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 JRSaikyo 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.
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.
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.
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 + 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.
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 Supermarketalong 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) Sugamo Jizodori Shopping Street.
Let’s take these 1-by-1:
East Square + 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 Lawsonconbini at the square where you can get some food to take back to the hotel/square, although eating in public is frowned on by the Japanese in general. There’s a also a new small public toilet in the square.
If you head right outside the east square, there are lots of side streets + 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 Martconbini. If you go farther east to the next main north-south street and turn right, you can get to Ikebukuro in less than 2 miles.
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.
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.
More nice local restaurants and shops on the east side.
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.
West Square and Streets
To the west of the station is another central square, with side streets with lots of shops, restaurants, 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.
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.
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.
The west square at night. The Maruju Café on the corner is quite good.
Another restaurant on the backstreets on the west side.
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.
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 PerconaBank 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.
Shopping street entrance. Nakasendo Hwy is just on the left. This is facing northwest.
Nakasendo Hwy facing west.There are also sidewalks for peds and bikes.
There are plenty of nice cafés along the street you can visit.
There are all sorts of old interesting things to see along the shopping street.In this case, an old Japan Post residential mailbox.
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.
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 + walkable in a few hours. On bike, 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 – but sometimes delivery trucks will park in the new bike lane – so be careful.
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).
There are 3 main areas on the way: central shops and sidewalk to Sugamo, Sugamo area + 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 Nakasendo Hwy 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:
This part goes on for quite a way – keep going.
After a while you’ll come into an area with more shop/gas stations/food/retail:
Keep going – head past this + just keep heading south.
After a while you’ll come to a similar area with a MOS Burger 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-Doriwhich will lead you away from TDC. We show both below:
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.At the end of that street is world-famous Rikugien Gardens (See links + vids below).
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:
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!
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.
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.
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.
Well, you made it. 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.
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.
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 + walk around. There’s tons to do here.
The name Akihabara is derived from the Shinto god of fire Akiha, and bara is the Japanese word for field. So Akihabara litterally means “Fire god’s field”. It probably got this name because in the late 1800’s a huge fire burned nearly half the city to the ground – prompting the local gov’t to set aside a huge square field in the center for future fire evacuations.
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, lodging.
On Sundays, 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/hotel in the area, stay a few days + walk around. It’s not a large town and is relatively compact so it is easy to cover in a few days. Hit the main streets + areas first, explore the staion, then explore some backstreets + side areas. You can also walk from Akihabara to Kanda, Nihonbashi, and Tokyo Station to the south in just a few miles.
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.
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, which 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 UDXBldg. 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 mAAch 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.
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 + 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 + 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.
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.
The Showa DoriExit 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 YodobashiiCamera.
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.
The Yodobashii Camera Food Passage
Jammed in between the station and the main Yodobashii Camera building is a small corridor with a bunch of food shops. There are donut shops, a crepé shop, cafés + tons of other shops. At the other end is the northwest station exit courtyard and the main entrance to Yodobashii Camera.
West entrance to the food passage just outside Yodobashii Camera. 2nd shop from the right is Jack In The Donuts which makes awesome fresh donuts hourly. Shown just above on the far right is a great shop called Sweets Paradise which makes cakes that look like real sushi. Totally Drew reviews it in this vid:
Another view of Jack In The Donuts, right. There are other JITD’s scattered around Tokyo such as this one @ Aeon Mall Rycom.Currently the crepé shop is the next shop down on the right.
The main west entrance. The food court entrance is just on the right.
The main west entrance. The food court entrance is just down on the righthand corner.
Cow Cow Kitchen in the food passage between the Showa Dori and Central exits.
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. If you turned right here you would see the Excelsior Cafe´on your left, and Bic Camera down the street on the right:
Chuo-Dori is straight ahead. The Post Office and UDX bldg. are on the right, out of frame. Yodobashi Akiba is one block behind the camera.
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 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. There is also a very good dental office in the UDX Bldg. called UDX Dental Clinic.
Another view of the UDX bldg. The Post Office and LIFORK shared working spot is on the left. Chiyoda bike parking is off to the right – and straight ahead.
Another view outside Yodobashii Camera. The UDX bldg. is 1 block to the west (left).
Inside the food hallway just to the east of the Yodobashi entrance. The world-famous Jack In The Donuts is to the right. Head straight ahead + right and you’ll be out in the main west central courtyard where the Yodobashi entrance is:
If you come out of the Electric Town exit to the south of the north exit, there’s a small hidden shopping center just to the left as you exit the station.
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. If you are in Tokyo in the fall, be ready for limited sunlight until March.
The reverse angle – looking back towards Bic Camera – on the left – down the side street to the station from Chuo Dori.
Another view from the south corner facing north. Bic Camera is on the right.
Across from the main Softbank shop to the south is the new Sofmap Mac Collection.
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 CaféMoco, 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.
Showa Dori facing north.Note the Metro tracks overhead.
Showa Dori facing NE.
Chuo-Dori facing north from the south end. SofMap is the blue bldg. in the distance. Akihabara Station is to the right (east). If you turn 90 degrees to the left, you’ll see:
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 + Jack in the Donuts, among others. At the Central Exit side you have the entrance to Yodobashii Akiba electronics store. The entire area of interest around the station 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.
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.
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 + 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’s at each exit. Usually the exits are numbered. There will be additional smaller yellow 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
TamTam on the right, entrance to Suehirocho Station on the left. Downtown Akiharbara is to the left. This is facing west.
This video shows inside TamTam and the unbelievable selection of models:
Also check out the Surugaya Specialty Store which has some great model supplies. It’s around 35°41’54.15″ N 139°46’21.22″ E.
As a footnote, less than half a block south of TamTam there is a nice MOS Burger:
South is to the left. TamTam is the big green bldg. on the right.
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.
Heading north on Showa Dori. Akihabara Park is just to the left of the bldg. straight ahead.
Akihabara Park south of Yodobashii in autumn. 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.
Another view of Akihabara Park – looking south from the station exit. Key’s Cafe is just to the left next to the bike locker. There is also a very high end telescope store in the same bldg. called Starbase Tokyo. Directly across the park on the right side is a small electronics store which sells very nice small 10000 mAh smartphone external batteries for $10 – and all sorts of charging cables cheap. Just to the northeast is the very nice Akihabara Dental Clinic.
Just to the east of the park, across Showa-Dori is a nice used computer store called Smilefactory. If you’re in the market for a used computer, it’s worth a stop.
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 are also a few other cafés on the food floors at the top of Yodobashii Camera.
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.
Another look back at the street with Café Moco – in the opposite direction.
Around 35°42’05.00″ N 139°46’13.96″ E is the excellent café EURO. A very nice, high quality café. Definitely check it out.
Bic Camera is straight ahead.
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 Caféand Square Enix Café are right next to each other on the east side of the square by the Central JR Exit. There was anAKB48 Café here also, but it closed in Nov. 2019, just around the initial time of this writing. The Excelsior Cafémentioned 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, 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.
Down one of the side alleys in Ameyokocho is a tiny little snack shop which has foreign snacks from all over the world. It is just a store front on one of the back streets:
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:
If you turn right at the Noodle Stand Korakuen, on your left you’ll see a small alley with an Urgent Care sign next to it (a green “+”). 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.
Showa Dori, south of the 2nd currency exchange shop.
There is also another one on Chuo-Dori on the east side of the street near the south end.
Facing east on the east side of Showa-Dori. It turns out the huge elevated train track tressle dates all the way back to the early 1900’s and was one of the first major infrastructure built in Akihabara.
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.
The biggest electronics parts store in the area is called Akihabara 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. It’s just across down the street on the left from the Electric Town exit.
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 + 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.
Don Quiojte on Chuo Dori.
Cheap snacks around 128¥ @ Don Quijote.
Don Quijote stores are crammed with merchandise.
Also note that right next to the SofMap across the street from Don Quijote is a huge Mister Donut (Misado to locals).
Hands down the cheapest and most healthy grocery 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 + 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. This is roughly facing northeast. About 6-7 blocks north of the station area on the east side. You cand get high quality produce, sandwiches, and liquor/beer here. For a quick cheap meal try the Kagome 26-vegetable 1 liter drink for 178¥. A whole meal for under $2. Can’t eat in Tokyo any cheaper than that.
Believe 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:
Arcades + Video Games+ Super Potato
Akiba abounds with arcades, game shops, and retro reuse stores. Some of the retro game stores are tiny hole-in-the-wall stores or basement dungeons. Chief among the retro game stores is Super Potato – a famous 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.
Super Potato is shown in the lower left corner. It’s on a side street. Chuo-Dori is the main street running north-south. Bic Camera is the red + white bldg. top center.The main SofMap (now called AKIBA BicMap) store is just north of the large black office bldg. shown in the upper left corner. The top of the photo is north.Just to the right of the Bic Camera bldg. is the UDX bldg. with a JP Post Office on the 1st floor. The station is out of frame in the lower right corner.
Facing south on Chuo-Dori. Turn right here, then left at the next street for Super Potato.Bic Camera and the station are just to the left.
There is no sign in English on Super Potato‘s entrance shown below:
Either go up the stairs at the end, or take the small elevator to floors 3-5:
Just down the street from that is another retro store which also has video games + models – Yellow Submarine:
Surugaya Specialty Stores
There are 2 stores in Akiba called Surugaya Specialty Stores – one is on Chuo Dori just across the street from the main SofMap store. The other is on a small side street just a few blocks to the northeast of Mainseibashi Bridge (see below). Both of these stores have a nice selection of used video games.
There’s a chain of used specialty stores around Japan called BOOK•OFF. They sell mostly used books, but some of them also sell used video games and other items. There are several in Akiba – the largest being on Chuo-Dori just to the north east of the JR train tracks overpass – around 35°41’57.04″ N 139°46’17.05″ E. There is another smaller one in the DANKE shopping center also just under the train tracks across from the Washington Hotel Akihabara around 35°41’51.90″ N 139°46’23.61″ E. You can pop in and rumage through their bins of old used video game carts and other items.
BOOK•OFF is in the DANKE shopping center hidden under the arch on the right. This is facing south. The Washington Hotel is to the left (east), the station and UNIQLO shopping complex are to the right (west).There is another larger BOOK•OFF a few blocks to the left (east) also.Most BOOK•OFFs have lots of bins of retro video game cartridges.
Same view from a bit further back. Washington Hotel is on the left.Red arrow indicates BOOK•OFF.Just to the right is a UNIQLO depato.
One of the best used retro game dungeons in Akiba is BEEP. It’s down a big flight of stairs on a backstreet around 35°42’06.81″ N 139°46’15.41″ E. In fact, it’s just a 1.5 blocks southwest from TamTam Hobby. Head south 1 block, make a right, then 1/2 a block more. You can also Google Earth the name to find it.
As is the case with many dungeon buildings in Japan, there are no railings on the way down to BEEP. Watch your step!
Another good one is HEY (Hirose Entertainment Yard). It’s just to the south of the main SofMap bldg. on the same side of the street. Just head south on Chuo-Dori a few blocks.
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.
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:
Akiba’s hidden gem is Mainseibashi Station – an abandoned train station turned mall. The station was built in 1912, was renovated in 1925, 1935, and 1946 – but was then abandoned when Tokyo Station was built to the south in 1914. It sat empty + unused for nearly 60 years – until 2006, when it was renovated + 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 the picturesque Kanda 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.
Manseibashi Station, left, facing north. mAAch eCute is just to the left (see below).You can also get to Ochanomizu by walking down + turning left at the red bridge over the river in the distance.
Ueno (1910), Manseibashi (1912), and Tokyo Station (1914) were all built around the same time. When the station was renovated in 1935, 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.
Station diorama in the museum on the 2nd floor. Today, the entrance to the mAAch eCute mall (see below)is in a new doorway on the right-hand corner of the flat brick building just to the left of the bridge and river.The entrance for the elevator to the museum is just up on the left (west) side of the same bldg.near the north end. There is also a row of stores on the outside up along the left side of the bldg. as well. The original brick station bldg. on the left was destroyed in the 1923 earthquake and was torn down. Today there’s an office bldg. there.
The entrance on the west side of the station to the elevator that leads to the 2nd floor + the small museum.
A large office bldg. (right) + sidewalk now occupies the space where the main part of the original station was. The main part of the station was destroyed in the 1932 earthquake and was demolished shortly thereafter. This photo is facing south.
The entrance to the 1935 stairwell.
Manseibashi Station, right center. The entrance to mAAch eCute (see below) is the concrete covered doorway on the right side of the station. This photo is facing north.Chuo-Dori is to the right.If you walk left (south) from here, you’ll come to Kanda Station, then Nihonbashi, then Tokyo Station. If you round the corner on the left of the station and head north, you’ll find a row of shops along the outside. There’s a great article about all the shops inside over at Where In Tokyo.
Overhead view facing north. Chuo-Dori runs north-south. Manseibashi Station is the flat bldg. on the left.
Original 1912 stairwell.Head up to the left for the restaurant.
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 mAAch 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.
Just to the south of the station, in a tiny alcove on the west side of the street are these vending machines, the center one of which is famous in Akiba because it vends hot sandwiches right out of the machine.
Just over the bridge on the right is the entrance to mAAch eCute.
The station is one of Akiba’s best-kept secrets and is well worth a stop to look around.
mAACH eCute Store Guide.The entrance is shown on the left.
There are some nice hotels and hostels in Akiba. The aforementioned Washington Hotel next to the Uniqlo near the station is very nice – although a bit expensive. As for hostels, there is a First CabinAkihabara and a And Hostel just a few blocks east from Akihabara Station’sShowa Dori Exit. The First Cabin Akihabara is just a few blocks north of the And Hostel, which is just a few blocks south.
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 Showa-Dori Exit 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’s 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 (covered 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 anotherAPA – APA Ochanomizu Ekikita. In fact, if you head west from TamTamHobby, 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.
Okachimachi Station just to the north of Akihabara.
First Cabin usually tends to be more upscale, and in our experience 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. Most First Cabin buildings in Tokyo are small converted office buildings – so they usually have sealed office windows behind a black curtain which are not accessible. 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 of First Cabin, and also just a few blocks east of the station. Remember the side alley where the money exchange mentioned above was? If you go 1 block south of that on Showa-Dori + 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.
Keep a lookout to the right for the hostel down a side street.Shown here at the end.
Chilling inside the single tube room at And Hostel. And Hostel is usually fairly quiet due to all-wood construction which dampens sound, unlike 9 Hours capsule hotels which use plastic as the capsule material. While smaller than First Cabin capsules, And Hostel is nonetheless well worth it due to cost, ease of access, free WiFi, and quality bathroom facilities + lobby lounge – and open air windows. The only downside to And Hostel is luggage + clothes are usually strewn all over the hallway, but don’t let that stop you – it’s well worth it – and a very enjoyable experience.
And Hostel lobby as shown on the company’s website.
Just northwest of the And Hostel area is an APA hotel which has great rates and is well worth a stay. One of the cheapest ways to stay in Akiba without breaking the bank. Rates depend on the season. Off-season you may be able to get a room here as low as $52-65.
There are also quite a good number of great bars + restaurants in the area on the side streets.
If you’re tired and in need of a rest, go east from And 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.
Secret Cheap Coin Lockers
Just to the left (south) of MocoCafé mentioned above is a small bank of secret cheap coin lockers . These range from 200¥-400¥ for 12 hours and are quite good, although they are keyed + don’t yet support IC cards. There is another tiny inexpensive bank of lockers just inside the Showa Dori station 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. Also see our page about Coin Locker Hacks just to the north in Ueno.
The secret cheap coin lockers next to MocoCafé There are various other smiliar locker banks on side streets all over Akihabara. Do some Googling around to find them. Google Earth also comes in handy.
Another view of the same coin lockers looking back north. Bic Camera is straight ahead. MocoCafé is just on the left where the bicycle is.
Looking back east from Chuo-Dori. The secret coin lockers are just down the street to the right. The Excelsior Café is just behind the big concrete pillar in the center, and YodobashiiAkiba is just visible on the left. The station is just around the corner from the café to the right. A Japan Post is out of view across the street to the left. Bic Camera is also out of view just to the left on the corner. If you head left down this street, beyound Yodobashii, onto Showa-Dori, then right 4 blocks down, then left again, you will come to both the APA Hotel, First Cabin, and And Hostel mentioned above. There are also two very good money exchange places on Showa-Dori to the south. This image is facing southeast.
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.
Just across from the Akiba UNI-QLO store, in the block west of the Washington Hotel is a visitor center + free Wi-Fi hotspot:
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 Ikebukuro 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.
Looking back across Chuo-Dori east toward Akihabara Station. Bic Camera is on the left.
Heading south on Showa-Dori from Ueno approaching Velocé Caffe. If you continue further south from here, you’ll enter Akiba, Kanda, Nohonbashi, and eventually Tokyo Station.
The bike locker is behind these stairs near the north exit, and behind the camera.
PABLO mini tart shop.
The entrance to Bic Camera.
The overpass right next to UDX bldg. The hidden bike parking is under the stairs.
café EURO – a must-see.
Endless sidewalk bins of used electronics.
The famous surprise vending machine on a corner.
Under the JR tracks.
Entrance to the Tsukuba Express.
The hidden bike parking lot just outside Yodobashi Akiba under the tracks.
On the backstreets east of the station. The elevated JR tracks are on the left.
Another view of the station – at dusk.
Another view facing north – at dusk.
One of the narrowest streets in Tokyo – this is an actual street, not an alley.
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, 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 a 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 + have soundproof windows. The APA Itabashi hotel off season is an low $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 $. There’s also a nice cafe, 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.
Overflying the Chiba peninsula into Narita, Summer 2001.
I headed straight to the hotel – APA Itabashi. I was amazed at the cleanliness + quality of both the city + hotel.
OriginalJR Itabashi Station – where I first stepped onto the street in Japan for the first time, now replaced.
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.
APA Hotel just to the west of the station.There is a small pedestrian tunnel on the right which leads to the other city square up to the north of the station.
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.
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.
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.
Diagonally from the Daily Yamazaki was this vending machine corner – still the same today.
APA Itabashi hotel lobby with cafe in 2001. Still the same today.
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.
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.
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.
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.
To my amazement, with the exception of a large white bldg. to the east of the station, nothing had changed. Nothing. The station + 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 30 million people, the cleanliness, the sky, the trains.
Return to Itabashi – as if by time machine – 18 years later.
I headed to the stairs – which had 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, new restrooms, a new conbini inside the station which had not existed before.
The new Itabashi Station was finally completed in June 2020– including a new row of shops on the right side.
South/East side of the new station. Entrance is on the left. Note the nice new pavement.In almost 20 years this is about the only thing that has changed in Itabashi.
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 + fountain, the shops + apartments, the same street.
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.
The pedestrian tunnel leading to the north side of the station, bike parking, and the west city square.
Itabashi city square today – just outside the station.
Dental office directly across from the hotel. Except for a 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 a long time 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 Yamakaziconbini right across from it. Surely, I said to myself, the same vending machines can’t still 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 station bldg, Itabashi had been trapped in a time warp.
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.
APA hotel today – even the bike parking fence is the same – in fact, it hasn’t even been painted.
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.
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.
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.
My original room in 2001.
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!