Akihabara, also called Akiba after a former local shrine, is a district in central Tokyo, that is famous for its many electronics shops. In more recent years, Akihabara has gained recognition as the center of Japan's otaku (diehard fan) culture, and many shops and establishments devoted to anime and manga are now dispersed among the electronic stores in the district.
Hundreds of electronics shops, ranging from tiny one man stalls specializing in a particular electronic component to large electronics retailers, line the main Chuo Dori street and the crowded side streets around Akihabara. They offer everything from the newest computers, cameras, televisions, mobile phones, electronics parts and home appliances to second-hand goods and electronic junk.
A few chain stores, such as Sofmap, Ishimaru and Laox, each operate multiple specialized branches along the main roads, while small independent shops can be found in the side streets. The only mega sized store is the Yodobashi Camera complex on the east side of the station.
Note that some of the electronics on sale are only intended for use in Japan due to voltage and other technical differences, Japanese language documentation and limited warranties. However, several stores also feature a selection of international models intended for overseas use, and most also offer duty free shopping to foreign tourists on purchases of over 10,000 yen (passport required).
The character of Akihabara has constantly changed over the decades and continues to do so. In the last decade Akihabara has emerged as a center of Japanese otaku and anime culture, and dozens of stores specializing in anime, manga, retro video games, figurines, card games and other collectibles have filled the spaces between the electronics retailers.
In addition to shops, various other animation related establishments have become popular in the area, particularly maid cafes where waitresses dress up and act like maids or anime characters, and manga kissaten ("comics cafes"), a type of internet cafe where customers can read comics and watch DVDs in addition to having access to the internet.