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The secret shops of Akihabara

Despite the proliferation of arcades in Akihabara, there is only one place to find pro players. Hirose Entertainment Yard (HEY) is a multi-story arcade featuring every game that is played competitively or for bragging rights. If you want to battle with the best Street Fighter or Tekken players in Tokyo, you’ll find them at HEY. But while hardcore fighting game enthusiasts are regular visitors, the arcade is best known for its wide array of side-scrolling shooters. It’s a shmup fan’s paradise.

Above: A quick tour through just a few of the many arcade machines you’ll find at Hirose Entertainment Yard

Weapon Stores

In Japan, cash is king. Instead of using credit cards for larger purchases, most consumers still prefer to pay with cash. That’s why cash-laden shoppers in Akihabara made for such juicy targets when a new form of mugging called “Otakugari” (otaku hunting), came into fashion a few years ago. Soon the district’s domestic nerd population found themselves under siege. As the occurrence of otakugari rose, some denizens began to arm themselves with weapons for self defense. But given that guns are illegal in Japan and that swords are heavily regulated, many turned to nickel plated replica swords.

Above: Akihabara MAD, the place to go for real weapons

In response to the rising demand for really cool looking weapons, several specialty weapon shops sprang up in the district. Akihabara MAD, is one of the few shops in Akihabara that sells both real and replica weapons. But recently, the police have begun to crack down on armed otaku. As such, rapier brandishing nerds are now a rarity.

Above: Replica swords on display at Akibanana