There are few cities in the world, and certainly none outside of Japan, that embrace geek culture like Tokyo. Although cities like London and Paris are not far behind, more often than not they take their cues from the capital of Japan. For those in the know, there’s literally a lifetime of nerdy things to do in Tokyo - from cosplay and the latest tech, through to Hello Kitty and gaming. There’s even a Japanese word for ‘geek culture’ - in Japan, it’s known as otaku and covers everything from gaming to the crazy, wacky outfits of Harajuku’s cosplayers. There’s a vast list of geeky things to do in Tokyo, so whether you’re mildly curious in Tokyo geek culture, or ready to go full cosplay in the city, this Tokyo geek guide should have you covered. Although it’s possible to include many of these attractions in a full day tour of Tokyo, if you want to embrace the best of Tokyo for geeks you should bank on several to fully immerse yourself in this fascinating city.
Akihabara - Electric Town
Akihabara may just as well be called the Tokyo geek district, and it should be one of your first stops on a visit to the city as it’s known to be the epicenter of Tokyo’s otaku culture. Here you’ll find some of the best geeky places in Tokyo, from stores specializing in manga and anime, right through to the latest gaming. It’s a true culture shock for first-time visitors, which is exactly why you should set aside plenty of time to take it in. Pick up some second hand video games, or walk the fascinating aisles of Nakano Broadway, home to dozens of fantastic Otaku stores. When the walking starts to wear you out, head to one of the many themed restaurants or bars, or to a maid cafe - this phenomenon started out here. Nowadays, they’re more aimed at tourists, but anyone who wants to explore the Tokyo geek district should visit one - the waitresses are all dressed in lolita-esque, cosplay maid costumes and they’re the definition of both otaku and kawaii culture, which plays on the stereotype of being super cute.
There are few places in the world that excite gamers more than Tokyo’s Super Potato. This is the ultimate gaming store that sells pretty much every form of electronic entertainment you could wish for - from hard-to-find vintage, right through to the latest releases. At times the store feels more like a museum than a shop, and it’s possible to lose yourself in this parallel universe for hours on end - which definitely happens to some people here! The flagship branch of the store occupies several floors in Akihabara, and a visit here is without doubt one of the best geeky things to do in Tokyo.
The city’s giant Gundam statue is an unmissable attraction in Tokyo for geeks. A long time feature of the city, the statue was recently taken down and replaced with an even bigger version of the famous character. It’s based on the RX-0 Unicorn Gundam, and with its 1:1 scale it stands an impressive 19.7 metres tall. The statue also transforms at set times during the day, making it a delight to visit either at the transformation time, or, if you prefer a surprise, at random times. The statue is located in the plaza at Diver City.
This part gaming haven, part museum, is an essential addition to any Tokyo geek guide, and a mecca of otaku culture. Natsuge Museum has one of the best collections of retro games in Japan, and in many ways is like a living museum where visitors are free to engage with the displays. Although retro gaming stops aren’t uncommon in Tokyo, purists will tell you that what makes Natsuge so unique is that the games here aren’t running on modern emulators - they feature the original boards, usually in the original, authentic housings. Even you don’t consider yourself a hardcore gamer, there’s no denying that there’s a beauty and charm to these classic games that’s well worth seeking out while visiting the city.
Tokyo’s Ikebekuro district is quickly becoming one of the focal points in the city for geeky things to do in Tokyo. It’s an area where all subcultures are welcome, and there’s plenty of things to see and do there for anyone interested in exploring this side of the city. The primary attraction in Ikebekuro is Sunshine City, a 60-story building at its heart. This impressive skyscraper is also home to Pokemon Center Mega Tokyo, which is an essential destination for Nintendo fans. Here you’ll find some of the best activities for geeks in Tokyo - aside from a wide selection of Pokemon merchandise, Sunshine City also holds regular meet-ups for fans to trade pins and cards.
Unlike many cities around the world, classic gaming arcades aren’t a rarity in Tokyo. There are dozens worth visiting in the city, but one of the most popular - and common - is Club Sega. This no-nonsense arcade that features the best of the gaming giant’s releases over the years can be found in several locations throughout the city, including Shinjuku, Akihabara, Meguro Ikebukuro and Meguro. All are of a high standard and worthy of a visit, but if you’re looking for the full Tokyo for nerds experience, though, head to the Club Sega in Ikebukuro branch - it’s here that you can find the unusual taiyaki - shaped like Sega logos! Taiyaki are a popular Japanese street food; a kind of waffle, they’re usually shaped like fish and filled with a variety of fillings like sweet red bean paste - nothing fishy at all - but the unusual Sega themed versions here are a quirk to try.
If your primary idea of embracing geek culture is to spend a few hours gaming in an entertainment dreamworld, then you can’t miss a visit to Joypolis. They claim to be the biggest entertainment complex of its type in the country, and inside you’ll find a vast selection of geeky things to do. Although there’s an entrance fee, and you may have to pay for some attractions, inside you’ll find everything from arcade games and prize machines, right through to hair-raising simulators.
Mikado is another popular multi-floor destination for gaming fans in Tokyo. The unassuming entrance and first floor is home to some of the best vintage games you could wish for, along with a sizeable selection of shoot-em-ups. But most people who head to Mikado do so for the next level, which features an impressive number of fighting games. The space is often used for fast-paced tournaments, and is a must-visit for fans of this genre of game.
There are few better ways to absorb and appreciate Tokyo geek culture than with a walk through the city’s buzzing Harajuku neighborhood. It’s here that you’ll find some of the city’s best cosplay stores tucked between high-end boutiques and popular bars and cafes. But the main attraction is just to wander around, and marvel at the wackiness of some of the cosplay costumes. The streets in this area are particularly fascinating, and many people embrace its acceptance of subcultures by dressing up. You can even visit photography studios here and have your hair, make-up and costume done by a cosplayer, than have photos taken of you dressed to kill out in the streets of Harajuku! But if you want to ensure you witness the best of its otaku culture, head to Yoyogi park on a Sunday - you’ll find Lolita-esque girls, dozens of anime characters, and plenty of Elvis impersonators giving it their best shot.
Curry Station Niagara
The best way to combine the old traditions with the newest and nerdiest technology is to head to one of Tokyo’s high-tech eateries. What better way is there to appreciate delicious local cuisine than by ordering it on a touch screen, and having it delivered to your seat via automatic conveyor belt? This is not an unusual occurrence in the capital, and you’ll likely find something fascinatingly futuristic to delight you in most restaurants. One of the most popular hi-tech restaurants in the city, though, is Curry Station Niagara, where your food is delivered to you on the back of a model train.
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