Return to Itabashi – An 18-year journey – PART 2

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©2019-2020 tenmintokyo.com

By Staff

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Name: Itabashi

Kind: Town

Location: 35°44’45.85″ N 139°43’03.77″ E

Also see Part 1, Part 3.

In Part 1, I discussed my return to the small Japanese town of Itabashi after 18 years. For links and videos, see that post.

In Part 2 I’ll cover the town itself – things to do and see, and how to get around.

The Train Stations

There are 3 major train stations in Itabashi – and several exits: JR Itabashi Station, Shin-itabashi Station, Shimo-Itabashi Station, and Naka-Itabashi Station.

JR Itabashi Station is covered in Part 1. Shin-Itabashi Station is just a few blocks northwest of JR Itabashi Station. We’ll discuss it below.

First the JR Line. The main Itabashi station is on the JR Saikyo Line, and is between Jujo to the north, and Ikebukuro to the south. This is very advantageous – Ikebukuro is one of the biggest and most important interchange hubs on the JR lines, and can be used to route you to other parts of the city quickly – such as Eastern Tokyo (via Chuo Line), and south to Shinjuku. You can also get the Maronuchi Metro Line at Ikebukuro, which shoots you right into the heart of the Maronuchi district, or south to Shibuya. Itabashi is just far enough away to be inexpensive to stay at, but close enough to get to the major interchange stations in just a few minutes. In addition there is a lot to do in Ikebukuro itself, and if you stay in Itabashi you can sight-see in Ikebukuro without paying more for a hotel.

One stop to the north past Jujo Station is the small town of Akabane – also well worth a look. Jujo also has a small shopping arcade worth a look. You can hit both Jujo + Akabane in one day and see it all.

Shin-Itabashi Station is on the Toei Subway Line, and is just a few blocks from the main JR Itabashi Station. To get here, exit the main Itabashi Square area and head to the west side of JR Itabashi Station. There are several ways to do this – 1) Go through JR Itabashi Station, climb the stairs at the far end, exit at the top, head west, and into the square, 2) go through the small pedestrian tunnel at the south exit of the station, turn right on the first side street, and north into the square, or 3) walk north from the main Itabashi Square, then head west, then southwest down side streets to get to the square. The west/north side square is located at 35°44’47.04″ N 139°43’10.81″ E the main square is located at 35°44’43.10″ N 139°43’12.82″ E. The main station sits between them.

Once in the west square, head north out of it, turn left at the first street, then right at the next major intersection, then left 2 blocks past that, then 2 blocks up a curved road. It’s just a few blocks. Shin-Itabashi Station is on the left at the corner of the Nakasendo Hwy. Interestingly, if you head south on this highway, towards the town of Sugamo to the south, on the left and right sides, you’ll find entrances to the Toei Nishi-Sugamo Station around 35°44’37.88″ N 139°43’42.67″ E (the I-16 stop on the Toei Mita Line).

Shin-Itabashi Station.

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Nishi-Sugamo Station on the Toei Mita Line to the southeast. Sugamo is one town south of Itabashi on the Nakasendo Hwy. In fact you can walk there from Itabashi in just a few miles.

Shimo-Itabashi Station

Shimo-Itabashi Station is in the opposite direction – west of the APA Hotel, and on the Tobu Tojo Line. To get there, get to the west square outside the main JR Itabashi Station, head down the street to the south, turn right at the next street, follow it up to the YorkMart supermarket, then turn left. It’s one block to the left and you can’t miss it. Shimo-Itabashi Station is at 35°44’43.91″ N 139°42’53.47″ E.

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Shimo-Itabashi Station on the Toei Mita Line to the west. To get here, head south, then west from the west main square, up the street, then left at the YorkMart supermarket:

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To get to the YorkMart, and station, head left (west) past this bldg. just west of the west square, which is to the right in this photo.

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To get to the YorkMart, and station, head left (west) up this white-picketed street. The station is just up on the left 1 block. In early fall in Tokyo, the weather is usually still quite nice and summer-like. Just to the left of this is a large Maruetsu grocery store as well.

We won’t cover the Naka-Itabashi Station because it’s several miles to the west, but it’s interesting nonetheless. It’s also on the Tobu Tojo Line. There is also a nice shopping street and cafés around the station. There’s also a vast long walkway along a small tributary river which you can walk all the way back into central Itabashi. In fact, this waterway runs all the way back east to the Arakawa River, which empties to the south into Tokyo Bay.

South to Ikebukuro

Before we get to Itabashi’s main attractions, as a footnote, note that Ikebukuro is just to the south. Itabashi is so close to Ikebukuro, you can walk there. It’s less than 1.5 miles. Or of course, you can take the JR Saikyo Line 1 stop south. To walk, get to the east square outside JR Itabashi Station, head south past the koban, past the APA Hotel, and follow the street all the way east to Rt. 305. Once on 305, head south (right), and walk to Ikebukuro. Very short and easy walk.

Local Attractions

Itabashi is small Japanese town, and there aren’t any big, spectacular attractions. That doesn’t mean there’s nothing to do, and nothing to see. In fact, the town is quite charming with shopping streets, and a main walk all the way to Sugamo to the south along the Nakasendo Hwy, as mentioned above. There are 6 main areas: 1) the area to the east of the station where the main square is, with shops and cafés, 2) the area on the west side of the station, also with side streets + shops/restaurants/cafés. 3) the large shopping street to the north of the Nakasendo Hwy – well worth a look. Lots of charming cafés along this walk. There is also a huge Life Supermarket along this street, 4) the Nakasendo Hwy itself – which you can walk all the way to the south to Sugamo, and beyond that, Tokyo Dome City, 5) Happy Road Oyama Shopping Street, 6) old Shopping Street Sugamo.

Let’s take these one-by-one:

East Square and Shops

Outside the JR Station east exit is a small park with new benches, a fountain, and lots of shops and cafés around the area. On the street to the south are several cafes, and there are restaurants to the north including a big Italian place. There is also a nice Lawson conbini at the square where you can get some food to take back to the hotel or square, although eating in public is frowned on by the Japanese in general. There is a also a new small public toilet box in the square.

If you head right outside the east square, there are lots of side streets and things to explore. 2 blocks to the north is an east-west street which leads to the west square on the other side of the station. To the right is a small 7-11 and supermarket, along with a lot of other shops. To the south, a nice large Family Mart conbini.

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Looking north just outside the east square. Lots of restaurants and shops. If you head left at the 2nd light above, you’ll come to the west square. There is also a 7-11 and small supermarket just a few blocks to the right. The Lawson is just to the left before the 1st light.

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East-west road from west square outside Itabashi Station. Turn right here, then right again to get to the south/east side of the station. The CO-OP grocery on the corner is quite good and inexpensive. Just above that is a Gusto Café.

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More nice local restaurants and shops on the east side.

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Explore the area to the east of the station – side streets and interesting things around every corner. If you go far enough east, you’ll come to Rt. 305, which leads to Ikebukuro to the south.

Also on the east side – further east beyond the shops – is the Toden Arakawa Line – better known to locals as the Sakura Tram – and is one of the last small-scale functioning trams in Japan. You can buy a ticket at the station, and ride a loop line around Tokyo and back. The tram has huge windows – giving a vast and clear view of the surrounding area.

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West Square and Streets

To the west of the station is another central square, with side streets with lots of shops, restaurants, and cafés. If you walk far enough west down the side streets from here, you’ll find the YorkMart grocery store. There is another large grocery (CO-OP) on the corner on the north side of the block the square is in too. To get here, exit JR Itabashi Station at the west exist, and head straight ahead.

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A pano of the west square – west exit from the JR Itabashi Station on the left, square in the center, around to the bike locker on the right. Turning right beyond the bike locker takes you down a road to the east side of the station. The large organic grocery (CO-OP) is the orange building shown on the right to the north of the bike locker. The bike locker here is paid, but fairly cheap – around 400¥ for 16 hours. If you leave a bike here, you’ll need to feed the parking machine once a day.

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View from the west side square. Side streets are in the center. There is also a nice café on the corner. A Welcia drug store is also down this street. To get to the YorkMart grocery store, head down the street to the left, turn right at the next intersection, then west up the street.

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The west square at night. The Maruju Café on the corner is quite good.

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Another restaurant on the backstreets on the west side.

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Just to the east of the CO-OP grocery, across the railroad tracks is a large TSUTAYA record shop. If you continue right from here for a block, then right again, you will come to the east square.

Shopping Street to the Northwest of Nakasendo Hwy

At 35°45’00.43″ N 139°42’48.55” E along the Nakasendo Hwy, a long shopping street splits off to the west. It’s well worth a look and goes on for miles. To enter, look for the 1950’s-style Gusto Café on the right, and the Percona Bank on the left. This is where the entrance is. To get to this entrance from the city square, head north on side streets from the station, cross the Nakasendo Hwy, and get onto the sidewalk on the north side. Head west. Keep walking several blocks, until you find the entrance. There is also a nice Family Mart along this area. This street has all kinds of shops and nice cafés like something you’d find in Europe. There is also a huge Japan Post Office here.

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Shopping street entrance. Nakasendo Hwy is just on the left. This is facing northwest.

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Nakasendo Hwy facing west. There are also sidewalks for peds and bikes.

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Nakasendo Hwy facing southeast towards Sugamo. We’ll get to this next.

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Along Nakasendo Hwy. there are a lot of nice cafes and shops you can check out too.

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The Bridge Café.

There are plenty of nice cafés along the street you can visit.

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There are all sorts of old interesting things to see along the shopping street. In this case, an old Japan Post residential mailbox.

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An old abandoned bike along the shopping street – with a warning telling the owner to remove it. This has been sitting here at least 10 years, maybe 20. Probably once a young girl’s bike – now since long moved on. The ghosts of the past.

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A small historical monument.

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There is also a Can*Do 100¥ shop on the street too.

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Chrome-plated fire hydrants along the street – the Japanese don’t mess around.

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The main shopping street, looking west.

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Further up the street you will come to this bridge, which is a good photo spot.

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Lots of small food shops such as Tiktea line the street.

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The Smash Hair Salon. Typical Japanese trendiness.

Happy Road Oyama Shopping Street

Far to the west of the central part of Itabashi is shopping street called Happy Road Oyama Shotengai. It’s located at 35°44’52.85″ N 139°42’07.87″ E and runs east to west. Definitely worth a stroll.

Nakasendo Hwy SE->Sugamo->Tokyo Dome City

Starting at approx. 35°44’54.94″ N 139°43’17.21″ E – just north of the town center in Itabashi, you can go all the way southeast on the Nakasendo Hwy – stop in Sugamo, then beyond down to Tokyo Dome City (TDC). It’s only a few miles and walkable in a few hours. On bike, only about 25 mins. Very easy. A nearly straight shot.

There are a few gotchas – such as the road split about 1/2 way to TDC which you must be aware of – we covered that in another post about biking from Itabashi to TDC. Don’t forget the Japanese drive on the left so it’s a good idea to stay on the left sidewalk side of the road.

The city has installed a new bike lane on part of the road near the universities area north of Tokyo Dome, so that part is easy and safe – although sometimes delivery trucks will park in the new bike lane – so be careful as you ride.

From Itabash Station, walk north til you hit Nakasendo Hwy – you can’t miss it since it’s a huge 2-lane street. You may want to cross to the north side of the street once on the sidewalk, then head right (south).

Footnote: Nakasendo Hwy later changes names down near TDC – and is called Hakusan-Dori or Rt. 403. The two are synonymous.

There are 3 main areas on the way: central shops and sidewalk to Sugamo, Sugamo area and station itself (there’s another nice APA Hotel in Sugamo), road split + university area after Sugamo, and Tokyo Dome City/Bunkyo Civic Center at the end. Along the way there are all kinds of restaurants and shops – including a MOS Burger, and Freshness Burger. There is also a very nice chocolatier shop near the Freshness Burger – just south of it on the same side of the street, in fact.

So…. here’s how to go:

First you’ll go south on the sidewalk/street for a long way. There’s not much to mention here – lots of ordinary high-rise apartments, and some shops. This part looks like this:

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This part goes on for quite a way – just keep going.

After a while you’ll come into an area with more shops, gas stations, food, and other retail:

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Keep going – head past this + just keep heading south.

After a while you’ll come to a similar area with a MOS Burner on the left, then critical split in the road, which you must take. If you don’t, you’ll end up way to the east on Old Hakusan-Dori which will lead you away from TDC. We show both below:

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Continue on the left here ’til you hit the MOS Burger:

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As a footnote – if you turn left on the next street immediately after the MOS Burger, you end up in Komagome – another small Japanese town.

Now the critical split: just on the right, you’ll see the area shown below with a weird split in the street – there’s a light on the right, with a bike lane about 5 ft. long, then another street, then another sidewalk across the street. This photo is facing southwest:

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Wait for the crosswalk signal, then proceed across.

Old Hakusan-Dori goes off to the left. You don’t want that – you want to cross to the other side where you see the people standing, then immediately follow the sidewalk south again (left, or south). This puts you back on Hakusan-Dori south heading towards TDC. Don’t miss this crossing, or you’ll be lost!

On the other side, you’ll see the Freshness Burger:

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Don’t cross all the way to the Freshness Burger – you want the left at the first sidewalk before that.

As you continue south again, you’ll be in the university area. There are several universities here, as well as the new city bike lanes on both sides paved with blue pavement:

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As this photo shows, trucks can block the bike lanes, so be careful.

This section is all downhill, so if you’re on a bike, you can actually get a good cruising speed going.

Past this area, you’ll come into Sugamo. There is an APA hotel here, then the Sugamo subway station, with a covered shopping street, a Beck’s Coffee, and other shops and food:

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APA Hotel just before Sugamo Station, facing south.

Cruise past the APA hotel, through the covered shopping street, and past Sugamo Station:

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Looking back north in the covered shopping area.

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Sugamo Station.

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If you want to take a break, there is also an atré shopping area just behind Sugamo Station.

Keep heading south past the station.

After just a few more miles, you’ll start to see TDC come into view. The first sign will be the Ferris wheel and roller coaster tracks in the distance:

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Cruising into Tokyo Dome City, on the right. Biking in makes it a quick trip.

If you’re on bike, you’ll want to turn right at the corner shown above because the bike parking lot is 1 block to the right, across from Bunkyo Civic Center. If you’re on foot, you’ll want to continue south for 1 block, then cross at the light and head right into TDC area.

Footnote: if you head left at the intersection shown above, in just a few miles you’ll be in Ueno. If you head left at the next block south shown above, you’ll end up in Akihabara. Both are less than 1 hour’s walk.

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Bunkyo Civic Center. The bike parking lot is just behind it to the right. Also behind BCC is Korakuen Station – one of the most critical stations on the Maronuchi Metro subway line. The round top area of the bldg. is a free observation deck with some of the best views in Tokyo.

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Bike parking, right, Korakuen Station (M22), left. Tokyo Dome City is just to the left. Korakuen Station is the 4th stop on the Maronuchi Line – which makes it an ideal jumping off point to Ikebukuro to the west, and Tokyo Station to the east. You can also get the Namboku Line here, which will shoot you south to Iidabashi Station where you can interchange to the Hanzomon Line for Oshiagé-SKYTREE Station. Hanzomon Line can also shoot you to Shibuya to the south. Ikebukuro is the western terminus.

Marunouchi Line map. The current station is shown in red. The small colored circles on the line map indicate interchange stations to other lines. Text is both English and Japanese. Some stations, such as Akasaka-Mitsuke are critical interchanges to major lines such as Ginza and Namboku. The arrows indicate the name + number of the next + previous stations on the line.

There are all kinds of shops along both sides of the streets. Restaurants, and a British “The Hub” pub on the corner at the light. Just to the south of that is Meets Port – another shopping area that is part of TDC.

If you head just up the street to the west behind Tokyo Dome Stadium, you can visit Korakuen Gardens, which is spectacular – it’s less than a block.

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Hakusan-Dori looking back north. Meets Port is just ahead. Turning right on Sotobori-Dori/Rt. 405 will take you back to the east side of Tokyo.

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Don’t miss the New Yorker’s Café right across the street.

Well, you made it. Now enjoy Tokyo Dome City – there are all kinds of things to do here – rides, restaurants, a grocery store, shopping mall, coffee, and a baseball museum. Nana’s Green Tea matcha parlour is not to be missed in the LaQua mall area. There is also a nice Don Quijote discount store right across the street. There is a luxury hotel as well as a First Cabin capsule hotel right in TDC.

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Tokyo Dome Hotel and ride @ Tokyo Dome City.

As a footnote if you head just another block south, you’ll come to Suidobashi Station. See our other article on things to explore around the Suidobashi Station area. That article also covers how to make the trip entirely on bike.

Enjoy your time in Itabashi. We hope this guide makes your visit easier and enjoyable.

LINKS

Toshima City

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shimo-Itabashi_Station

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naka-Itabashi_Station

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g1066446-d9569977-Reviews-Happy_Road_Oyama_Shotengai-Itabashi_Tokyo_Tokyo_Prefecture_Kanto.html

https://www.tokyo-dome.co.jp/meetsport/

https://tokyocheapo.com/locations/north-tokyo/komagome/

VIDS

This vid shows both the east and west city sqaures.

Tokyo Drew has a nice vid inside the Tokyo Dome City area

Akihabara Superguide

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Name: Akihabara

Kind: Town

Location: 35°41’53.63″ N 139°46’28.29″ E

Akihabara (or simply Akiba as it is known by locals), aside from being one of Tokyo’s biggest electronics areas, is also a great place to explore and walk around. There’s tons to do here.

Since we’ve lived there many times, and have deep knowledge of the area and its attractions, we’ve put togther this superguide to help you get around.

First, the layout + streets, then shopping, electronics, attractions, and lodging.

On Sundays, from noon – 4PM, the streets in Akihabara are closed to vehicles, making it a walker’s paradise.

How to Visit Akihabara

The best way is to get a cheap hostel or hotel in the area, stay a few days and walk around. It’s not a large town and is relatively compact so it is easy to cover in just a few days. Hit the main streets and areas first, explore the staion, then explore some backstreets and side areas. You can also walk from Akihabara to Kanda, Nihonbashi, and Tokyo Station to the south in just a few miles.

To get to Akihabara by train, take the JR Yamanote Line north from Tokyo Station or South from Ueno Station to Akihabara Station (there are 3 main exits, described below). You can also take the Keihin Tohoku line if you are coming from the north. The Ginza Metro Subway line also stops at Kanda Station just to the south so you can easily walk from Kanda north to Akihabara in just a few minutes. Get off at the G13 Station on the Ginza Metro Line, and head north. Suehirocho Station (G14) on the Ginza Line will also drop you into Akihabara – at the northwest corner of the town near the Tam-Tam Hobby Shop (see below).

How Big is Akihabara?

As mentioned below it’s a fairy small town – you can easily walk the main station area in a day or two (see below).

How Expensive is Akihabara?

Akihabara is actally not that expensive. There are some very good hostels and hotels such as And Hostel and APA Hotel. Depending on the season, daily prices can range anywhere from $24 for hostels to $70-$80 for a hotel. There are many other similar hotels in the area ranging anywhere from $60-$160 per night. So you can visit Akihabara quite inexpensively.

How Far is Akihabara From Narita Airport?

As the crow flies about 32 miles. Once from the airport to Tokyo Station on the N’EX or Keisei Skyliner, Akihabara is just a few miles north – 2 train stops. So only a few minutes.

How Far is Akihabara From Tokyo?

As mentioned it’s actually part of Tokyo – it’s in the northeast corner of the central part of the city and is considered a main area. It’s just a few stops north of Tokyo Station.

How to Explore Akihabara

See our section below. Once at Akihabara station there are 4 main areas: the long street to the east which runs north to south, and is more reserved with traditional shops, the electronic town area on Chuo-Dori to the east which also runs north to south, the area to the south of the station which includes Akihabara Park and other small shops and restaurants, and the area north of the station which includes the Gundam Cafe, the UDX bldd. area, the Excelsior Cafe and Bic Camera bldg. The station is shaped like a “+” sign so there are 4 major corners or areas to explore. There is also Manseibashi Bridge and eCute mall inside to the south of the electronics area. There are also side streets with various small shops to the far east of the station. These areas are described in detail below.

Akihabara Station

JR Akihabara Station is fairly well laid out in the shape of a “+” sign. As far as Japanese train stations go, it’s easy to navigate. There are only 3 main exits: the Showa-Dori exit @ the east which drops you outside Yodobashii camera on the east side, the Central Exit which drops you into a small square near the Gundam Cafe and office buildings such as UDX to the west side, and the Electric Town Exit which dumps you out into an alley to the southwest of the station filled with various electronics stores and restuarants. There is one more small exit in the Uniqlo building on the southeast corner of the station. The upscale Washington Hotel is just east of this exit across the street. Yodobashii Akiba is just a block north of this exit also. Note that the Electric Town exit is a bit misnamed – you might expect it would drop you near Yodobashii or Bic Camera, or onto Chuo Dori but it doesn’t – it drops you to the south of the station in a back alley. For Chuo Dori use the central exit, then head a block or two west.

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When you exit the platform, you’ll come down the stairs on the right. Follow the yellow signs to any of the 3 major exits.

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The Showa Dori Exit to the east of the station. Go west (back) through this exit, and head right inside to get to the food shop passage which leads to the Central Exit near Yodobashii.

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Head back throught the exit shown above, then veer right slightly to get to the food passage. There are also more restaurants in the atré complex on the way. Just to the left of this photo there is a small bank of 300¥ coin lockers, but they are almost always full.

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The food passage between the Showa Dori and Central exits.

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Entrance to food passage just outside west exit of Yodobashii Camera.

Akihabara Station. Up is north. The large building on the right with the green roof is Yodobashii Akiba. Just left of that is the Central Exit. At the lower left (southwest) corner of the station is the Electric Town exit. On the north side of that where the large ramp is is the UDX building and post office. Chuo Dori is on the left of the image. 2 stops north on the Yamanote Line is Ueno.

Central Exit. Facing south. atré department store complex is on the left. Excelsior Cafe is just to the right behind the stairs.

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Facing north from the Central Exit. UDX buidling is on the left. Post office is on the left side of this building on the ground floor. There is also a small paid bicycle parking area to the right behind the stairs to the pedestrian overpass. Excelsior Cafe is just to the left side behind the bus. If you walk down through the street where the green tracks overpass is on the right side, you’ll come out at Yodobashii Camera, and beyond that, Showa Dori to the east. If you turn left at the UDX building 1 block, you’ll find Bic Camera, and Chuo Dori where all the big stores are. Gundam Cafe and Square Enix Cafe are just to the right out of frame. The French Toast Factory is also here, near the Gundam Cafe.

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Bic Camera, just to the west of the UDX building shown above. Chuo Dori is just to the left (west) of this image. This photo was taken from the approximate vantage point of the Excelsior Cafe just outside the Central Exit. Note that in Japan in the fall + winter it gets dark early – this photo was taken around 2PM in the afternoon in Nov.

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Just to the right (east) of Bic Camera is the UDX bldg. shown here, and just south of that where this photo was taken, is the Excelsior Cafe which is quite large and nice with indoor + outdoor seating. Also on this side of the courtyard, just to the left (west) is the Moco Cafe, and a secret bank of 200¥ coin lockers, which are almost never occupied. We’ll discuss both later below.

Around the station there are 2 main streets: Chuo Dori, which is the main electronics shopping street to the west of the station, and Showa-Dori immediately to the east of the station. Showa-Dori is a main traffic road which runs all the way to Ueno 2 miles to the north, and all the way to Tokyo Station several miles to the south. Both roads run north to south and parallel to each other. In fact, you can easily walk north to Ueno in a few minutes on Showa-Dori. Side streets running east-west connect the two north-south streets, so it’s easy to cut over to either quickly.

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Showa Dori facing north. Note the Metro track overhead.

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Showa Dori facing NE.

It’s fairly easy to navigate around the station by walking the East-West streets between Chuo Dori and Showa Dori. There is also a street-level passage between the Showa Dori JR exit and the Central JR exit through the station. This passage is lined with small food shops such as a Marion Crepes and Jack in the Donuts, among others. At the Central Exit side you have the entrance to Yodobashii Akiba electronics store. The entire area around the station of interest is only about 4-5 square blocks, although you can venture much further than that on foot, if you like.

At the south end of Chuo Dori, past the shopping area, and over a bridge across from the huge Big Apple pachinko parlor is the Old Manseibashi Station area and mAAch eCute shopping area, which we’ll talk about below.

Trains

There are 3 main lines in the station: the Yamanote Line, which rings central Tokyo, the Keihin-Tohoku Line which runs to the north out of Tokyo, and the Chuo-Sobu Line which runs east-west. For most stops on the east side of the city you’ll use the Yamanote line. Ueno is 2 stops to the north, Kanda, Nihonbashi, Tokyo Station, and Yurakucho Station (Ginza) a few stops to the south, in that order.

As a footnote you can take the Kehin-Tohoku Line all the way north to Akabane where it changes for the Saikyo Line which can then take you south to Ikebukuro and Shinjuku. Or you can stay on the Keihin-Tohoku Line all the way north to Omiya.

A note about station signage in Japan: “Exit” means a physical exit from a station, and “Gate” means a payment gate where you use a ticket or electronic IC card to exit the station. When you buy a paper ticket you pay in advance and use the ticket to exit the gate at the destination station. When you use an IC card, you swipe the card when you enter a station gate for departure, but the funds are actually deducted when you swipe it again at the destination station’s gate. All but the smallest Japan stations have more than one exit. Usually gates and exits are synonymous, but not always. Some stations can be confusing because to get to one line you have to pass entirely through another line’s area in the same station (such as at Tamieke-Sanno station). Some of the huge stations have miles of underground tunnels and dozens of exits to take you to different parts of the local area. Some stations (many in fact, in Tokyo) combine several different systems such as JR, Metro Subway, and Toei Subway lines. You’ll see the small box-shaped entrances to these on the streets in many places besides the main station entrances.

When you get off the train, immediately look for the large yellow panels on a wall or signs mentioned above which list what is at each exit. Usually the exits are numbered. There will be additional smaller yeallow signs throughout most stations pointing the direction to most exits, but still – it’s easy to get lost or turned around if you’re not al ready familiar with a given station.

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Yamanote line (green), left, and Keihin-Tohoku line (blue), right. Entrance to the Chuo-Sobu line (yellow) is downstairs near the Electric Town Exit and has an escalator up to the platform.

Electric Town exit.

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Heading east from Electric Town Exit. Showa Dori is straight ahead. There’s a NewDays conbini (convenience store) on the left, and the next shop up is a great Becker’s hamburger place combined with a Pronto Cafe. There is also a SofMap store just at the end of the street. If you turn north coming out of the Electric Town exit instead of east as shown here, there is also a small Yamada Denki LABI which is great.

Hobbies

Aside from electronics, and anime, there are a lot of great hobby shops in the area. If you’re looking for models or trains, by far the 2 best shops in Akihabara are Yodobashii Camera and TamTam (35°42’11.08″ N 139°46’17.71″ E) at the north end of Chuo Dori. (As a footnote, the huge Don Quijote and SofMap are just 2 blocks south of TamTam on opposite sides of the street).

The model floor in Yodobashii is incredible. They have the largest selection of high-quality Tamiya models we’ve ever seen anywhere in Japan.

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Tamiya model selection in Yodobashii Akiba.

On the north end of Chuo Dori on the west side of the street, just north of the Don Quijote is the TamTam hobby shop. The 4th + 5th floors have all kinds of plastic models and trains, including a good selection of Tamiya models also. Suehirocho Station (G14) on the Metro is just across the street to the south.

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TamTam on the northwest side of Chuo Dori.

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Inside TamTam.

This video shows inside TamTam and the unbelievable selection of models:

As a footnote, less than half a block south of TamTam there is a nice MOS Burger.

Akihabara Park

Just to the south of Yodobashii is Akihabara Park. It’s a small concrete park with stores and shops on both sides. It also has free WiFi. There’s a really good Key’s Cafe here, and across the park from that is a great little surplus electornics store which has nice little USB battery banks for $10.

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Akihabara Park south of Yodobashii. Key’s Cafe is in the brown building on the right. There is also a small bike locker here. Just to the right out of frame is Showa Dori.

Cafes

Aside from the usual maid cafes, there are several intereting ones to visit. There’s Key’s Cafe mentioned above, a Café Veloce out on Showa Dori Avenue, which is sort of a throwback to the 1950’s, there’s Café Moco (shown below), which is smaller and privately owned + is just south of the Bic Camera mentioned above, there’s also SAO Cafe (link below), Gundam Café, Square Enix Café, and others. There is a Tully’s Coffee in the UDX bldg – and Tully’s usually has free WiFi and free power plugs if you need a charge. There’s also a great trainspotting porch behind Tully’s up a small staricase to the left:

There is also a Beck’s Coffee near the Central Exit.

There are also a few other cafés on the food floors at the top of Yodobashii Camera.

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Café Moco is just to the west of the Excelsior Café. Just to the left (south) of this photo is a secret bank of coin lockers costing only 200¥-400¥. They are keyed, so you have to not lose the key, but are good and cheap nonetheless.

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Gundam Café, just across from Café Moco. The now defunct AKB48 Café is the brick bldg. just to the right. Yodobashii Camera is behind the tracks overhead. JR Central Exit to Akihabara Station is to the right (south), out of frame.

Gundam Café and Square Enix Café are right next to each other on the east side of the square by the Central JR Exit. There was an AKB48 Café here also, but it closed in Nov. 2019, just around the initial time of this writing. The Excelsior Café mentioned above is quite good + has lots of seating. Excelsior, Café Moco, Gundam, and Square Enix are all within a block of each other in the same courtyard. The maid cafés tend to be more out on Chuo Dori Ave, and side streets near the Electric Town exit.

Velocé cafés tend to be very good, and have lots of cheap food + drinks such as 290¥ coffee (cohee in Japanese), and 350¥ hot dogs. Velocé is a chain all around Japan, and is similar to Dotour shops, except that Velocé cafes seem to have more smokers, on average, for some reason, if that bothers you. Maybe it’s the 1950’s vibe. There is a Doutour in the area, but it’s a little further south via Showa Dori in Kanda, the next station to the south. Both chains are great, but on average we like the Dotour shops just a little bit more.

SAO cafe is a bit on the expensive side with 600¥ shakes + 1000¥ sundaes. Good nonetheless. Square Enix café has fantastic huge burgers in the 1000¥-1400¥ range which are worth it once in a while.

There are loads of cafés all over the area in fact, and we’ve just scratched the surface here.

Currency Exchange

There are many good currency exchange shops in Akiba. But the 2 best ones are on the east side of Showa Dori, just across from and south of the JR East Exit. If you come out of the east exit and cross at the light shown at the top of this article, you’ll see the Noodle Stand Kourakuen:

Or at night:

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If you turn right at this shop, on your left you’ll see a small alley with an Urgent Care sign next to it (a green cross). Just below that you’ll see a currency exchange:

This one is great. If you continue south on Showa Dori on the same side of the street, you’ll come across another one a few blocks down – it’s another little hole-in-the-wall shop, but is also very good. Both of these charge around 2%-4% as of this writing, depending on currency. Don’t exchange large amounts of currency at the airport – they charge outrageous fees.

©2019 Glob Design

Showa Dori, south of the 2nd currency exchange shop.

When Do Akihabara Stores Open and Close?

Store hours vary. Some large stores such as Yodobashi stay open very late, especially on weekends. Some close early on weekdays, and some open late on weekdays. Most store hours are from 8AM-10AM to 6PM-10PM. It’s rare for stores in Akihabara to stay open past midnight in most cases but some do. Many are open on Sunday – when the major streets are closed to motor vehicle traffic.

More Shopping

The biggest electronics parts store in the area is called Tokyo Radio Department Store. They have just about everything including raw network cable. There are other smaller electronics parts stores in the area – including the one mentioned above across from Key’s Coffee.

Don Quijote (Donki as locals call it) is a famous discount electronics chain all over Japan. These stores have just about everything, including, usually, a cheap food floor. There are actually some good deals on food. You can get a 1 liter healthy vegetable drink consisting of 26 vegetables, or a 1 liter bottle of UCC black coffee for around 78¥. They also have cheap snacks in various forms. They also have good prepacked meals for under 500¥. You can take them home, microwave them, and chow down. The Akihabara Don Quijote is on Chuo Dori, right across from the big SofMap tower store. Their food selection seems to be a bit less than other stores such as the Ginza one or Ikebukuro one, but is good nonetheless. Don Quijotes are a bit of a crazy mashup of electronics and supermarkets. They have just about everything. The stores are usualy cramped, with tiny aisles and products strewn everywhere. Quite amusing. Still worth a look, though. They even have cheap luggage. Don Quijote Akihabara is at 35°42’02.69″ N 139°46’18.23″ E.

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Don Quiojte on Chuo Dori.

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Cheap snacks around 128¥ @ Don Quijote.

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Don Quijote stores are crammed with merchandise.

Groceries

Hands down the cheapest and most healthy grovery store in the area is an Aeon supermarket 5 or 6 blocks north of the station on the east side of Showa Dori. It’s on a corner and is in a tan bldg. They have the above-mentioned vegetable drinks for under 100¥ and lots of fresh produce for salads. And a variety of other products, including liquor and beer. As you walk north on Showa Dori, you’ll discover all kinds of other shops such as clothes, bikes, furniture, household goods. The shops on this street are a little more upscale comapred to the rough-and-tumble shops in the central area. Also on this street is the YKK zipper company HQ – which is known the world over for high-quality zippers.

Aeon supermarket on Showa Dori in Akihabara.

Bicycles

Beleive it or not, there are a few shops in Akiba where you can buy name-brand high-end racing road bikes for up to 50% off retail. There are some incredible deals here, such as this $600 Bianchi road bike:

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Arcades + Video Games + Super Potato

Akiba abounds with arcades, game shops, and retro reuse stores. Chief among the retro game stores is Super Potato – a 3-floor extravaganza of old arcade machines, old consoles for sale, and old game titles. It’s a bit hidden and hard to find, but close to Chuo Dori. It’s located at 35°41’57.79″ N 139°46’17.17″ E, 1 block southwest from the main Bic Camera building, west of the UDX building.

There is no sign in English on the store’s entrance shown below:

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Either go up the stairs at the end, or take the small elevator to floors 3-5:

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Even Japanese pop stars Yuzu have visited Super Potato.

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Just down the street from that is another retro store which also has video games + models – Yellow Submarine.

There are plenty of other arcades in Akiba – mainly the 3 big SEGA ones, and the big Taito Game Station. The biggest SEGA arcade is on Chuo Dori – Sega Akihabara 4 gokan – is next to the SofMap tower, and the 2nd one is at the south end of Chuo Dori across from Mainseibashi Bridge.

Akiba Kart

Akiba Kart is a go-cart racing service where you can rent to ride go-carts around Tokyo. Keep in mind though, there is considerable traffic in Tokyo and the experience can be a bit hair-raising for the uninitiated.

Trading Cards

Akiba is a huge magnet for trading card collectors and there are lots of card stores in the area. Probably the biggest is Card World Akiba – it’s 1 block off Chuo Dori towards the south at the end of an alley shown here:

Manseibashi Station + mAAch eCute

Akiba’s hidden gem is Manseibashi Station – an abandoned train station turned mall. The station was built in 1912, was renovated in 1925, 1938, and 1946 – but was then abandoned when Tokyo Station was built to the south in 1914. It sat empty + unused from 1948-2006, when it was renovated and reopened as a shopping mall. Manseibashi was one of the first train stations built in Japan. The JR lines, however still run across the top of the station north to south. The east side features Manseibashi Bridge, and a picturesque river which runs parallel to the station. You can reach the station by walking south on Chuo Dori from the central area to Manseibashi Bridge.

Ueno (1910), Manseibashi (1912), and Tokyo Station (1914) were all built around the same time. When the station was renovated in 1938, Shimbashi Station south of Tokyo Station was also built, connecting the entire east side of the city. All but Manseibashi are still in use today for transit.

On the 2nd floor of the station, via a small elevator on the northwest side is a small museum with a diorama of the entire area as it looked in 1912. The larger original brick building (also shown on this site) which was to the west of the station, and had a remarkable resemblance to the Maruonuchi side of Tokyo station was destroyed in the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 and was torn down. You can see what that part of the station looked like below. Definitely worth a look. Watch for the signs on the west outside wall of the station for the elevator, and both stairwells.

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Station diorama in the museum on the 2nd floor.

The original 1912 and 1938 stairwells are still open, the 2nd of which leads to the roof where there is a trainspotting garden, and a small restaurant. You can sit + sip wine and eat as you watch the JR lines whiz by next to you.

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Original 1912 stairwell.

Manseibashi Station (1912-1936) @ Old Tokyo

At the south end of the station is mAAch eCute – a chain of stores. Actually the stores run throughout the station but the eCute entrance is at the south end. Enter from Manseibashi bridge at the eCute sign, and walk in. The inside is a tunnel of stores with small concrete overhead arches on both sides. You can walk inside the entire length of the station and shop as you go.

The station is one of Akiba’s best-kept secrets and is well worth a stop to look around.

mAAch ecute: Akihabara’s Best-Kept, Non-otaku Secret

mAACH eCute Store Guide. The entrance is shown on the left.

Hotels, Hostels, + Lodging

There are some nice hotels and hostels in Akiba. The aforementioned Washington Hotel next to the Uniqlo near the station is very nice – altough a bit expensive. As for hostels, there is a First Cabin and a And Hostel just a few blocks from the Showa Dori exit. The First Cabin is just a few blocks north of the AndAnd Hostel.

There are 2 nice APA hotels in Akihabara, and one of them, APA Hotel Akihabara Ekimae, is literally 2 blocks right in front of the east exist to the JR station. Their rates are reasonable, at around $70/night or less depending on the time of year. The other APA is APA Hotel Akihabara-Eki Denkigaiguchi, (literally “Electric Street Exit”) and is around the same price, although it is a few blocks to the northwest of the station and is not quite as convenient as the one mentioned above. Note that APA Akihabara Ekimae, First Cabin Akihabara, and And Hostel (mentioned below) are all within a few blocks of each other. All are quite nice.

Also of note is the fact that about a mile or so even further to the northwest is another APA – APA Ochanomizu Ekikita. In fact, if you head west from TamTam hobby, right near Suehirocho Station, it’s less than 2 blocks. This APA has several advantages: 1) It’s really close to Akihabara, 2) it’s less than .6 miles south of Ueno, and the Skyliner Station to Narita Airport, 3) it’s also really close to the WATERRAS area just south of Ochanomizu, and from there, south into Otemachi, and the main area around Tokyo Station, 4) it’s also just a mile or so east of the Tokyo Dome/Korakuen Station area. All of this means if you stay at the APA in Ochanomizu, you can jump off to Akihabara, Nihonbashi, Otemachi, Tokyo Station, Tokyo Dome, Ueno, or Okachimachi all in less than 1 hours’ walk. This makes it a cheap + ideal location to stay at in the east side of Tokyo. And of course, once you’re on the JR Yamanote line from Akihabara, or Suehirocho Metro Station, you can get just about anywhere you want in central Tokyo fast.

First Cabin usually tends to be more upscale, and in our experince is very good – you get a deluxe tube, with a sliding door, a nice bed, outlets, A/C control, and a TV in each tube. It’s very clean + upscale. They also have a lounge where you can relax, watch TV, read, work, or just hang out. Our only real complaint against First Cabin is that the cabin area lacks real ventilation and if the hostel is crowded, it can get quite stuffy at night. It needs a window to open, which it lacks. Other than this, First Cabin is usually a good deal. They are relatively inexpensive considering what you get for the money. The one in Akiba is just north east of the station, so it’s very convenient.

And Hostel is just a few blocks south, and also just a few blocks east of the station. Remember the side alley where the money exchnage mentioned above was? If you go 1 block south of that and turn left, you’ll be on a small side street. Head east a few blocks on this street and keep a lookout to the right for And Hostel. It’s just a few blocks to the right. When you see it, hang a right and head over.

There is also a very nice And Hostel in Asakusa as well.

Keep a lookout to the right for the hostel down a side street. Shown here at the end.

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Inside the single tube room at And Hostel.

A newly-opened luxury hostel called GLANSIT is on the east side of Chuo Dori. Around $72 bucks a night.

There are also quite a good number of great bars and restaurants in the area on the side streets.

If you’re tired and in need of a rest, go east from the hostel until you hit a dead end, turn north (left) for 2 blocks, then left again, back towards the station and you’ll come upon Izumi Park. This is a popular park for families with kids, but there are several benches here as well and you can just sit and hang out for a while if you like.

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Izumi Park

Secret Cheap Coin Lockers

Just to the left (south) of Café Moco mentioned above is a small bank of secret cheap coin lockers (also mentioned above). These range from 200¥ to 400¥ for 12 hours and are quite good, although the are keyed and don’t yet support IC cards. There is another tiny inexpensive bank just inside the Showa Dori exit, but there aren’t many there, and they are almost always full. These lockers are designed for you to drop your stuff while shopping to pick up when you leave, but we’ve actually used them to store luggage overnight when moving from one area of the city to another. Just be aware if you leave contents in them overnight, you’ll have to pay an additional fee (via coin) to get your belongings out. You can also use them to temporarily store luggage when leaving the country or going to an airport if you have lots of luggage and can’t carry it all – if you need to make more than one trip.

Co-working Spaces

There are a few nice affordable co-working spaces in Akiba too. Best among these is Lifork on the 4th floor of the UDX bldg. They have a variety of shared offices, and even retail. Some of the small 2-person offices are as low as $900 USD/mo, which is incredible – considering this is Tokyo – and the UDX bldg. is right across from the JR Akihabara Station, which makes it incredibly convenient. Near Suehirocho Station (above), is 1/3 Work Life, which is also good. They also offer business mailboxes. Rates are below $450 USD/mo. Another one in the area is Rampart. It’s right across the street from Shosen Book next to Showa Dori. They also have door’ed meeting rooms. Regus is another option, although quite a bit more expensive. BIZcomfort is another option in the area, although there is no staff at all here. All you get is a 24-hour keycard.

Language Schools

Halfway between Akiba and Ueno, just to the northeast is the Intercultural Institute of Japan, which among other things, has a language school.

WiFi

Just aross from the Akiba UNI-QLO store, in the block west of the Washington Hotel is a visitor center and a free Wi-Fi hotspot shown below:

Conclusion

One potentially disturbing aspect of modern Akihabara to some is that the area is becoming less focused on electronics and more on anime. Akihabara was once known mostly for electronics. While Yodobashi/Bic/Sofmap are still around, they are facing growing competition from Amazon and other online retailers, which is cutting into business. There are still lots of electronic shops in the area, but the trend seems to be more towards anime today. Electronics shopping seems to have moved more to the Shinjuku and Ikebuluro areas on the west side of the city.

Anyway, that’s it. Have fun exploring + finding stuff in Akihabara. It’s a fairly small area – if you spend an entire day or two there, you can easily see it all.

LINKS

https://akihabara-japan.com/

Akihabara on Google Maps

JR Akihabara Station Map

Akihabara Station @ Wikipedia

Akihabara Station Guide @ Japan Rail Pass

https://visit-chiyoda.com

&And Hostel Akihabara (35°41’50.94″ N 139°46’38.84″ E)

First Cabin Akihabara (35°41’51.28″ N 139°46’37.66″ E)

Washington Hotel Akihabara (35°41’50.56″ N 139°46’25.69″ E)

https://www.akihabaraluxurycityhouse.com/en-us

https://bit.ly/2sdBT91

GLANSIT Akihabara Hostel

Grids Akihabara Hostel

Studio BnA Akihabara

Akihabara’s 4 Sofmap Stores @ Matcha

Bic Camera Akiba

Yodobashi Akiba Electronics

Super Potato Retro Video Game Store

Manseibashi Station Official

Manseibashi Station @ Wikipedia

Manseibashi Station – Kanda’s abandoned train station

Manseibashi: The Phantom Station of Tokyo

Manseibashi Station (1912-1936) @ Old Tokyo

mAAch ecute: Akihabara’s Best-Kept, Non-otaku Secret

mAAch eCute official

Akihabara Food Guide: What to Eat in Akihabara

Best Cafes In Akihabara That Are Not Otaku-Culture Oriented

10 Ultimate Akihabara Cafes You Must Try Besides Maid

Best Gyoza in Akihabara

Jack In the Donuts

Marion Crepes

The French Toast Factory

Excelsior Cafe Akihabara

Gundam Cafe

Key’s Café

Moco Cafe

My trip to Japan, Akihabara and the SAO Cafe

10 Best Shops in Akihabara

Akihabara Shopping @ Japan Visitor

Best 10 Department Stores near Akihabara Station @ Yelp

atré Akihabara

Tokyo Radio Depato Electronics Parts Store

TamTam Akihabara: One of Akihabara’s Largest Hobby Shops

Kaiyodo Hobby Lobby Tokyo

Don Quijote Official

Don Quijote Akiba @ Yelp

Don Quijote Akihabara – Tokyo Things To Do & Itineraries | Planetyze

Easily spend a day in Don Quijote in Akiba

10 Best Akihabara Tours & Tickets

Akihabara : 15 Best Things to Do

Akihabara Beyond the Popular Attractions @ Tokyo Cheapo

7 Picks For Akihabara Souvenirs @ Matcha

Get iPhone and Mac at Bargain Prices

Coworking Spaces in Akihabara @ Akihabara News

Liforkhttps://akihabara.lifork.jp/maintenance.html

UDX Akihabara

JR East

All JR East station maps

JR Yamanote line: Getting around Tokyo

Best Route from Shinjuku to Akihabara Station

JR Saikyo Line to Ikebukuro, Shibuya, Omiya & Odaiba

allaboutjapantrains.com

akihabaranews.com

akihabara-booster.com

akihabara-trip.com

https://en.japantravel.com/tokyo/super-potato-in-akihabara/2410

https://en.japantravel.com/guide/unlock-japan-with-japan-travel-bike/43086

https://en.japantravel.com/

https://www.yelp.com/biz/%E3%82%BB%E3%82%AC-%E7%A7%8B%E8%91%89%E5%8E%9F%EF%BC%93%E5%8F%B7%E9%A4%A8-%E5%8D%83%E4%BB%A3%E7%94%B0%E5%8C%BA

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g1066443-d10094610-Reviews-Sega_Akihabara_1st-Chiyoda_Tokyo_Tokyo_Prefecture_Kanto.html

https://www.digitaltrends.com/mobile/cool-tech-souvenirs-akihabara/

Tripadvisor

Akihabara photos @ Cool Photo Japan

Japan Post

VIDEOS

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kV7fcmY62hY&feature=share

©2019 tenmintokyo.com

Return to Itabashi – An 18-year journey – PART 1

By Staff

Name: Itabashi

Kind: Town

Location: 35°44’45.85″ N 139°43’03.77″ E

Be patient – the photos may take a while to load.

Also see Part 2, Part 3.

My return to the first small town I stayed at in Japan 18 years ago – Itabashi in northwest Tokyo.

The name Itabashi literally means plankbridge.

Itabashi is part of a larger northwestern area of Tokyo called Toshima City.

In 2001, on my first trip to Japan, and right off the airplane, I landed in the charming small town of Itabashi. I was excited. Everything in Japan was new to me then, and I was thrilled to be there.

Purely by accident I discovered the great Japanese hotel chain APA Hotels, which has a hotel in Itabashi, right next to the JR Itabashi train station. APA stands for “Always Pleasant Amenities” and they mean it. APA’s are usually cheap, very clean, and have soundproof windows. The APA Itabashi hotel off season is an amazing $65/night – which is what you would pay for a Motel 6 in the US, but APAs are much much better.

The rooms have a fridge, HDTV, power, charging sockets, and nice bathrooms. Well worth the money. There is also a nice cafe in the lobby, a vending machine, and ice machine (which the Japanese call Ice Engines).

In 2019, I returned to Itabashi, 18 years after my initial sojurn, and stayed just 3 doors down from the room I stayed in during 2001.

This post is a memory of that journey, and about my new adventure in Itabashi in 2019.

The 2001 Photos + Trip

In 2001 digital cameras were still a new thing. All the photos in this section were taken on an Apple QuickTake 200 – which at the time was a hot camera. By today’s standards these are postage-stamp resolution, but they provide a good comparison with the 2019 trip.

In 2001 I hopped a flight from California to Tokyo. The city was overwhelming as was the 16-hour flight. Upon landing I took the NEX from Narita Airport to Tokyo Station, changed trains to the JR Chuo Line, changed again at Shinjuku Station, and took the Saikyo Line up to Itabashi. I will never forget the momemt I stepped off the train and onto the street below the station – the subdued feeling of calmness and relative silence for a city this large.

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Overflying the Chiba peninsula into Narita, Summer 2001.

I headed straight to the hotel – APA Itabashi, which turns out to be one of the best hotel chains in Japan. I was amazed at the cleanliness and quality of both the city and hotel.

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Original JR Itabashi Station – where I first stepped onto the street in Japan for the first time, now replaced.

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City center square – just across from the station. This area and the station have been renovated in 2019 for the 2020 Summer Games. Note this view for later.

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APA Hotel – just to the west of the station. There is a small pedestrian tunnel just on the right which leads to the other city square up to the north of the station.

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Just to the east of APA Hotel. The small police box or Koban is the small white bldg. on the right. The small brown bldg. on the left has been torn down and replaced with a big new remodelled station in 2019. People in Japan don’t steal bikes and amazingly, all of these parked bikes were unlocked. Note this view for later below.

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The Koban from the front. The old station is just to the right, and the city square is just behind the camera. APA Hotel is to the left.

©2001-2020 tenmintokyo.com

One block south of the hotel. The yellow + red sign is the Daily Yamazaki – a 7-11 type convenience store chain in Japan. In Japan these stores are known as Conbini.

©2001-2020 tenmintokyo.com

Diagonally from the Daily Yamazaki was this vending machine corner – still the same today.

©2001-2020 tenmintokyo.com

APA Itabashi hotel lobby with cafe in 2001. Still the same today.

©2001-2020 tenmintokyo.com

APA Itabashi room view in 2001 looking west. Today the small white apato bldg. has been torn down and replaced with a massive condo development which blocks nearly the entire view. The platform for JR Itabashi Station is just below, but the hotel has soundproof windows. Note this view for later, below.

©2001-2020 tenmintokyo.com

APA Itabashi room. The rooms are tiny, but quite good, and very clean. They even have a tiny desk. Note the old-style CRT-type TV from 2001. In all APAs in Japan, these have now been replaced with HDTV’s.

The 2019 Photos + Trip

So in 2019 I began to make plans to return to Japan for an extended tour. I immediately began to think of returning to Itabashi as my 1st stop – just for fun – to see if it had changed. So I booked the same hotel for 2 weeks. This time I played the flight smart and stayed overnight in the Pacific Northwest in the US – which cuts the flight time down from 16 hours to a mere 10 – and makes it much easier. If you live in Vancouver you can do the same – although flight time will be 12 instead of 10 hours. 10 hours is doable. 16 is murder.

Upon landing at Narita and staying over in a local hotel for 2 nights to adjust to the time change, I once again booked a NEX train and shot right into Tokyo. I had not been back in 18 years.

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Touching down at Narita, 2019.

Tokyo Station had changed and was now much more massive – by an order of several magnitudes. On top of that, all the train stations in Tokyo were being remodeled that fall in preparation for the 2020 Summer Games. I struggled my 3 bags through the station and its labyrinth tunnels to get the Chuo Line once again to Shinjuku.

Once in Shinjuku (whose station was also completely torn up), I bought a Suica prepaid IC card and headed for the Saikyo Line platform. After a few minutes’ wait, I boarded and rode the line back north – just as I had done 18 years earlier. Just as I had remembered, it was only a short hop.

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The train stopped at Itabashi, brakes squealing, the doors opened, and I once again stepped off onto the platform. Time rewound decades as I vividly recalled my first step into Japan nearly 20 years earlier – as if I was Neil Armstrong stepping onto the moon for the 1st time.

To my amazement, with the exception of a large white bldg. to the east of the station, nothing had changed. Nothing. The station and platform were almost unchanged. The back of the hotel, which faces the station was as if I had never left. I saw the long oval windows of the hotel restaurant where I had eaten my first breakfast in Japan the day after arriving the first time in 2001. Memories of that trip came flooding back – the unique smell of Japan, the low quiet rumble of this city of 32 million people, the cleanliness, the sky, the trains.

©2019-2020 tenmintokyo.com

Return to Itabashi – as if by time machine – 18 years later.

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I headed over to the stairs – to discover they had now been replaced by a new escalator. It was here I learned the stations were being remodeled for the Olympics. Inside, the station had completely changed. Modern marble walls, brand new restrooms, and a new conbini inside the station which had not existed before.

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The newly remodeled JR Itabashi Station.

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©2019-2020 tenmintokyo.com
©2019-2020 tenmintokyo.com

I slapped my Suica card on the turnstile’s IC reader with a beep, and passed through. I went up the new exit ramp, around the corner of the new station, and onto the same street where I first set foot 18 years ago.

Nothing had changed.

The same small white police Koban, the same small town square and fountain, the shops and apartments, the same street.

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First step out of Itabashi Station in 2019 – except for the large new station bldg. on the left, nothing had changed. The same Koban is visible up on the right. The pedestrian tunnel entrance is visible on the left.

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The pedestrian tunnel leading to the north side of the station, bike parking, and the other city square.

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Itabashi city square today – just outside the station.

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The dental office directly across from the hotel. Except for the freshly painted railing, and new sidewalk pavement, nothing had changed.

I walked to the right 1 block and there was the hotel – exactly as I had left it all that time long ago. The same dentist office right across the street, the same small Italian restaurant where I had first eaten pizza in Japan in 2001. The Daily Yamakazi conbini right across from it. Surely I said to myself, the same vending machines can’t be on the corner – where I had tasted my first Japanese soft drink – Pocari Sweat in 2001. I walked down the street – and there it was – the same vending machine corner. As if by time machine, I was back in Tokyo, after all this time, at the exact same spot I remembered from long ago. And everything was exactly the same.

With the exception of the new tall station bldg, Itabashi had been trapped in a time warp.

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I headed into the hotel on the right. Same bike parking lot, same sign, same street. Once again, memories came flooding back. The large brass frame on the front door’s circular sliding glass doors, floor tiles, and 200¥ coin lockers – all the same. I headed up the ramped lobby, past the small coffee bar I remembered, and to the front desk. Not one thing in the lobby had changed. Even the same painting on the stairs leading up to the restaurant.

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APA hotel today – even the bike parking fence is the same – in fact, it hasn’t even been painted.

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©2019-2020 tenmintokyo.com
©2019-2020 tenmintokyo.com

I checked in. The staff were polite as usual. I got my room key, and dragged my bags toward the elevator. Past the Hoshizaki Ice Engine I had used 18 years before. Into the elevator.

©2019-2020 tenmintokyo.com
©2019-2020 tenmintokyo.com

To my amazement, the hotel staff placed me in a room exactly 3 doors down from the very first room I had stayed in 18 years earlier. I didn’t request it – somehow it just turned out that way. Same floor, same wallpaper, same hotel – even the same side of the hall. Just 3 doors down.

©2019-2020 tenmintokyo.com

4th floor in the hotel.

Just for fun, I walked to the end of the hall and to the door of the room I had stayed in during 2001. I looked out the same fire escape window at the first skyline view I had ever had of Tokyo. I just stood for a minute thinking in silence – 18 years – amazed that I was even here again, in the same spot.

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My original room in 2001.

©2019-2020 tenmintokyo.com

Looking south towards Ikebukuro. The groaning city in the gathering dark.

I went back down the hall to my room, unlocked the door and stepped inside. Everything here too, was just as I remembered it – except the view was now blocked by a huge new condo development. I opened the window and looked out into the humid late summer air. That familiar smell – the smell of Japan. The station platform below was just as I left it too.

Back in Japan for the first time in 18 years.

What a thrill.

In Part 2 I describe more about the town, the other side of the station, and things to do + see. Enjoy!

©2019-2020 tenmintokyo.com
©2019-2020 tenmintokyo.com

LINKS

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Itabashi

https://www.gotokyo.org/en/destinations/northern-tokyo/itabashi/

https://www.city.toshima.lg.jp/index.html

https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g298184-i861-k13068457-Haneda_Airport_to_Itabashi_Station-Tokyo_Tokyo_Prefecture_Kanto.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Itabashi_Station

https://wikivisually.com/wiki/Itabashi_Station

https://memim.com/itabashi-station.html

https://www.wikizero.com/en/Itabashi_Station

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shin-itabashi_Station

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shimo-Itabashi_Station

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naka-Itabashi_Station

Tobu Kami-Itabashi Station

Restaurants near Itabashi Station

Things to Do near Itabashi Station

https://ariyabar.com/

APA Hotel Itabashi-Ekimae

Hotels near Itabashi on Agoda

https://ariyaroom.com/takinogawa/indexenglish.html

https://www.jreast.co.jp/e/pass/suica.html

https://www.thejapanguy.com/using-your-suica-card-and-pasmo-card/

https://www.kintetsu.co.jp/foreign/english/about/howto/howto.html

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2013/04/01/national/railways-get-jump-on-solving-ic-card-dexterity-barrier

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=net.mediavrog.ic_card_expensetracker&hl=en

https://www.kingjim.co.jp/news/release/detail/_id_15442/

https://japan-magazine.jnto.go.jp/en/trivia_201103_insight.html

https://timelapsetokyo.com/2016/04/18/accelerated-ticket-gate-3-million-people-use-in-a-day/

More Photos

My original Apple QuickTake 200 camera from 2000. A ghost from the past.

VIDS

Main center square outside JR Itabashi Station, early fall.

Shopping street northwest of Itabashi center square.

JR Sakiyo Line train crossing, east of JR Itabashi Station.

JR Itabashi Station at night. JR Saikyo Line headed south to Ikebukuro.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ukK1WQFhewg

Get lost in Akabane

Akabane is another fun, charming small Japanese town in northwest Tokyo. A nice short day trip, it sits just south of Saitama Prefecture in northwest Tokyo. Its train station is the 1st stop on the JR Saikyo Line with other notable stops to the south: Itabashi, Ikebukuro, Shinjuku, Shibuya, Omiya.

Be sure to check out the town square right outside Akabane Station. There are also very nice hotels right next to the station and even a western-style Denny’s. The lobby of the hotel Denny’s is in also has a 7-11 ATM which accepts some foreign bank + debit cards.

The newly remodled JR Akabane Station

The JR Akabane Station has just been rebuilt and is very nice. Lots of shops and restaurants right in the station itself. Lots more just outside the west and east exists.

Akabane is 1 stop north of Jujo and 2 stops north of Itabashi on the Saikyo JR line. It’s easy to get to from Shibuya, Shinjuku, or Ikebukuro: take the Yamanote Line north from Shibuya, Harajuku, or Shinjuku, then get off at Ikebukuro Station and change to the Saikyo Line headed north. Akabane is 2 stops north of Itabashi on the Saikyo Line and 4 stops north of Ikebukuro.

West exit, JR Akabane Station.

South of the East Exit – there’s also a large Family Mart here.

There’s even a Mister Donut at the east exit: leave the station and turn right – you can’t miss it.

Decisions, decisions...

Careful – this can get dangerous real fast.

There’s more usual western fast food, and coffee in the area. But the real treats are the fine dining restaurants located on the upper floors of buildings overlooking the square. Give any one of them a try:

There are 2 handy spots just to the north of the west exit: a bank of coin lockers where you can stash your stuff for a few bucks – and a free public WiFi spot. Go out of the west exit, turn left, cross the street, then turn left again. Cross the next intersection and immediately turn right – both the coin lockers + WiFi spot are just on your left.

After dark, visit Akabane Ichibangai alley – which dates back to the turn of the 20th century and survived World War 2 air raids intact. Locals pour into bars and tiny restaurants here. There’s an endless variety of local food.

There’s also a SEGA arcade, a UNIQLO and ABC Mart on the west side of the station.

There’s also a huge Ito Yokado depato just across from the UNIQLO shop.

At the south end of the city – away from the square is a great little cafe called Nine Tea. Worth a stop. From the west exit, head one block east, then south.

Nine Tea

Also check out the huge Kyu-Furukawa Gardens.

One of the first Walmarts to open in Japan is to the east of the station – and they seem intent on putting traditional Japanese depatos such as Seiyu out of business.

It’s also easy to get lost in Akabane. There’s a long road which rings the town and if you walk far enough on it, you can almost end up at JR Jujo Station to the south.

Walk far enough east + south – you’ll end up in Jujo. It’s a good idea to have a cell phone or GPS device available at all times in case you get lost.

Some areas in Japan are finally starting to install bike lanes – something long overdue. This one is just to the south west of JR Akabane Station.

There’s also a large Catholic Church built right after World War 2 to the east of the station.

Links

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Akabane_Station

https://www.gotokyo.org/en/destinations/northern-tokyo/akabane/index.html

https://digjapan.travel/en/blog/id=12259

VIDS