If you came to Tokyo looking for the latest
gadgets and gizmos, there’s only one place to go. Officially nicknamed “Electric Town,” Akihabara boasts an overwhelming array of electronics stores stuffed to the rafters with everything from cameras and mobile phones to video games and DVD players. Akihabara has also become the center of Japan’s otaku (geek) subculture of manga and anime lovers. Two stops north on the Yamanote line is Ueno, which has some of Japan’s most famous museums, an expansive park and the bustling backstreets of Ameyokocho, which feel more like Hong Kong than Tokyo. Beside the Sumida River, Asakusa is the heart of old “downtown” and the site of the city’s old pleasure quarters. It’s also home to the city's largest temple, Senso-ji.
•arts & crafts
You’ll feel like you’ve stumbled into a knife museum as you browse this impressively stocked cutlery store in Asakusa. Tsubaya has over 1,000 knives on sale, with something to suit every possible need, and both Japanese and Western-style varieties available. All of the merchandise is professional-grade, but obviously that needn’t stop you using it at home too. 3-7-2 Nishi-Asakusa, Taito-ku. Tel: 03-3845-2005. E-mail: email@example.com. Open Mon-Sat 9am-5:45pm, Sun & hols 9am-5pm. Nearest stn: Asakusa. http://e288.jp/
Opened and operated by the same family since the early 18th century, this traditional shop sells exquisite handmade wooden combs-the height of classic Japanese craftsmanship. 2-12-21 Ueno, Taito-ku. Tel: 03-3831-3238. Open Mon-Sat 10am-7pm, closed Sun. Nearest stn: Ueno Hirokoji (Ginza line).
Open since 1923, Kamata Hakensha brings four generations’ worth of experience to the art of knife making. The company’s skills and products are trusted by chefs and dedicated gourmets worldwide; customers can have their knives engraved, as well as get help and advice on how to keep the blade in pristine condition. 2-12-6 Matsugaya, Taito-ku. Tel: 03-3841-4205. Open Mon-Sat 10am-6pm, closed Sun & hols. Nearest stn: Tawaramachi. www.kap-kam.com
Pro Knife Centre Tokyo
Kit your kitchen out in style at this premium knife shop, established in collaboration with knife maker Kamata Hakensha. All of the products on sale are produced at Zwilling J.A. Henckels’ Japan factory for professional use, and some are only available here in Japan. 2-12-1 Matsugaya, Taito-ku. Tel: 03-3847-5922. Open Mon-Sat 10am-5:30pm, closed Sun. Nearest stn: Tawaramachi. www.proknifecentretokyo.com
A graveyard of old video games: forgotten consoles, cartridges and goofy handheld portables discarded from the ’80s. 3-5F Kitanayashi Bldg, 1-11-2 Soto-Kanda, Chiyoda-ku. Tel: 03-5289-9933. Open Mon-Fri 11am-8pm, Sat-Sun 10am-8pm. Nearest stn: Akihabara. www.superpotato.com
This chain of electronics stores has three branches in Akihabara that offer support in English, Chinese and Portuguese. Stores are packed with foreign-ready home electronics and travel goods. Their selection includes Windows computers and laptops with English OS, as well as watches, cameras and suitcases. 1-12-1 Soto-Kanda, Chiyoda-ku. Tel: 03-5207-5027. Open daily 9:30am-8pm. Nearest stn: Akihabara.
Among duty-free shops in Tokyo, LAOX is the largest. It boasts an extensive lineup of made-in-Japan electric and electronic products, as well as reliable customer service from multilingual staff, luring tourists and business people. Even Hollywood celebs and sports personalities have been spotted here. LAOX also sells cosmetics, handicrafts and popular novelty items. 1-2-9 Soto-Kanda, Chiyoda-ku. Tel: 03-3253-7111. Open daily 10am-9pm. Nearest stn: Akihabara.
One of Japan’s biggest electronics chains opened this humungous store in late 2005. Old-school Akihabara loyalists tend to shun the place, which goes against the area’s independent roots. 1-1 Kanda Hanaokacho, Chiyoda-ku. Tel: 03-5209-1010. Open daily 9:30am-10pm. Nearest stn: Akihabara. www.yodobashi.com
Cospa Gee Store
All sorts of getups for geek fashions known as kos-pu-re (costume play) are on offer here. There are also striking designer shirts featuring characters from Gundam, Trigun and the like. 2F MN building, 3-15-5 Soto-Kanda, Chiyoda-ku. Tel: 03-3526-6877. Open Mon-Sat 11am-8pm, Sun 11am-7pm. Nearest stn: Akihabara. www.geestore.com
Tokyo Local Bazaar
Inspired by the unique and lively atmosphere of Asakusa, Tokyo Local Bazaar sells original T-shirts with traditional Japanese imagery and patterns. An ideal souvenir of a visit to Asakusa, these casual yet high-quality tees express Asakusa’s past and present in a style you won’t find anywhere else. Tokyo Local Bazaar also sells accessories and gifts in a warm and welcoming space, just steps from Senso-ji temple. 2-2-6 Asakusa, Taito-ku. Tel: 03-5827-2701. Open daily 10am-6:30pm. Nearest stn: Asakusa, exit 1. www.tlb-asakusa.jp
•Manga & Anime
Customize your dream doll with miniature body parts down to the legs and eyeballs at this must-see store in the historic Radio Building. Staff present buyers of top-of-the-line figures with their purchases in a wedding-style gazebo. Geek heaven. 6-7F Radio Bldg, 1-15-16 Soto-Kanda, Chiyoda-ku. Tel: 03-5295-8160. Open Mon-Fri 11am-8pm, Sat-Sun & hols 10am-8pm. Nearest stn: Akihabara.
Akihabara Gachapon Kaikan
Among the 350 gachapon capsule toy machines here you’ll find the usual suspects: Godzilla, Ultraman, Mobile Suit Gundam and Dragon Ball figures up for grabs. Loud rock music blares from the back, where the punk employees slouch behind the counter. Like it or not, this is Akihabara how the otaku themselves love it. 1F MN building, 3-15-5 Soto-Kanda, Chiyoda-ku. Tel: 03-5209-6020. Open daily 11am-8pm.Nearest stn: Akihabara.
Let the helpful wait staff guide you through the menu filled with Okinawan fare and awamori liquor at this island-themed bar in old-town Asakusa. 1-20-5 Asakusa, Taito-ku. Tel: 03-5828-6788. Open Mon-Fri 5-11:30pm, Sat-Sun noon-11:30pm. Menu in Japanese only. Nearest stn: Asakusa.
This kamameshi eatery features a traditional Japanese interior including wood accents, zabuton seating and shoji screens. Kamameshi is a century-old cooking style—a simple, no-frills dish consisting of a bowl of rice topped with various meat and vegetables. 1-8-6 Asakusa, Taito-ku. Tel: 03-3844-0505. Open Mon-Fri 11:30am-9pm, Sat-Sun & hols 11:30am-8:45pm. Nearest stn: Asakusa. www.edosada.com ¥~¥¥
This venerable Ueno restaurant specializes in grilled eel (unagi) but also offers tempura, sushi and more in a traditional setting. 2-12-22 Ueno, Taito-ku. Tel: 03-3831-0954. Open daily 11am-10pm (L.O. 9:30pm). Nearest stn: Ueno. ¥¥
Hard Rock CafE
This branch of the Hard Rock empire is conveniently located within Ueno station. 1F Atre Ueno, 7-1-1 Ueno, Taito-ku. Tel: 03-5826-5821. Open daily 7am-11pm. Nearest stn: Ueno ¥¥
Kirin Water Grill
Drink Japan’s most celebrated beer while lounging on a spacious terrace with a view of the Tokyo waterfront. Located on the manmade island of Odaiba, Kirin Water Grill was modeled on the image of an American boathouse. Accessible via train or a sleek river cruise boat from Asakusa. 5F Aqua City Odaiba, 1-7-1 Daiba, Minato-ku. Tel: 03-5564-0010 (reservation) or 03-3599-5234. Open daily 11am-11pm. Nearest stn: Daiba (Yurikamome line) or Tokyo Teleport (Rinkai line).
Panissa have been eaten for over 500 years in Northern Italy, but these traditional treats are almost unheard of in Japan. Sample them exclusively at Fette Panissa: either the raw version (¥250), made from thickly sliced chickpea paste and drizzled with salt, pepper and olive oil, or the crispy, French fry-style fette (¥250)—simpler but just as addictive. Diners can also enjoy treats like authentic Italian salami and Montasio cheese, all of which go equally well with beer or Fette Panissa’s eight varieties of directly imported Italian wine (¥500/glass). 2-5-4 Asakusa, Taito-ku. Tel: 03-3845-6695. Open Wed-Mon 11:30am-10pm (LO 9:30pm), Tue 6:30-10pm (LO 9:30pm). Nearest stn: Asakusa. www.fette.co.jp
Akamonkai Japanese Language School
Founded in 1985, Akamonkai Japanese Language School has graduated over 15,000 students from around the world. Three-month courses start from ¥120,000 (including admission and textbook fees), with scholarships and discount plans available, and students can take advantage of modern facilities and a 24-hour study hall. 6-39-12 Higashi-Nippori, Arakawa-ku. Tel: 03-3806-6102. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Nearest stn: Nippori. www.akamonkai.ac.jp
After a hard day’s sightseeing, unwind in the chic confines of Bar Six. Housed in the Amuse Museum in front of Sensoji’s Nitenmon Gate, it’s the only place in the area where you can enjoy a view of the illuminated temple and five-story pagoda while sipping your cocktails. If you’re lucky, you might catch a shamisen performance or other live music while you’re there—check the website for details. 6F Amuse Museum, 2-34-3 Asakusa, Taito-ku. Tel: 03-5806-5106. Open daily 6pm-2am. Nearest stn: Asakusa. www.amusemuseum.com
Billed as a “live museum,” Asakusa’s Amuse Museum uses state-of-the-art exhibits to introduce visitors to traditional Japanese culture. The Ukiyo-e Theater employs high-definition digital technology to display Edo-era woodblock prints, while the “Boro” collection presents a selection of ornate patchwork clothing from over a century ago. On the sixth floor, the museum’s attendants, dubbed “Team Orihime,” demonstrate traditional arts including tea ceremony, looming and Japanese dance. 2-34-3 Asakusa, Taito-ku. Tel: 03-5806-1181. Museum open Tue-Sun 10am-6pm (last admission 5:30pm), closed Mon (Tue if Mon is a hol). Some spaces may be closed for seasonal gallery changes. Cafe open daily 10am-7pm. Nearest stn: Asakusa. www.amusemuseum.com/english
★Electric Town Floor after floor of duty-free gadget fun|★Kamiya Bar Tokyo's first Western-style watering hole, opened in 1880|★AmeyA-Yokocho Chock full of cheap and cheerful goods|★Tokyo National Museum The world’s biggest collection of Japanese art|★Sumida River Take a boat all the way to Tokyo Bay|★Senso-ji One of the most famous temples in Japan|★Nakamise Dori Traditional vendors and souvenir shops
Surrounded by several colleges, Kanda-Jimbocho boasts the city’s highest concentration of used-book stores. In addition to a dazzling area of vintage magazines, movie posters and first-edition Japanese novels, it has a wide selection of English and other non-Japanese titles. Take the Shinjuku, Mita or Hanzomon lines to Jimbocho, exit at A1 and walk down Yasukuni Dori away from the big intersection.
If sports are more your thing, stick with Yasukuni Dori for some of the biggest and most specialized sporting goods stores in the city. The area has everything from camping suppliers and surfboard specialists to fishing outfitters. Take the Shinjuku line to Ogawamachi or the Shinjuku, Mita or Hanzomon lines to Jimbocho. Most stores can be found on Yasukuni Dori between the two stations.
Tokyo has literally thousands of museums and galleries, but the most famous collection is in Ueno Park.
of Western Art
A good but small collection of mostly European and American art displayed inside a building designed by Le Courbusier (above). Tue-Sun 9:30am-5:30pm (adm until 5pm; Fri until 8pm). Tel: 03-3828-5131. Adm: Adults ¥420, HS/univ students ¥130, MS and younger free. Nearest stn: Ueno (Park exit).
Tokyo National Museum
Beautiful kimono, carved wooden Buddhas and ink paintings are some of the traditional arts you can see in the permanent collections at this huge complex. The biggest, oldest and most important museum in the country also houses a number of national treasures. Tue-Sun 9:30am-5pm (adm until 4:30pm). Tel: 03-3822-1111. Adm: Adults and univ ¥500, HS and younger free. Nearest stn: Ueno (Park exit).
National Science Museum
Everything in the scientific realm. In Japanese. There’s an English guidebook available at the front desk. Tue-Sun 9am-4:30pm. Tel: 03-3822-0111. Adm: Adults ¥420, students ¥70. Nearest stn: Ueno (Park exit).
Opened in 1926 and renovated in 1975, this museum features work by both
contemporary and classic Japanese artists. 8-36 Ueno Park, Taito-ku. Tel:
03-3823-6921. Open daily 9am-5pm, closed every third Monday. Adm: varies. Nearest stn: Ueno (Park exit). www.tobikan.jp