Playing, Buying & Getting Robbed in Akihabara, Tokyo
It’s not much of a secret that one of the main reasons for my recent visit to Tokyo was to buy games. Akihabara is renowned as the gamer’s paradise. It was during an eclectic shopping spree here that I endured the highs and lows of the electric town. If you’re planning a visit to play or buy some games, this may be of interest.
The first thing I wanted to do when I got to Akihabara was hit the arcades. Navigating through the copious amount of maid cafes and pachinko halls (oh that sound!), I was actually really surprised that there wasn’t much in terms of Nintendo franchises pretty much anywhere, just the odd Mario Kart Arcade here and there. It’s SEGA who’s king of the hill but not as you’d expect. In every SEGA arcade you’ll see quite a bit of Love Idol stuff. The bottom floors of these places especially, are filled with UFO grabbers (similar to crane games) where you can attempt to win various Idol merchandise such as figurines or pillows. This was a little disheartening to this westerner who has little interest in the phenomena. It’s when you ascend to the upper floors do you find the good stuff, the actual games.
It can be Aladdin’s cave for some gamers, it certainly was for me. You’ll find floors filled solely with rhythm games like the excellent Taiko no Tatsujin or retro areas with classics such as Golden Axe. Of course, you can also find fighting game floors crammed with all the Street Fighters, BlazBlue’s and Tekkens – notably Tekken 7 which doesn’t see a home release until early 2017. I had a chance to get a few games in and loved it.
The Gaming Stores
Here’s six gaming stores I recommend checking out whilst in Akihabara.
1. Super Potato (Google Map Link)
Onto the gaming stores. The most famous being Super Potato. I’m not even sure how I knew about this place, it’s just been embedded in my mind since I can remember. It’s three floors of retro gaming goodness. If you’re looking for something specifically, it’s a good chance it’d be here, but bear in my mind it’s not cheap.
The first floor is made up of Nintendo classics so here you’ll have all things Famicom, Super Famicom, N64, GB etc as well as various bits of merchandise, some ideal for gifts to take home. Go upstairs and you’re in PlayStation world. I know I might be stating the obvious but these are obviously Japanese versions so will require a bit of messing about back home to get working. Up another floor and you have a classic arcade play area. I’ll always remember this as the place I got well and truly destroyed by (hi) Pete in a ruthless game of Puyo Puyo. One fun thing to note is that there’s a sweet shop up here which is dirt cheap, a good place to get rid of your 1 yen coins.
Super Potato is obviously an essential place to visit on your trip to Akihabara but in terms of actually buying, it’s not the best. There are a few other places I found which had much better value for your money.
2. Trader (Google Map Link)
There are a few Trader stores dotted around which are definitely worth your time. I managed to bag some dirt cheap Famicom games in a bargain bin here, a couple that were three times the price at Super Potato. There are, to my knowledge, three Trader stores in Akihababa and each are numbered accordingly (Trader, Trader2 etc). I recommend checking each out but be wary of walking into hentai floors!
3. BookOff (Google Map Link)
BookOff, similar to Trader is a great place to nab some bargains. It too has a a bargain bin full of potential treasures so it’s definitely worth a visit. It also sells consoles at a decent price too. If I remember correctly, I saw a stack of Japanese GameCubes going for about £10 each. I only stumbled into one BookOff while I was there but I understand they are actually located outside of Akihabarara too, so lookout!
4. Mandarake (Google Map Link)
Mandarake is a huge complex building filled with floors for just about anything. It’s the sixth floor where you should head to. Prepare to be overwhelmed, especially if you don’t know much Japanese. For me, I was looking for Famicom games specifically and this places has stacks of them on shelves, with stacks behind them. If you don’t know what you’re looking for specifically, you can quick burn pretty quick with frustration. Pulling out each cart to inspect their cover can get tedious. One of the great things about this store is that unlike the others mentioned so far, it’s tax free so what you see on the label is what you pay for if you’re willing to visit the tax free counter.
5. RetroGame Camp (Google Map Link)
I stumbled upon RetroGame Camp by accident. My wife was buying a fan from a stall and a familiar tune caught my ear. It was the theme from the Legend of Zelda. Seemingly out of nowhere a doorway to a this store just appeared, in front of it a bargain bin full of Famicom and PlayStation games. I decided to go in and it was worth the visit. It’s very much like a smaller one room version of Super Potato and unfortunately, just as expensive. Still, it was great to find another place to check out.
6. GAME/Friends (Google Map Link)
Onto my final and favourite place. GAME. Now, I was under the impression that this store was called ‘Friends’. At least. that’s what I found in my prior research. Anyway, this place is tucked away in a side street next to a restaurant and you might be forgiven for not discovering it straight away. The store is actually found upstairs through an ominous doorway laden with pictures of young girls in risqué poses. My wife ventured in first as I was too scaredy cat to go alone. It’s a great find, with fantastic prices. I almost don’t want to tell people about this place and keep it all to myself! There’s tonnes here from Virtual Boys to R.O.Bs, all at fair prices. This became my favourite stop for all things Famicom which leads me to divulge into what I picked up, and lost.
Getting Robbed in Akihabara 🙁
I was having just the greatest day. I’d decided I was going to buy a Famicom and a bunch of games, mostly exclusive Japanese games. The Famicom I picked up at GAME (or Friends) was in immaculate condition. It was white as snow, no discolouration at all and a fraction of the price the other stores were offering. I also picked up Akumajō Special: Boku Dracula-kun (Kid Dracula) here, a Japanese exclusive game I’ve seen described as a Castlevania parody. Another exciting pickup was Parodius Da! －Shinwa kara Owarai e (It’s Parodius! – From Myth to Laughter). This was the only store where I found this title. So, in those went into one bag together with a bunch of other stuff that I’d bought that day. I decided I was done shopping for the day and we went for a coffee. We sat down, bag at my feet and enjoyed our coffee. Upon leaving I realised the bag had been taken. I was absolutely gutted.
Japan has a reputation for having a very low crime rate so I guess I just let my guard down. We were in a very busy coffee shop full of tourists, so I just can’t be sure who picked it up. After asking around and retracing my steps just in case, it was obvious what had happened, and I needed to move on as it was ruining my trip. After a sleep at the hotel and a late night walk around Asakusa with friends I’d decided I was just going to go shopping early the next day and try again. We were flying out the next day and I didn’t want this to be the lasting memory of the trip, so that’s what I did.
Off I went to GAME again, knowing full well I wasn’t going to get a Famicom as good as the one I’d picked up on the previous visit. I opted instead for the Famicom Disk System which was the ill fated add on to the Famicom. I figured it’s a little rarer and I would want it at some point for my collection anyway. I managed to get everything bar Parodious, so rather relunctley I took to eBay when I got home.
I am planning another trip to Tokyo and I just can’t wait to hit Akihabara again so don’t let this put you off. Like I said, the crime rate is low, heck there’s no litter on the streets! This can happen to anyone, anywhere. Just don’t let your guard down like me in a busy area and you’ll be fine.
Want to know what else I picked up? Here’s a photo of all of my loot.
I hope my recommendations help you out if you’re looking to visit Akihabara! Going to Tokyo? Got any questions? Ask below!