“[Akihabara ‘Electric City’] started after World War II as an open-air market located between Ogawamachi and Kanda-Sudacho in Tokyo. At first all the stores sold textiles and everyday goods. But one incident turned most of the stores into electrical shops almost overnight.
“One shop began stocking secondhand vacuum tubes, a basic radio part, for students of a nearby electrical engineering school, today’s Tokyo Denki University. These became an instant hit with the students, who used them to make and repair radios, then the main source of entertainment in Japan. This prompted other shops in the market to stock vacuum tubes and other electronic parts. By 1950, of the 120 shops in the district, about 50 specialized in electronics.
“In 1948 the Allied Occupation’s GHQ ordered all open-air shop owners off the streets to enable roads to be rebuilt. The Tokyo metropolitan government, with the help of the now-defunct Japan National Railway, prepared new accommodations for the shops under the elevated railway tracks of Akihabara Station. From this beginning the district developed into a distinctive retail area.”
– ‘Akihabara: The World’s Most Famous Electronic Toy Town’, by Pradyumna P. Karan, Japan in the 21st Century, 2005