For any anime lover, Akihabara will assuredly be the first stop on their list of attractions when visiting Tokyo. It isn’t crazy to say, that spending a whole day pacing up and down the Electric Town, entering into each and every shop you pass, is entirely possible.
Whiling away the hours browsing through manga, losing money at UFO catchers, or being slowly traumatized by the content lurking in the basement of most bookstores, the sun is starting to set, and the shops are beginning to close. Only a few precious hours remain before the entire avenue goes to sleep for the night. How should you best spend those final moments? Well, hold onto your Senjougahara body pillow and ¥30,000 Asuna figurine; as we go exploring Akihabara – past curfew.
1) Maid Café
Giving fresh new meaning to the phrase, “finger blast before consumption”, a maid café is a quaint eatery of sorts, where people gather to dine on cute sweets or flavored beverages. Sounds no different than any other café, right? This is where the appeal comes in. The entire eating experience is headlined by a cavalcade of maids who’s job it is to keep their goshunjinsama or master/mistress (that’s you, you lucky devil) smiling.
It can be awkward at first. Aiming my double-barrelled fingers at my elegantly decorated cupcake and screaming, “MOE, MOE, KYUN” before it was deemed edible, or tracing the outline of a heart over my coffee, to inject it with magical maid love energy, definitely added to the embarrassment. Try to remember that these people are professionals and it’s all in good fun.
Once you settle into it, the staff are more than happy to have a conversation with you, be it in Japanese or occasionally English. Some venues even allow for a free picture to be taken with the maid of your choice after dining. Talk about lame, am I right guys? I’ll never forget you Yui, nor the Mixed Double Chocolate Matcha Vanilla Healing Panda Parfait we shared together that day.
Maidreamin is one of the most popular options sporting several locations throughout Akiba. Check out their official website for a comprehensive list of all store locations.
Maidreamin: Official Website and Store Locations
2) Sega Building
It hit hard when news of one of Akihabara’s long-standing Sega buildings, would, unfortunately, fall after seventeen long years of service. Nevertheless, two still stand tall and don’t show any signs of slowing down. Visible from wherever you stand throughout the Electric Town, the glaring red coating the outside of the building, entices entry to all who pass by it. Inside, you will be met with a slew of arcade-style games to keep you busy for hours.
Almost like a mini-adventure, feel free to make your way up the numerous floors and defeat whatever boss stands before you. Several crane games, arcades, VR machines and more should be enough to keep you busy until the staff are forced to drag you away kicking and screaming, as you mercilessly try to beat your high score on Taikon no Tatsujin.
While, partaking in the games is fun in and of itself, simply watching the masters who make this building their sanctuary, absolutely decimate any number of rhythm games (my personal favorite game to gawk at is named Chunithm), can evoke a different kind of enjoyment altogether!
After staring at one man in particular during his play session, akimbo gloves designed for optimal gaming performance, I was thrown aback at how; upon 100%-ing a five-minute track, he merely picked up his bag and left to play Dance Dance Revolution (more than likely to give his tired fingers a moment’s respite). I wanted to applaud his efforts, but for these people, it seems unwarranted. They have clearly devoted a lot of time into developing their skills. They know how good they are and don’t need my fanboy squeals to confirm the fact. Because of this, most arcade veterans will not boast or shout and instead, will proceed to be; too coolio for schoolio.
3) Game Bar A-Button
Some things in life just go together. Curry and rice. Seitokai no Ichizon’s Sugisaki and Mafuyu (don’t @ me). However, one thing that goes together better than anything else, is alcohol and nostalgia. Is there any better companion for fawning over your favorite retro games and consoles, than amplifying those tears by getting progressively more intoxicated? I think not.
A-Button is not a large bar. You won’t find yourself spoilt for choice, surrounded by an array of like-minded individuals. A row of chairs, a small table – you’d be hard-pressed to squeeze more than fifteen people inside at any one time. What it does contain however, are walls decked to the rafters with prehistoric gaming consoles. Games whose box art ignite a fire in the deepest recesses of your subconscious – rescuing childhood memories before they topple over the brink and remain forgotten forever. A-Button is not a museum. The paraphernalia is meant to be enjoyed by its patrons.
Set your alarm, circle the street, invest in a tent and set up camp outside – whatever you have to do to be the first in line when the bar opens at 5PM. Once inside; order a nice cold beer, kick back with some Banjo-Kazooie or Final Fantasy, pick your poison and let the regression session commence.
4) Club Mogra
Don’t think we Otaku don’t know how to party down. If you’re not in the mood for House or Hip-Hop and just want to get down to some wholesome Hatsune Miku, Club Mogra has you covered.
With events showcasing anime bangers, Vocaloid bops or features from guest DJs, you and a group should have no problem singing along to your favorite theme songs. The venue even encourages cosplay, so dust off that Naruto headband and get yourself onto the dance floor.
Most events require the purchase of an advance ticket (usually costing around ¥2500) and will refuse entry to anyone without one. Tickets are seldom available for purchase on the day, so do your research beforehand and select whichever event most appeals to your tastes.
Club Mogra is a short walk from Akihabara station but can definitely be missed for those not looking out for it. Keep an eye out for the space invader style logo next to the club’s entry sign.
5) Dear Stage
Located opposite a graffiti splattered shutter down the backstreets of Akiba, Dear Stage is a concert hall unlike any other. Making your way to the front desk – you might be surprised to find that it’s vacant. Only when looking to the conveniently placed television above you, can you notice that you’ve been in adorable company all along. Who else but a cute, albeit entirely fictional, Vocaloid is there to greet you and usher you inside.
Aspiring voice actors and actresses, as well as aspiring idols, all take to the stage to perform for your amusement at this venue. Wotagei (a specific style of cheering for performing idols involving jumping, cheering and chanting) plays a big role here. With a glowstick in each hand, try your best to stay in time with the rhythm of the song, or simply follow the crowd if you can’t seem to keep up.
Who knows; in ten years’ time, you might be shocked to discover that the young singer you saw perform to a crowd of fifty or so at Dear Stage, is now headlining a sold-out concert at Tokyo Dome!
Final Thoughts – Staying Up Past Curfew
Akihabara is truly the destination for anime and game lovers alike. The streets are open from early morning and, although some of the shops will close their doors upon the first sign of sunset, you don’t need to worry about packing up early and heading home just yet.
Check out some of my recommendations for spending your evening in Akihabara and be sure to let me know of any places I might have missed in the comments below. Having spent so much of my free time here, I’m always looking to expand my library and discover new hidden gems. Please enjoy your time enjoying the Akihabara nightlife and…huh? What was that? You want me to explain what awaits you should you journey down into the depths of many Akihabara manga stores? Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Extra: The Basement
I eluded to the basement earlier in the article, but it seems your thirst for knowledge outweighs my PTSD. Very well, I shall oblige.
In most of the manga stores situated throughout Akihabara, you can find your favorites without too much hassle. You’ve got your ‘Hunter X Hunter’, your ‘My Hero Academia’, anything you could ever ask for in all honesty. But for those with an itch that just can’t be scratched by a fully clothed cast of characters, the basement floors usually contain more… adult material.
For an already self-conscious individual such as myself, even taking the first step downstairs was a daunting task. Whistling nonchalantly around the latest releases, it wasn’t until the coast was clear that I could hurriedly make my way downstairs.
Unable to endure the crushing weight of the elephant’s foot on my torso, I did very little browsing before retreating back to the surface. I couldn’t help but notice however, that the customers surrounding me down below, were casually browsing through whatever comics took their fancy. Picking them up, flicking through the pages, nodding approvingly and then moving onto the next. As strange as it sounds, confidence is key in these situations. You’re already down there so make the most of it. Because of this, most basement dwellers won’t do so much as bat an eyelid when picking their poison.
Just make sure any purchases you do make, are carried out into the world securely hidden. Nothing worse than getting home and realizing you had been catching the attention of multiple train carriages, not because they had noticed you’d started working out recently.
My final piece of advice, if you truly want to protect yourself from catching something unwanted, always be sure to double bag it.