The first time I heard about Akihabara in high school, it sounded like a magical place. A friend from Japan told me that Akihabara was a ward in Tokyo that was filled with gadgets, gaming, and comics.
He had me gadgets.
Now, after all these years, all it takes is a 3 minute ride on the subway and we’re standing in Akihabara.
Tokyo is making a habit of defying our expectations and Akihabara is no different. We had come to Akihabara expecting fresh and modern sights, but it turns out that this ward is rich with history and tradition.
We walk out of Akihabara station and immediately come face to face with Yodobashi— a megastore with 9 floors filled with every kind of electronic gadget imaginable.
Of course we go in, this is what we came to Akihabara to see after all. Yodobashi absolutely delivers. Their camera floor alone is the stuff of dreams. You could easily spend hours in this store browsing through all of the gear they have.
Wrong Turn, Right Way
We leave Yodobashi slightly dazed and overstimulated from the bright colors and blinking lights of the electronics wonderland. We walk on expecting to encounter many more similar sights before the day is over.
We must have taken a wrong turn in our daze because by the time we realize it, the comic book shops and video game arcades are nowhere to be found.
Instead, we find ourselves in the part of Akihabara that only the locals go to– we had stumbled into the real Akihabara.
The narrow side streets are the most interesting in Akihabara. These streets– barely wider than alleyways– are peppered with small shops and restaurants. I would love to explore all of these side streets, but we have five days in Tokyo, not five years.
We do explore some of the side streets though, and one of them has an old senbei (Japanese rice cracker) shop. It’s small but the shop is filled with all kinds of senbei in various shapes and sizes.
Standing behind the shop’s counter is the owner, an elderly lady who welcomes us like we were her grandchildren. Senbei Obaachan (Grandma Senbei) greets us warmly.
I ask her if they make their own senbei here and she proudly responds that they do. In fact, they have been making senbei at this shop for over 80 years!
Now we definitely have to try some senbei. I ask what their specialty is. Senbei Obaachan just smiles and says, “everything is good,” so we pick out a random selection of senbei to try.
Though our Japanese is severely lacking, we strike up a conversation with Senbei Obaachan. She asks us where we are from, and when we tell her that we’re from Hawaii, her eyes sparkle as she says that she has always wanted to visit Hawaii.
Then Senbei Obaachan asks us if we have a place to stay while in Japan. She looks worried that we might have come so far and without a bed to sleep in. I half-expect her to open the door behind the counter and tell us that we can stay the night if we need to.
We assure Senbei Obaachan that we have a place to stay, but before we leave she hands us a piece of paper with her phone number on it and tells us to call her if we need anything.
Thank you, Senbei Obaachan. Thank you for the kindness and thank you for the senbei. It was delicious.
5 Days in Tokyo
- Otsuka — Tucked between Tokyo’s hot spots is a place where golden hour never ends.
- A Different View of Harajuku — We discover that serenity is surprisingly easy to find in Harajuku.
- Lost in Ebisu — A random stop in Tokyo turns out to be more than we bargained for.
- Old Town Akihabara — Pass under the bridge to a different side of Tokyo’s futuristic district.
- Ginza to Tsukiji — A search for fresh fish leads to a surprising discovery about Tokyo’s Ginza district.
- Lunch at Tsukiji Fish Market — This is where you go to get the freshest fish in Tokyo.
- The Solitary Soldier — Sunset at Japan’s Imperial Palace.
- Finding Peace in Hibiya Park — A small pocket of peace amidst Tokyo’s never-ending activity.
- Cats of Hibiya Park — Hanging out with some furry friends.
- Saturday in Ikebukuro — Ikebukuro. Weekend. It’s over.
- Okachimachi Crunchy — Walking down Tokyo’s multifaceted shopping boulevard.
- Hidden Yanaka — Frozen in time.