When I first came to Akihabara I couldn't help but feeling frustrated by the fact that I wasn't able to understand most of the signs on its buildings. 10 years later I don't have such problem anymore. In this post, I want to give you sort of a glimpse of what kind of stuff is written out there.
Let's start with the easy ones. If you learn katakana, which consists of only 48 characters, you'll be able to read quite a few words and luckily guess their meaning. (1) has カラオケ written on it which reads Karaoke, so that whole building is full of karaoke rooms. There is another sign in that building that starts with 本 (hon = book) and continues with Book Off. Book Off is a famous franchise where you can buy (and read) second-hand books and manga. (2) has ラジオセンター which reads as rajio sentaa and means radio centre (could you guess it?). Radio centre is almost a historical place already, full of electronic veterans in small stands selling electronics, amateur radio equipment and lots of retro stuff. (3) GEO is the name of a well-known DVD, Game and Manga rental franchise. But it seems it's started a mobile offering. On this sign you can see the words 格安スマホ (kakuyasu sumaho = supercheap smartphones) written. 格安 is often used on signs so it's easy to remember. (4) This one has English on it so you should know what it is about. インターネットまんが喫茶 (Internet Manga Kissa = Internet & Comics cafe) is a place where you can chill and rest your feet. Usually you get your own little compartment where you can seat, use a computer with Internet, read comics (if you are able to) and have some soft drinks. The value for the price is really good and it's something you can only experience here. In smaller characters you can read 完全分煙 (Kanzen Bun'en = smoking and non-smoking areas are completely separated), シャワー完備 (shawaa Kanbi = Fully-equipped Showers), スマホ充電OK (sumaho juuden OK = it's OK to charge your smartphone), 24時間営業 (24 jikan eigyou = 24 hours business), コムコム秋葉原点 (komukomu akihabara ten = komukomu akihabara shop, where komu means that it gets full of people), 当ビル５F受付 (toubiru 5F uketsuke = reception on the 5th floor of this building). Below the sign we have a 麻雀 mahjong shop saying ウエルカム which you should understand if you learned katakana (welcome). And right below that, on the 2nd and 3rd floor (in Japan the count starts at 1) we have a maid cafe, another place you should try at least once. On the first floor we see the 24時間 sign again, and 富士そば (Fuji soba) where you can eat soba. (5) We see まんが喫茶 again and then 免税商店 (menzei shouten = tax-free shop) which are all around in Akihabara. 歓迎光臨 is Chinese but the first two characters have also meaning in Japanese (歓迎 Kangei = welcome), so basically they are targeting potential Chinese/Taiwanese buyers. (6) Akihabara is the land of anime and games. Just by taking a look around you can catch up with the latest trends or learn of new anime series to come. 明日のステージへ！ (ashita no suteeji e) means something like "towards tomorrow's stage). TVアニメ好評放送中 (TV anime kouhyou housouchuu = TV anime with good critics currently on show) is something you find all the time when you walk into an anime or manga shop. Below that sign we can see 日本武道館, this is Nippon budoukan a place where many famous music bands have played. Not surprising we can see there's going to be a live performance (note that the anime, BanG Dream, is about music) there on the 21st of August, 2017. チケット最速先行 (chiketto saisoku senkou) means that tickets are sold on a first-come-first-served basis. If you read this now, you can go to the BanG Dream official site and see the same advertisements about the "4th Live". In this kind of concerts you can see the people that are behind those anime songs and voices you like so much. (7) We see again another sign about BanG Dream, it must be something big. But let's decipher the sign in black&red. 鉄道模型 (tetsudou mokei = train models) is a shop where they sell stuff for making your own train models. This area in particular has many other shops for modeling trains, tanks, planes, gundam figures and stuff like that.
I had 2 more pictures to decipher but I guess this post took already too long. I will let you "relax" watching a few excerpts from a BanG Dream's live!.
Conclusions: the main takeaway from this post is that if you come to Japan for the first time and you want to understand something from what's written on Japanese signs, then you better learn katakana. That will help you understand words such as rajio (radio), sentaa (centre), sumaho (smartpho[ne]), shawaa (shower), uerukamu (welcome), suteeji (stage), intaanetto (internet), biru (buil[ding]), or chiketto (ticket).