Ahikabara is Japan's electronics hub and a major shopping district in Central Tokyo. Billions of LED's and thousands of shops vie for visitors' attention, creating an assault on the senses that is overbearing but uniquely, and enjoyably, Japanese.
Toy helicopters buzz around, portable speakers compete, lights continually flash, and the attraction is very much about exploring the chaos of it all. A series of pedestrianised streets are tightly packed with electronics shops, from tiny stalls to major retailers. These sell everything from the latest limited-release products to second-hand junk. It's hard to imagine that anywhere in the world could have such a choice of electronic products.
Akihabara rose to electronics prominence after WWII, when it was the hub of the city's post-war black market. While the district has clamped down significantly on counterfeit goods, Tokyo’s authorities remind visitors to ensure they get a proper receipt for all their purchases.
Akihabara is also the nationwide heart of Japan's Otaku, those with obsessive interests in manga and anime. Popular characters fill the windows of many stores and there are dozens of specialist anime and manga shops.
The main shopping streets cascade from the exits of Akihabara Station on the JR Yamanote train line. Take the Akihabara Electric Town exit for the electronics stores which are west of the station. Many cafes and manga shops are located to the northwest of the station.
Akihabara is named after Akiba Jinja, a local shrine that translates as fire extinguisher shrine. Contained within the shrine is a deity that can control fire, which is perhaps fitting given the district's history of second-hand and counterfeit electronics.