
As the pedestrian zone covers the main shopping street, there are many different things you can do in the area beyond simply shopping.
There are Maid Cafes close to the street and while leaflets are prohibited, you will see maids on connected sidestreets nearby attracting customers to their cafes. These cafes offer a unique experience with super-cute maid staff waiting on guests and specially designed food and drinks. Some of the most popular are the Maid Cafe Maidreamin (めいどりーみん) chain which has four stores located on or close to the main shopping street.
While Sega Building Two has closed, you can still visit Sega Buildings One, Three, and Four for all your arcade-game needs. There are claw-games, retro video games, and dance games - all available to play using cash (not tokens). Taito Station (タイトーステーション) is another popular arcade location along with retro-favorite Super Potato (スーパーポテト) which is just off the main street to the west.
If you would like to try Cosplay while you are in Akihabara there are options but unfortunately the most popular place - Studio Crown Akihabara (スタジオクラウン) closed down. However, you can visit some of the best cosplay stores including ACOS which is on the 5th floor of the Akihabara Culture Zone, and Mitsubado (みつば堂) which has second-hand pieces for reasonable prices. If you’re not a dedicated cosplayer, you could always rent some of the simple costumes available at many Purikura spots. These are popular photo booths that take fun snapshots you can edit, before printing out as stickers for scrapbooks. In some amusement arcades they have a simple selection of costumes and Puri-Kura photos are a great souvenir.
Do’s and Don’ts in Akihabara’s Pedestrian Zone
While there isn’t a strict list of rules for the area (unlike Shinjuku’s Golden Gai), some behaviors are not as accepted as you might think. So, for example, it is not really acceptable to explore dressed in Cosplay, unless there is a specific event taking place. Similarly, doing photoshoots in the street is not allowed and nor are performances on the street (although some do try).
Pedestrian Hours and Details
The area only becomes pedestrianized on Sundays between 1pm to 6pm, ending a little earlier at 5pm from October to March. You will see many signs and blockades erected at either end of the street to prevent cars and bikes from accessing the street while pedestrians walk freely.