When I was 12 years old I made a dramatic, seemingly life or death pinky swear promise with my friend to visit Japan before I hit 30 years old. A somewhat arbitrary number in the scheme of things, but I take a personal sense of pride knowing that I made the cutoff and little Riss would be incredibly pleased. I enjoyed so much about my first trip to Tokyo–the food, the sights, and of course the fashion. We’ll get to the fashion later, but ultimately this trip was about indulging my otaku side, and that’s what I want to talk about right from the start. Here’s a sampling of some of the noteworthy otaku spots you can find in Tokyo. Oh man, the feels. The anime feels…
Akihabara is an ultimate otaku zone, electronics and gaming zone, and a place that all around just slaps you in the face with fandom. Anime billboards decorate this district, and you can’t take more than ten steps without running into yet another UFO catcher arcade or cluster of gashapon machines.
For gamers, Club Sega is a spot that will undeniably eat up both your time and your money, yet you’ll have no regrets. 7 floors of gaming including Vocaloid, Street Fighter, Tekken, Virtual Fighter, Guilty Gear, Persona, Fighting Climax, as well as crane machines and pachinko. I camped out in that arcade…boy did I. That day marked the first time in my 28 years that I’ve ever actually beaten a fighting game in an arcade on one coin (proud of the accomplishment, embarrassed by how long it took ^^;;).
For otaku shopping in Akihabara, a must-see stop is Akiba Zone. This is a somewhat dizzying megaplex, featuring a Good Smile x Animate theme cafe, a cosplay shop, and a maid cafe on its top floors. What really drew me to it, however, was the shop Ganking, which sold amazingly affordable anime goods. There I picked up an 8 foot Macross idol cloth poster for about 12 bucks.
And then I of course had to hit up a maid cafe. I’m not going to lie, I’m still not entirely sure how I felt about the experience. The specific one we chose was a bit overpriced considering the unimpressive food and cramped atmosphere. Not to mention, I hadn’t quite come prepared for customer participation (“Wait, we need to do what to order our food? Make cat noises??”). But Akihabara has an abundance of maid cafes, so if you’re interested, take a look at your options before choosing. Maidreamin, which is a cafe chain, was the one I chose. And while the anime theme dance routines were absolutely kawaii and charming, next time I’d opt for a cafe more reasonably priced ($6 cover per person, per hour, plus $19-25 per personal meal set etc).
The one cafe destination I absolutely do not regret was the Gundam Cafe. Featuring Gundam-shaped foods, thematic lighting, and a nonstop stream of Gundam music videos–this was a definite otaku haven and a great spot for casual dining. The prices were good–I paid around $8 for my Unicorn Gundam ratatouille–and the food was delicious.
Eventually, time came to leave Akihabara, but I found a gem in the Parco shopping plaza in Shibuya. This plaza features about 180 shops, most of which focus on fashion, however on the 6th floor you’ll find an amazing place called the Pop Culture Market. This floor had one shop dedicated entirely to One Piece, but there were loads of other shops offering uncommon and affordable Miyazaki, Sailor Moon, Free!, Kurako’s Basketball, and Vocaloid merch, among much more. There are also lots of anime murals and cutouts peppered throughout the floor, making great fangirl photo ops.
In entirely appropriate fashion, the Ghibli Museum is nestled away aside a beautiful scenic park in Mitaka. Walk past temples and sparkling lakes and there you’ll see a massive Totoro standing inside a ticket booth, awaiting your entrance.
Photos are prohibited within the museum, but here are a few glimpses of what the magic the attraction has to offer. It’s actually a bit smaller inside than I anticipated, but all of the sights are as heartwarming as you’d expect.
Amid the original artwork, dioramas, and impeccable stain glass displays, the real star of the show comes from the 10 minute short film all entrants get to see. If you’re considering this attraction, plan in advance–only 100 people are admitted a day, and ticket sales are available up to three months in advance.
If you stop by the museum, don’t forget to explore the surroundings as well. The area is quaint and low-key, but with some amazing curry restaurants, covered outdoor shopping (I got some great goth and visual kei clothing deals), and all-around awesome finds such as this Sailor Moon eyeliner.
All current and former Pokemon masters have to make a stop at the Pokemon Center, of which there are eight different locations in Japan. There’s so much randomness, you probably didn’t even think some of this Pokemon merch existed. I left the shop with sheets of Pokemon-shaped nori and mini charms featuring the three evolutions of Abra. If it hadn’t been my last destination of the trip, I’m sure I would have left with much more…
Everything here is super kawaii, not to mention super nostalgia-inducing for those like me. A must-see for serious shoppers and browsers alike.
Speaking of all things kawaii, the fabulous shop, Fashion Kawaii, is offering a 10% discount for all Fashion Vandals followers! Just enter the code “fashionvandals” at checkout for your discount ^^
If you haven’t visited this shop already, they offer an extensive selection of bold and kawaii fashions. Check them out!
Have you visited Tokyo, or plan to in the future? I’d love to hear from you! Feel free to leave any comments or questions below ^^