Akihabara (or “Akiba” in short) is what most Japanese may consider to be the epicenter of Anime and otaku culture. Indeed, this area, once gaining international fame as “Electric Town” due to its shops selling all kinds of newest up-to-date electronics, is in fact some sort of El Dorado for shoppers – no matter if in terms of anime or electronics.
There are hundreds of smaller and bigger shops to be found, especially in the Yodobashi Camera or Sofmap stores you´ll find the latest computer-, camera- and electronic products of all kinds. However, if you believe to make a bargain, I´ll have to disappoint you. As many Japanese are prototypes of an “early adopter”, you´ll mainly find the latest models over here, no matter if digital cameras, laptops or gaming consoles, which perhaps you can´t buy in your country yet. Just that those are likely to be either just as expensive or more expensive than at home. Even if you go for the duty free option (-8 %, in some shops available for purchases over 10.000 Yen), it´s unlikely to be cheaper. So make sure you´ll have an idea of how much it costs in your home country before going on a shopping spree 😉
When it comes to digital cameras, for example, you should take care as some models (e.g. by Canon) were solely produced to be sold on the Japanese or Chinese market, having Japanese/Chinese firmware installed only. Whereas the same overseas model of the respective camera has 15+ languages on it. In such a case, you should have a look at the camera menu first and if it turns out to be Japanese only to be on the safe side visit one of the shops that sell special models for tourists. Also watch out for buying a device that supports your home country´s voltage. Sometimes it´s possible to buy a small plastic ac adapter, sometimes you may need a transformer. If you´re visiting from a European country, you also will have to consider your customs regulations. Some countries may charge you a lot of money for purchases over 400$, Euros or the equivalent in your home currency. So it´s best to check that before buying some expensive device. When it comes to gaming consoles, some will only accept Japanese games, e.g. Nintendo installed region locks to their devices (started with the Nintendo DSi), so you may not be able to play a game bought in let´s say the US on a console or handheld you bought in Japan.
Around the Akihabara station, the trendy Cosplay / Maid Café girls are trying to advertise for their respective café. Prices are more or less like in a normal café, just you´ll get some cute maid staff serving your coffee, tea or snacks ;). There are a large variety of such cafés, you´ll also find the AKB48 or Gundam Café near the station exit.
The labyrinthe streets around Akihabara are great for discovering all sorts of shops, in between many do offer anime related goods or games. Those smaller shops in general have better prices, so go browsing amongst all the goods the shops have to offer. Be prepared to spend some hours over there. All the shops, colors, noise, advertisements and blinking lights may cause your eyes to rotate (guess that´s where those spiral anime eyes are coming from). No worries, you´ll get used to it. After around 8pm, most shops will be closed and the streets are getting empty again bit by bit.
There are free guidemaps for you to take (“Akihabara Guide Map”) available at the station entrance/exit, on which you can find the location and names of all the shops in this area. Those maps are being updated several times per year, which is necessary in the fast moving capital. I once came back to Akihabara after around 3 months, and already found two of the shops I intended to go to already closed and re-opened with another range of products.
The “Sato Musen,” located at the JR station exit, is one of the oldest and most well known buildings in Akihabara (e.g. featured in several music videos) it now, after some renovation works (see below), houses a branch of the Yamada denki (Labi) chain.
As you can see in the following picture, Akihabara´s main street is being closed on Sundays, just like parts of Shinjukus or Ginza. After around 6pm, the road is being unblocked, forcing the pedestrians to use the sidewalks again.
Traders (games), K-Books / Animate / Mandarake (anime), LaoX / Labi / Yodobashi (electronics), Donki (department store in which you can buy literally anything from chips to DVDs, even inexpensive food and snacks), Sega (Game Center), Tokyo Anime Center, M.O.S. / McDonalds, KFC (fast food), BookOff (used books, DVDs, CDs)